The economic push to bring workers and customers safely back to places of business amid the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted dozens of companies to develop temperature screening technologies.
One newcomer recently announced ThermalPass, a fever detection system in prototype that includes 19 thermal medical grade sensors arrayed on a type of gateway arch-- somewhat like a metal detector-- that a person walks through at a normal pace.
Each industrial grade gateway takes 20 readings per second of each person passing through, enough to provide a temperature reading within 0.2 C degrees of accuracy, according to the developers. The sensors focus on a person’s forehead and the data from the readings can activate a light and an audible alarm when a high enough temperature is activated that a gatekeeper can monitor privately, if desired. Both the light and alarm can be turned off, with the data monitored remotely.
A single battery-powered portable unit will cost $6,300 while a thicker, heavier pro model will cost $6,900 when they start shipping in mid-June, according to Michael Lende, CEO of Internet of Things Inc., the Toronto-based company that oversees development of ThermalPass. In large venues, more than one device would be needed for crowds to pass through efficiently.
Health Canada has already issued the company an interim approval of what’s known as a Medical Device Establishment License for ThermalPass, similar to recent U.S. FDA approvals under COVID-19 conditions, he said.
Passing through a ThermalPass gateway “is an inobtrusive process that’s made much more accurate with multiple sensors,” Lende told FierceElectronics in an interview. “Nobody needs to come close to take a reading and it’s anonymous.”
Lende responded to criticism by some medical device experts that much of recent temperature scanning technology is just the latest fad that could result in products that aren’t reliable or proven to consistently read temperatures accurately.
“ThermalPass is far from a joke,” Lende said. “It’s part of the solution to mitigate the passing and transmission of contagions in a covid and post-covid world.”
The key here is Lende’s use of the word “mitigate.” Analysts have noted that employers will be eager in a post-covid world to provide tools to show for liability insurance and accountability purposes that they are taking steps to ensure worker and customer safety.
He added, “It’s our hope and intent that this device helps employers and patrons and workers to feel more comfortable knowing there was one more mitigating factor in getting through the door today. I’m not saying we’re a cure for anything but there’s an opportunity here to mitigate the risk of the spread of contagions by identifying if somebody has a fever or not when they come into a public space. “
Lende said if a customer had a choice of two pharmacies to visit and only one had a ThermalPass at the entry, that customer would clearly want to visit the one with the ThermalPass screening. “That person is going to make the logical deduction to visit Pharmacy 2” with the ThermalPass, he said.
Interest in ThermalPass has been tremendous, especially from North American companies in retail, building management and other sectors. “People are afraid to go to the office now,” Lende said. “It’s a crippled economy and we’re trying to get it off its knees and it needs help. ThermalPass works and can verify conclusively if somebody has a fever. Is it the entire answer? No of course not, but it’s a mitigating factor and offers a real sense of safety.”
“If somebody told me I had a fever, I would think I don’t want to make anyone else sick. If my child has a fever at school, they ask you keep the child home for 24 hours,” Lende said.
How employers use ThermalPass is up to their own company safety protocols, he added. Some may restrict workers or customers from staying or might take another action such as isolating the person in an area to work separate from others.
In a press release, Internet of Things said the ThermalPass system offers distinct abilities over other fever detecting devices because it uses medical grade sensors instead of infrared cameras. “ThermalPass’s sensors are designed to measure temperature from a distance by detecting an object’s infrared energy,” according to the release.
Lende said the device is currently undergoing testing to be able to verify its reliability in detecting fevers to within 0.2 C degrees.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control considers a person to have a fever when the temperature measures is 100.4 degrees F or 38 degrees C.
Internet of Things is a publicly traded company that owns AI Labs, which worked with Commersive Solutions Corp, a developer of point-of-sales technologies, to create ThermalPass. In addition to AI Labs, Internet of Things owns Weather Telematics, an AI company that provides weather intelligence data for customers including Mobileye, an Intel company developing self-driving vehicle technology. Internet of Things’ stock price falls in line with some tech startups and has traded as high as 12 cents per share in early 2018, but traded early Wednesday at 5.2 cents.