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SARS Temperature Sensors


There are numerous reports of increased SARS-related temperature sensor uses in the news and available on the Web. This page is aimed at providing a summary of the related types of temperature sensors involved from the manufacturer's web site, our pages and various news releases.

Additionally, since this is primarily an educational web site about temperature sensors, there are links to more details on the different types of sensors where indicated. One of them, ThermoSense website is valuable resource to workers and researchers using Thermal Imagers. It reports current and recent programmming from the Conference, now in its 26th year. ThermoSense Conference Proceeding, published by SPIE: The International Optical Engineering Society, can be found in most engineering and scientific libraries worldwide. They represent one of the most complete documentation sources available on Thermal Imaging application know-how and technology. In 2003, SPIE published a complete set of the papers from ThermoSense's 25 year history in a 2-CD set. Check SPIE's Online Store for availabliity.

Primarily, Infrared Thermal Imagers are used in screening people for elevated body temperature. While not the most precise method to measure human body temperature, infrared thermal imagers or scanners are good at determining if someone appears hotter or colder than another person, or the average for a group of people under the same viewing conditions.

By having a very stable and drift free measurement and system software that enables averaging, selecting the hotest spot in a viewed scene and then recording and alarming capability, a Thermal Imaging System is an excellent tool for screening large numbers of people such as passengers exiting an airplane.

See the table below for recent information about equipment and software from various vendors aimed specifically at uses in detecting people that may have SARS. One must be very careful in using infrared measurement devices because large errors are possible sometimes even under the best circumstances.

Typical sources of measurement errror include: Errors within the instrument itself related to calibration and calibration stability (goes to the quality of the instrument design); Possible errors due to the interaction of the instrument and the temperature of its surroundings; Errors due to excess thermal radiation from sources other than the object of measurement entering the instrument and more. Then there are the serious questions raised by the use trying to quantify the measured temperature of a person's skin to the core body temperature. Not tasks for a newcomer to the business.

Oral or ear fever thermometers are used also for screening when thermal imaging is not available. They also can be excellent tools to accurately verify a person's body temperature when a person have been selected for further checking by a Thermal Imaging System. A very recent, published article shows that not all ear thermometers are equally accurate, however. Some units tested at The National Physical Laboratory in the UK showed worst case errors of up to 0.5 °C in some models when all were compared against the same high-quality reference source at a fixed temperature (see reference citation below*).

Forehead, or temporal artery, infrared thermometers are a less-well known instrument, but available commercially. These devices have been pioneered by The Exergen Corporation in the USA as an adjunct or possible alternative to the ear thermometer. There is a description and link below not only to their device information, but also to the listing of some extensive technical work including medically-supervised comparisons between the forehead thermometer and other means of measuring human body temperature.

Spot infrared thermometers, or radiation thermometers, have been suggested as a lower cost, and more readily available option to thermal imagers for screening people for temperature elevated above the average norm, . They both work the same basic way, depend upon the same physics for their operation and are suceptible to the same sources of error. Among many popular models are handheld portable units that incorporate aiming lasers. Anyone tring to use such laser-equiped devices should be careful not to allow the laser spot to enter someone's eye. That could cause temporary "flash" blindness or even, in limited cases, possible permanent injury.



December 2004-A new IR Human Fever Detection System vendor has joined the market. Optotherm, Inc. of Sewickley, PA has been offering and evidently selling its system with some success. According to the Optotherm website, ThermoScreen, designed and manufactured by OptoTherm, is a high-accuracy fever screening system that does not require an external calibration source.  ThermoScreen does not require an export license, resulting in prompt delivery.
Singapore-October 2003-The Standards authority has completed the first part of the two part Technical Reference 15 on Characterizing Infrared Thermal Imagers for use in Mass Screening for SARS-visit the website: http://www.spring.gov.sg for more information. Orlando, Florida, USA- SARS Thermal Imager and Related Presentations at the ThermoSense XXVI Conference , April 13-15, 2004.- Several papers from Singapore and China were presented at the annual ThermoSense technical conference on the use and technology of Thermal Imagers in mass screening of humans for elevated body temperture in the efforts to contain SARS in 2003. Full text copies are published in the Proceeding of SPIE, Vol 5405 (ThermoSense XXVI)(April 13-15, 2004) Douglas D. Burleigh, K. Elliott Cramer and G. Raymond Peacock Editor,. Printed copies are available through SPIE headquartered in the USA. See the link above to the ThermoSense website for the titles and authors of the conference papers.
Brunei Online-June 6,2003

Two New Infrared SARS Thermal Imagers installed in Brunei International Airport airport asa precautionary measure in an effort of detect any probable SARS cases that could arrive in Brunei.

A photograph in the article shows one of the units being demonstrated to the Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Putera Maharaja Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abu Bakar and Mr Ron Newport, "the equipment expert".

The equipment appears to be that made by Cantronics of BC, Canada.

Since April 23, 2003, temperature checks have been carried out on all passengers arriving at the Airport and other entry points.
The precautionary measure follows the Joint Declaration of the special Asean Leaders meeting on SARS in Bangkok on April 29th.

The Star Online: News June 06, 2003

SINGAPORE: The KTM Berhard Railway Station in Tanjung Pagar gets two Thermal Imaging scanners to help screen passengers for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) symptoms. 

The machines were installed on Wednesday, June 4, 2003.

They record temperatures that are apparently above the normal reading of 37.5°C of passengers using the checkpoint to enter Malaysia by train.

Johor deputy public health director Dr. Mohd Raily Suhaili said the department would continue with the infrared screenings until both countries agree to stop. About 400 people were screened on Wednesday between 11am and 10pm and none were reported as having a temperature.

Omega Engineering Will NOT SELL Industrial IR Thermometers for SARS Screening use!

Alert published on the Omega Engineering Web site includes the following statements that are in concert with the findings published by SPRING Singapore. (see article in the block to the right)

"All OMEGA's IR devices are intended for scientific, technical and industrial purposes ONLY. They are NOT to be used as a diagnostic tool in relation to the SARS epidemic, since they are NOT designed for, intended to, or capable of measuring human body temperature."

"Please Also Note:
"Equipment sold by OMEGA is not intended to be used, nor shall it be used: (1) as a "Basic Component" under 10 CFR 21 (NRC), used in or with any nuclear installation or activity; or (2) in medical applications or used on humans, or misused in any way."

Note: Omega does not sell Infrared Thermal Imaging Systems.

Results of Tests Conducted by SPRING Singapore on Thermometers and Thermal Imagers Now Include Thermal Imagers.

SPRING Singapore has tested 3 more types of temperature measuring devices, in addition to the report below in a May 13th Channel News Asia article.

This new report covers contact clinical oral and forehead strip thermometers, (spot) Industrial Infrared Thermometers and five different Temperature-Measuring Thermal Imaging Systems.

The conclusions were that the clinical thermometers were adequate while the the Industrial IR thermometers were not.

Four of the five Imaging systems that used a reference of thermal source and detected differences above the reference were found to have adequate sensitivitity and stability to be used for mass screening purposes. Follow up (verification) with another, more precise clinical thermometer is a necessary second step to confirm the results of a screening.

Land Instruments International reported on May 21 2003 that they had received orders for 10 Human BODY TEMPERATURE SCREENING IMAGER from the engineering Dept at Singapore's Changi Airport. Recent trials and demonstrations have shown that the special new thermal imaging system developed by Land Instruments gives the most consistent results when checking for elevated temperatures indicating thepossible presence of the deadly SARS virus. Systems have also been sold in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Taiwan. The Land system includes a blackbody reference source in each image for precision results.

May 21,2003 Unconfirmed reports on CANADA Health trials of three competitive thermal imaging systems at Vancouver International Airport tell about accuracy tests conducted on the three different systems using the same Infrared Blackbody calibration source.

These comparisons resulted in one system showing calibration bias of 0.1°C, the second of +2.4 °C and another of +4 °C.


Exergen Corporation's Temporal Artery Infrared Thermometer. One of the missing links in the search for highly reliable, accurate determination of human body temperature in screening for possible SARS-infected people has been the issue of the accuracy of Thermal Imaging cameras and other IR, non-contact temperature sensors. Key to the successful uses of these devices is the relationship of a human's external skin temperature and his/her core body temperature. Exergen Corporation is unique among many temperature sensor makers in that they have had specific information on the issue on theirweb site for some time. They also offer a book for sale written by two of the principles of the organization F. Pompei and M. Pompei, "Physician's Reference Handbook on Temperature". Exergen make their unique Temporal Artery Thermometer which is lightly touched to the forehead of the person being checked as shown in use in China in the recent photo to the right (courtesy of Dr. F. Pompei, Exergen Corporation). Also see item below with picture of sleeping baby.

Temporal Artery Thermometers In Use in China

Karmiel, Israel May 8, 2003, Opgal Optronic Industries Ltd announces the release of its FDA - FEVER DETECTING SYSTEM, now entering use in several major international airports.OPGAL, a leader in the development of thermal imaging technology, announced today the release of its Fever Detector & Alarm (FDA) system, a complete integrated remote sensing system designed to detect persons who may be suffering from elevated body temperature.
The system is based on Opgal's sophisticated Uncooled Infra-Red Thermal Imaging technology that can detect differences in temperature as small as 0.2C. SARS is characterized by a fever of over 100.4°F (38°C), so that the Fever Detector & Alarm (FDA) System can easily detect individuals who have elevated temperatures.
Over the past few weeks, before the system was officially released to the market, Opgal has sold hundreds of its IR Cameras to different system integrators, to be implemented as part of their own application as SARS Fever Detectors.

No suspects.           Suspected image
                     2nd from the right, blinks.

Una explicación en Español y Portugués,
Estimados colegas de América Latina relacionados con la Termografía

Prezados colegas do América Latina relacionados à Termografia about thermal imaging used in detection of SARS for our Latin friends from the Web site of SI Termografia Infrarroja in Argentina.
Image caption:

Imagen térmica representativa del rostro de una persona sin fiebre)------------>
( Representante térmico de imagem de rosto humano sem febre)------------>
Singapore Technologies Electronics-Infrared Fever Screening System
This is the organization that started the use of devices to screen people for possible low level fever, an indication of possible SARS. They reportedly have supplied 25 systems and have oders for another 100 or more already in production. Called The IFSS, the system sells for an estimated $50,000 US.

Summary of key specifications are:

Detector Spectral Range: 8 - 12 microns
Array Format: 320 H x 240 V
Operating: Ambient temperature 1 C
Start up Time: < 0.5 minutes
Frame Rate: 25/second
NETD: < 100 mK
Field of View:16 X 12
Measurement Range: 32 to 40C
Grey Levels:0 to 256 Accuracy: +/- 0.3C
Picture of ST Electronics' IFSS Unit and three IR pictures generated from it
SAT INFRARED TECHNOLOGY CO.LTD's new SAT-MC602 infrared imaging fever trace system.
The new system has been designed to try to limit the spread of SARS with this high-tech infrared imaging fever trace system. The system can detect people with fever when they go through into the field of view, just like being imaged by a video cameras. The machine will alert the inspector with both acoustic and light alarm. SAT -MC602 has a thermoelectrically stabilized320X240 array detector and custom software.

image of one person from SAT-MC-602 systemmage of two people from SAT-MC-602 system

Images from The SAT MC602 System

May 9, 2003 – Goleta, CA (USA) – Indigo Systems Corporation, a provider of infrared (IR) imaging equipment and WinSoft Corporation, a developer and integrator of infrared applications, have responded to the SARS situation by developing a human skin/body temperature monitoring system with claimed accuracy of ± 0.5° Celsius.

Omega™, Indigo’s smallest infrared imager, with WinSoft’s state-of-the-art ThermaVU™ analysis software and unique continuous self-calibration mechanism delivers, a rugged, highly accurate, and complete system, called ThermaSense, for monitoring skin/body temperatures.

Screen and camera image of Indigo Systems' ThermaSense  System

Indigo Systems' ThermaSense Camera and Screen Display

Wuhan Guide Infrared-China
May 8, 2003 Model IR230 takes simultaneous Infrared and visual images that can be displayed on the same screen. It includes software to automatically search and track an object and provide an automatic alarm.
When used to screen people for possible fever, the infrared display will show colors below the set threshold as blue and green, while higher temperatures, above the threshold show in red. The visible image enables easier quick identification of the person with a temperature indicated above the threshold. System temperature sensitivity is 0.08°C. Operation is easy and safe. The system is non-intrusive. The spatial resolution of the infrared image is 320 x 240 pixels.

Wuhan Guide IR230 IR and Vidual imaging system

New Wuhan Guide IR230 Dual IR and Visual Camera System for SARS Screening Use

The IR-160R Automated Body Temperature Monitoring System™ from Infrared Solutions Inc.(Minnesota-USA) offers "an answer to combating the spread of illnesses". Fast, unobtrusive temperature screening of people is made simple with the IR-160R.

The IR-160R Automated Body Monitoring System has temperature measurement accuracy of 0.25 degrees C, eight times more accurate than many industrial infrared cameras. It is available with special software to process images as shown in the adjoining images on the right. The camera is designed to work with a PC and frame grabber or is available as a complete system.

Detailed specifications can be found on the web site by clicking on the link above.

Infrared image display from Infrared Solutions IR-160R   System

Infrared Solutions Inc.'s IR 160r Display Images of Human Face

Exergen's Infrared Temporal Artery Thermometer (USA)
According to a Feb 2003 press release on the Exergen Web site, The Children's Hospital (Boston, Mass, USA)and Harvard Medical School have proven that Exergen's Infrared temporal artery thermometer (TAT) is more accurate than Infrared ear thermometry and more accurate than rectal thermometers in responding to change in fever. Exergen also makes infrared ear thermometers and commercial/industrial IR temperature measuring equipment.

Image to the right shows TAT sensor being used to check a sleeping baby.

Raytek Corporation's Web Site Basically has a disclaimer and caution about using industrial IR Thermometers to measure the temperature of the human body. Snell IR Message board- Wuhan Guide spokesman claims that their IR220 models sales recently have been as follows:
"The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC, www.caac.gov.cn ) has bought 20 sets IR220 from us."
The Public Places where their products have been equipped to checking SARS are as follows:
Beijing Capital Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport , Shanghai Hongqiao Airport , Wuhan Airport , Xiamen Airport, Hainan Airport , Wuchang Railway Station , Xiamen Airport , Taiyuan Airport, Guangzhou Trade Fair ( CECF) , Xiao Lanjing Co. , and
Yan Yangtian Co.

Wuhan Guide Infrared-China
April 30,2003 Model IR220
(From the guide-infrared web site)
Specialised Effective Tool for Screening SARS: Within 1 second, IR220 recognises people of high temperature from hundreds of travelers, more effective than tens of Thermometers.
Advanced Technology
With thermal imaging technology, IR220 can take thermal images at high temperature sensitivity of 0.08C degree, in which any spot temperature will be shown accurately. Different colors shows different temperatures. Blue &amp; green indicates healthy, and red depicts high temperature.

Wuhan Guide Infrared Thermal Imager Model IR220

Land Instruments International-Dronfield UK-April 29,2003-
HUMAN BODY TEMPERATURE MONITORING SYSTEM --The thermal imaging system provides a thermographic image of human body temperatures (typically the face) at a distance and comparing it with that of an extremely precise blackbody calibration source at high speed - 30 frames per second - to provide a highly accurate measurement of body temperature.

Land is one of the oldest and most respected organizations in the infrared temperature measurement field and this new addition to their product line comes at a most opportune time. They are well known for rugged, reliable and accurate temperature measurement systems and their equipment is found in industry and research locations worldwide.

One of the features of the new Land system is a calibration source of infrared radiation, included in each image for comparison. Another feature is the customized software for measurement of human body temperature. No accuracy or uncertainty specifications are given in the downloadable Land data sheet, but several interesting human facial images with isotherms and a reference calibration source are shown. The system thermal resolution is specified by Land at 0.12°C.

Below is a copy of the Land Human Body Temperature Monitoring System Display of a thermal image (from their web site) and an isotherm image from their new product sheet on the system..

Thermal Image of a man from the Land Instruments System

Thermal Image with isotherm of "Mark"

CANTRONIC Systems Inc.(Coquitlam, BC Canada w/offices in Beijing and Shanghai) -The CANTRONIC Systems FeverScan M3000 -
The CANTRONIC Systems Inc. FeverScan M3000 screening system is a thermal-imaging thermometer that automatically checks the temperature of travelers as they embark or disembark. Walking through, the sensor generates a heat-sensitive image, and travelers with body temperature above a predefined value will be shown with red flashing color to indicate fever.

The M3000 is a walk-through heat sensor that will not slow down the flow of traffic. If a traveler with a fever walks into the sensor's range a red flashing image indicates the abnormal body temperature.

There is no specification of measurement capability or thermal resolution on the Cantronic web site as of April 29,2003.

A colour and Black and White IR image from a Cantronics system

Images from the Cantronic web site.

Cathay Pacific Airlines Website
SARS Screening Procedures at Airports (revised and current as of Monday, 28 April 2003)
The information on this page is provided at our best knowledge to be accurate and correct at the time of publication. As the SARS condition evolves, so will the information change rapidly.

Please note that Cathay Pacific states they will not carry a passenger with a fever of 37.5°C or above on any of their flights regardless of local government regulations.

Complete details of regulations now in force at many of Cathy Pacific's destinations are described in some detail. Only one location has a temperature sensor specified by name or type. That is Taipei - TPE (Taiwan), where an ear thermomter is mentioned.
www.SunSpot.net Health & Science News April 21, 2003
SARS temperature scanner
A computer screen shows passengers walking past part of a new Infrared Fever Sensing System camera set up to help spot people with fevers arriving from SARS-hit countries at Changi International Airport in Singapore. Using thermal imaging sensor technologies, the system unobtrusively measures the temperatures of passengers
A copyrighted thermal image is shown on the linked web page. Specs uncertain.

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