These days, you can’t help but notice that virtually every COVID-19 news clip has repeatedly depicted a person being screened for fever using some device that looks like it is from Star Trek. The use of the non-contact handheld infra-red thermometer has become, somewhat disturbingly, commonplace.
Some examples: Wynn Resorts, currently closed, recently announced the launch of thermal cameras to detect body temperatures of guests. All Emirates passengers flying from Dubai to any destination in the US will have to undergo thermal screening. Retail is even getting in on the action. Walmart said it would take the temperatures of associates when they first report to work, and the Atlanta Journal reports a local grocery chain now requires customer temperature checks. Anyone who registers a temperature of 100.4 or higher “will be discreetly informed by a trained member of our staff, and we will find an alternative for your shopping.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will most likely have a more substantial impact on how we travel and stay in accommodations than any other event in history. It will become the catalyst for dynamic technological change that will possibly remove some of our civil liberties, and it will feel as if our privacy is being invaded.
Infrared temperature systems will help in instances where we customarily have lines, such as TSA checkpoints, malls, stores, and possibly the entrances to hotels and restaurants. Though uncomfortable, it does make sense.
Thermal imaging can also be used to scan a large number of people quickly, which enables a broader view and the possibility of identifying those with elevated temperatures more proactively. First fielded during the 2003 SARS epidemic, thermal fever screening systems use cameras that detect the infrared energy invisible to the human eye that people and objects emit. Whether it’s a medical organization, event, business, airport, or hotel that wants to implement this screening before you enter, the demand for this tech is going to be greater than ever before. Though it can be perceived as invasive, it could prove invaluable in helping us manage larger gatherings as events, conferences, and sports-oriented outings.