May 12, 2020
Thermal Temperature-Monitoring to Reduce the Spread of Covid-19
In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Custom Video Security has released automated, touch-free, hygienic thermal temperature-monitoring solutions to assist with the public reopening of businesses across the country and to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. This report contains the following key points:
- I discuss the ten essential factors to consider when choosing a temperature-monitoring device and how those factors apply to your organization, what to avoid, and what you would absolutely need in this type of product.
- I offer my conclusion my opinion of the best manufacturer based on the ten factors across several days of research as well as my own 15+ years of expertise in this industry.
- The newly updated (as of 05/20) necessary protocols to achieve the most accurate temperature reads.
- Lastly, I offer a compare & contrast chart that shows the various features, specifications, availability, price points, and product webinars so that you can take a deeper dive into these products.
Introduction: A New Worldwide Problem
Since late 2019, the entire world has been dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic. And as the USA has been observing stay-at-home orders with only essential businesses operational since mid-March 2020, businesses worldwide have sought new methods to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and other flu-like viruses to maintain a safer environment for their employees and/or patrons.
A viral outbreak can lead to a complete breakdown at any organization: widespread testing of everyone who has come into contact with the infected person(s), the temporary dismissal of the infected person(s) for the recommended self-quarantine period, thorough deep cleaning of the entire site, and regular cleanings to be scheduled thereafter. Numerous organizations have since implemented the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, face shields, and more. The social media impact and potentially negative media coverage on the business not maintaining a safe work environment could be detrimental to any business under public scrutiny.
Solution: Elevated Temperature Readings are a Common Symptom of Covid-19
Per FDA COVID-19 Thermography Device Guidance, “Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, typically appearing 2-14 days after exposure. Telethermographic systems are able to determine surface skin temperature, which is then used to estimate the temperature at a reference body site.”
Within the past few weeks, there has been more and more talk about how a successful business re-opening plan for should include body-temperature screenings: for employees before their shifts, and for patrons before they enter the common area. The thought process is that people who have elevated temperatures are indicative of those who could potentially be ill, physically unwell, or potentially have some kind of virus such as Covid-19. The intention to prevent these people from entering the premises, or at least sequestering them for further testing once their elevated temperature is detected. The implementation of temperature-measuring devices is on the CDC’s and White House’s guide to reopening America, and is right up there with social distancing and cleaning/sanitizing surfaces.
What started with individuals in bodysuits and PPE taking temperatures with an infrared thermometer (which is both invasive and inefficient) has quickly evolved to social-distance-preserving, unmanned, automated, touch-free temperature monitoring solutions where up to 30 people can be scanned simultaneously (or up to 10 people who are constantly moving) allowing for non-stop foot traffic to flow efficiently without any restrictive delays which would otherwise be caused by individual temperature tests.
What is the public view on these types of temperature-monitoring systems? It seems whether the person being scanned is an employee or a patron, that as long as the temperature monitoring is non-invasive and does not reduce the flow of traffic, most people feel an increased sense of comfort and reassurance to visit a site where a temperature-monitoring system is installed. Employees feel safer knowing that the odds of them contracting a person-to-person virus from the workplace is reduced when the site is monitoring the temperature of anyone who visits. Parents of students who send their kids to schools that have temperature-monitoring systems will have an increased level of confidence of the overall health and safety measures at that school. Patrons of grocery stores and restaurants would generally feel more relaxed to shop at places that screen for elevated temperatures. Per IPVM, “While historically $10,000+ cameras would be viewed as unjustifiable, given even small businesses are losing tens of thousands of dollars per month, the extreme circumstances are helping to drive the decision.”
Click the below image to play an embedded video on Thermal Monitoring:
Since late 2019 when the virus started in China and has made its way to Europe and the rest of the western world, the Chinese first started the implementation of these “body-temperature” or “fever-detection” camera systems, in addition to the mandatory mask-wearing protocol. As employees or patrons walk into a place of business, they are greeted by a dual-spectrum thermal camera in which their temperature is measured using the thermal spectrum while their faces are identified or stored into a facial recognition database using the visible spectrum, which is similar to a traditional optical security camera.
Enter the hybrid dual-spectrum camera: one with a thermal spectrum to measure temperature and another visible/optical spectrum, as what would be seen by a traditional color HD security camera. The visible spectrum sees the person, detects his or her face using “facial detection” technology, and then directs the thermal camera to look at the target’s forehead (top of the face) for the temperature reading. This serves one of three purposes:
- It identifies the location of the temperature reading so that a person holding a hot beverage or a hot meal, for example, does not trigger an abnormal reading (unless the hot beverage/meal is held at his/her forehead).
- It allows multiple people to be classified separately, up to the camera’s simultaneous temperature reading limit. Each person will show his or her own temperature reading as they move about through the camera’s temperature reading area.
- It ensures a live person’s temperature is being read instead of a mask or a photo of a person. This generally involves additional artificial intelligence (AI)-based human-detection functionality either from the camera or AI network video recorder (NVR)/software.
It should be stated that the forehead temperature reading is a measure of “elevated skin temperature” or EST, while the true test of “elevated body temperature” or EBT for an indication of fever is an internal reading, as with thermometers that are inserted into the mouth. Discussed in detail in this IPVM article, using skin temperature to estimate body temperature comes with risks, as skin temperature can be influenced by factors such as ambient temperatures, strenuous work or exercise, prolonged exposure to the sun, alcohol consumption, humidity, perspiration, and age/gender. Furthermore, the majority of devices on the market do not actually detect fever or prevent Covid-19, as many of them falsely claim. Rather, they help prevent the spread of illness by keeping those who are ill away from populated company areas where they can potentially spread an infection to other employees and/or patrons.
The dual-spectrum thermal camera is coupled with a blackbody calibration device, which “maintains a constant temperature for use as a reference point by the thermal camera. It provides a constant stable and accurate temperature surface for continuous calibration of the sensor.” The blackbody must be shown in the background of the thermal camera’s detection area. The best practice is to use one thermal camera per blackbody, although it has been argued that two cameras can theoretically share the same blackbody providing the blackbody can be seen in the background of both thermal cameras.
The blackbody is generally required in most surveillance applications where multiple people’s temperatures are being measured simultaneously. It is not needed for individual temperature screenings.
Upon first seeing the numerous thermal temperature-monitoring solutions on the market, I noticed the majority of them are either sold in a kit or as individual components in a recommended solution. Whether evaluating the entire kit or the modular solution, both options include heavy-duty tripods, which seemed clunky to me. At first thought, I figured this was to make installation faster or at least temporary or mobile so that it can be relocated to different buildings or entrances. I looked for other mounting solutions for the camera and blackbody in order to have a more “permanent” and stable solution.
Upon doing further research, I learned the use of their heavy-duty tripods is actually recommended by the manufacturers because the proper spatial calibration of the blackbody to the thermal camera is crucial to getting the system to function accurately. It is more difficult to position the cameras and the blackbody the right way without tripods since both the camera and blackbody should be installed within a certain height range and distance away from each other, which is not always possible in a fixed installation. Furthermore, the blackbody should not be installed in areas with interference from microwaves, electromagnetic devices, heaters, high-powered lamps, as well as areas with reflective surfaces, high ambient temperature, strong airflow, and direct sunlight or backlight.
Numerous solutions are on the market, and these are the Ten essential factors to consider when choosing a thermal temperature-monitoring solution for your organization:
- What type of solution do you require? Is your organization’s goal to be able to read the temperatures of up to 30 people at a time without slowing the flow of traffic, or rather to ensure someone has proper clearance to access a secure area? The first challenge is addressed by a surveillance camera, while the second is addressed by an access control camera. Facial recognition and other features can be found in both types of solutions.
- Consider the product’s lead-time and the date in which your business is opening. The majority of these solutions are in short supply and can usually be found on back-order for at 2+ weeks. There are currently numerous cities in the USA who plan on doing a soft opening around mid-May. This means that a solution should be purchased, received, and deployed with sufficient time so that it can be configured, tested, and a plan of action to be set in place in order to call out those who have elevated temperature reads. Additionally, you would have to take transit time into consideration. Solutions with lead times or transit times higher than one week would not be ideal. Consider the FOB shipping point as well as your destination address to calculate transit time. Expedited shipping is always an option, but it will be costly considering the size of the complete temperature-monitoring kit with tripods.
- Since no one really knows how long it will take to develop a vaccine (or if one will ever be created), the majority of manufacturers of these thermal temperature-monitoring systems have specified a no-returns policy for these devices. This means that once a solution is purchased, it can only be returned for repair or replacement for manufacturer defects. Keep this in mind if purchasing from overseas or from a vendor who may not have a history developing dual-spectrum thermal solutions, human detection, facial recognition, etc.
When Senior Vice President of Health & Safety at Tyson Foods Tom Brower was asked if their recently purchased 150 pcs of temperature-monitoring scanners for their numerous meat-processing plants will be used for the long-term after the coronavirus pandemic becomes yesterday’s news, he replied, “Since we’ve invested in the equipment, we may consider continuing to use them. This could help in the future flu and cold seasons to identify team members that are just starting to show symptoms and have them go home.”
- Equally as important is the warranty. If the unit fails for whatever reason, you should be able to return it for repair or replacement. It is very costly and difficult to return these types of products to China. In some cases, Chinese customs will refuse these shipments completely. Ensure the manufacturer stands behind its product warranty and that they are reputable enough so that you can get your questions answered in a timely manner and RMA the product if necessary.
- Technical support is going to be essential on this, and access to competent technical support is going to be key, especially upon initial deployment. The last thing you want to do is deal with a Chinese vendor or manufacturer who has no U.S.-based technical support. In addition to email-only communication in “Chinglish,” you will only receive answers from them in nighttime hours during Chinese business hours, which makes communication and action very ineffective and inefficient.
- Documentation & demos. Ensure you have reviewed specification sheets, the manufacturer website, and videos on product functionality. If these types of resources are limited, then it’s probably in your best interest to move on to something else with proven evidence and case studies before you make an investment into a solution with a “no-returns” policy.
- Price point. Some of the less-expensive solutions from China can be found in the sub-$2000 range, while the more reliable solutions with U.S.-based support can easily be found at 10x this price. It would be more ideal to invest in something that works and that has competent support from a reliable manufacturer than to waste money on a solution that does not work as intended and cannot be remedied. Choose a reliable vendor who offers financing so as not to tie-up credit or cash flow with a large up-front expense.
- How will your organization monitor the abnormal alarm events generated by the camera? Some solutions only have local alerts, which means someone such as a guard or other type of dedicated person would have to monitor the device while maintaining social distance. Most of the higher-end solutions either have a built-in audible and visual alarm and/or local alarm outputs to trigger some type of light and/or siren when abnormal temperatures are detected. The solutions with back-end monitoring with remote alerts via client software or mobile apps allow for the person(s) monitoring to be in another room or at another site. The best solutions are the ones with local, client, and app-based alarm notifications. Beware of email-only notifications for remote monitoring, as very few people proactively read their emails on a regular basis. Mobile app-based notifications—in my opinion—are essential for remote monitoring since they send push notifications and immediate alerts and can be sent to multiple subscribers simultaneously.
- Choose an Onvif-conformant solution if integration into a VMS (video management software) or other type of system is desired. Onvif-conformant products from multiple manufacturers allow for communication and integration amongst them. While it isn’t expected for most VMSes to receive alarm notifications for abnormal temperature events (at least not without some programming), an Onvif camera or NVR should still be able to integrate into a VMS to show the optical and/or thermal stream of the camera.
- NDAA-ban: the two largest video surveillance manufacturers out of China—Dahua and Hikvision—have recently been banned by the federal government for use on federally-funded projects. While these two manufacturers cannot be used for federally-funded projects, they can still be used on private, city, and state projects as long as federal funds are not being used.
The majority of temperature-monitoring solutions on the market are not medical devices and are not FDA-approved. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any disease or prevent the spread of disease. While there are such devices available, they are generally only available for purchase through medical channels and are certified by the FDA.
After spending 6 days researching available products from our manufacturing partners Dahua, Arecont Vision/CohuHD/COSTAR (Sunell’s panda camera), Hikvision, Uniview, ZKTeco, and a no-name Chinese import called “E3,” I have concluded that the Dahua and ZKTeco solutions are superior to their competitors, the reasons for which I have listed below.
The one potential exception is a surveillance-grade AI software called Scylla, which enables the use of any Onvif dual-spectrum thermal camera (CohuHD, Dahua, Hikvision) to present the temperature reads and facial database on its software without the blackbody device. It’s essentially AI software with an annual license cost running on a dedicated Linux-based server, but it still requires the camera.
Supporting documentation in the form of a Compare & Contrast chart lists various features, specifications, product webinars, and other relevant info that are meant to guide a buyer in the right direction. Custom Video Security an authorized dealer of all of these solutions, and we can quote pricing on a project-by-project basis.
- Technical support is paramount.
- We have had solid experience with Arecont Vision, and since CohuHD is their sister company with offices located in California, we expect them to be helpful in the configuration and support for this solution.
- Dahua’s technical support is available from 6am to 6pm PST by phone or email and is technically competent. The 12-hour support window is ideal for customers in all time zones spread throughout the USA. Custom Video Security also has private access to a dedicated senior support engineer at Dahua, in case regular tech support isn’t enough.
- Scylla has offices in the USA and Armenia, and they claim to have 24×7 email-only technical support for their free support. They may have a paid option to add phone support. Their servers offer 24×7 computer support from Dell, but the main inquiry of support is regarding the configuration of the AI software; not the computer hardware. It should be stated here that Scylla currently has no GUI for customer-based configuration yet; however, they will configure their software remotely for each customer. This is good for the purpose of a turn-key solution, but bad for those who want/need to be able to make configurations within the software on the fly. This could soon change, but we don’t know when.
- Uniview’s tech support is my least favorite when it comes to comparing Chinese surveillance products. It’s mainly “Chinglish,” but they have more personnel than smaller manufacturers who are dedicated to support and usually respond in a timely manner. I have seen more responses during Chinese business hours than during U.S. hours, although I think they are working to improve this. Last time I checked, their support is via email or Skype. You could opt to call them, but it’s not ideal unless you understand Chinglish.
- ZKTeco support is solid. Their USA office is located in Georgia, and they have good operating hours, but customers on the west coast won’t have as desirable support hours as east coast customers. If you like waking up early, then this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. Their support hours are M-F from 9am to 6pm EST.
- E3 has “Chinglish” email-only during Chinese business hours, so I would not recommend considering this product unless the cost of the other options is over your budget and financing/leasing is not an option. During the course of researching this product, they responded that they have a 5-day holiday weekend (when the USA has a normal weekend), which is why their responses are currently delayed.
- Dahua has stock now (as of 05/12), so if your business is currently operational or if you plan on opening within the next two weeks, the system can be installed and configured before then. You can create and test a plan for sequestering employees for further testing, as well as denying access to delivery people and/or patrons if an elevated temperature is detected. All other surveillance manufacturers I researched have a 2+ week lead time for products with similar functionality.
- The Dahua camera and NVR are ePoE, which can utilize coax cables via optional low-cost media converters up to 1000 meters, or can utilize Cat5e or Cat6 up to 800 meters without the use of any PoE extenders. Dahua has a list of ePoE IP cameras with too many features to list here.
- The one-year warranty seems to be standard for a dual-spectrum thermal camera solution. Dahua’s 5-year warranty with 1-year advance replacement on the NVR when purchased from Custom Video Security is unparalleled. Update as of 05/12: Dahua’s new warranty on the thermal camera is 3 years, and they plan to release an extended warranty option for the blackbody. Hikvision offered 3 months, which I refuse to offer to our customers, especially for a ~$15,000 investment. That said, I did not research the Hikvision solution any further. Update as of 05/15: Hikvision claims their “3 months” warranty is a typo, and it’s actually 3 years, but I am not going to research this further at this point. CohuHD is at 2 years at a higher price point, but they oddly told me they don’t know if they are going to offer their thermal camera at 2 years; only the recorder, blackbody, and optional NVR and storage appliances. They said they would get back to me, and this was their answer two days in a row. It seems to me that they are rushing to market to meet demand. They don’t even have datasheets or marketing material for some of their required appliances. They are selling their product without complete documentation or knowledge of warranty. Uniview also carries a 1-year warranty. ZKTeco has a 3-year warranty, but their product is meant for access control for allowing one person at a time into a secured area; not for the surveillance application of monitoring numerous people at once. ZKTeco is the only product that is returnable with a money-back guarantee, less a potential restock fee if the unit shows signs of use. Scylla, the AI software carries a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee on the software only; not on the Linux server if purchased from them. And not on the camera, since they don’t sell the cameras.
- Alarm notifications: The Dahua camera has a built-in LED and siren for easily-identifiable local alarms with no additional optional accessories required. Alarm events can be sent from the NVR to the client software and mobile app. (Update as of 05/04: CohuHD’s mobile app was just released and is available.) Uniview’s documentation is lacking. ZKTeco’s temperature reading is not listed in the mobile app notification, which is disappointing. ZKTeco’s temperature notifications are by email, which is not as desirable as mobile app push notifications. Additionally, ZK’s mobile app is a paid app, which is strange, considering the lackluster features.
- The Dahua DHI-NVR5216-16P-I 4TB NVR supports facial recognition up to 100,000 faces across up to 20 databases, instant alarm notifications via mobile app/NVR/client software, and can push AI functionality for human and vehicle detection and perimeter detection to other Onvif IP cameras on the network. The topic of AI functionality is the best thing to happen to security cameras in the past few years. To make it very brief, the NVR can detect human and vehicle motion detection from any compatible camera connected to it, thereby virtually eliminating false alarms from weather, animals, insects, swaying trees, moving shadows, etc. I haven’t seen any other NVR anywhere near this price point that allows for this type of functionality. This is probably the biggest reason why the value of the Dahua system exceeds that of others: because it acts as a multi-functional security system and perimeter detection system. Additionally, the NVR is capable of metadata searches: gender, age range, glasses, beard, etc. The ZKTeco SF1008+ has a facial recognition database of up to 50,000 faces. In addition, the ZK SF1008+ offers palm-based recognition, and they recommend palm-recognition when a mask is worn—although the facial recognition still works when a mask is worn.
- An intercom-type setup can be created if desired. All of the major name-brand surveillance cameras support 2-way audio (optional microphone and speaker required), so no operator is required to be in the same room as the camera if you don’t already have some type of intercom or loudspeaker in the room where the camera will be located. The ZK solution does not support 2-way audio.
- Update as of 05/05, I learned that the ZKTeco solution can be used for time & attendance with payroll integration so that you can use these on the employee side, check temperatures, mask-wearing, and enjoy the significantly lower price-point. It can potentially eliminate all manual entry into the payroll system—contact us for more info on this. It can also make sense to check customer temperature so as to increase consumer confidence in shopping at various retail stores and visiting restaurants and other hospitality-serving establishments. You can mount a sign outside the entrance stating something to the extent of “all patrons and employees have mandatory temperature checks at this store to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
- Update as of 06/01, Dahua has introduced their kiosk/tablet-style temperature-checking DHI-ASI7213X-T1, which is meant to be used as a non-stop single-person scanner. Unlike the ZKTeco SpeedFace+ devices mentioned in this post, it does not need the subject to stop for a temperature reading. It boasts a temperature range of between 1 to 6 feet with a convenient 7-inch all-in-one touchscreen. It claims accuracy up to 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, with accuracy reduced as the subject’s detection away from the device distance grows greater. This DHI-ASI7213X-T1 does not require a blackbody device, and as such, the accuracy is somewhat reduced when compared to the more expensive DH-TPC-BF5421-T. As with the ZK SpeedFace+ devices, it does have mask-checking detection and a more limited access control function. Dahua claims more advanced thermal imaging using a true thermal sensor at 120×90 resolution with a 50-degree horizontal field of view, whereas the competition uses lower-resolution thermopile technology generally around 32×32 resolution at a more limited 30-degree horizontal field of view. The price point is comparable to the ZKTeco SF1008+; however, the mounts/stands are more expensive costing up to nearly $400 MSRP for the ASF172X-T1 pedestal/floor mount/stand. In addition, it should be stated that the floor mount is on back-order until 06/20, and the expected shipment is already half-committed for existing orders. The ASF072X-T1 table/counter mount/stand will be in stock by 06/08 and makes the Dahua Temperature Kiosk unit much more attainable, both due to better availability and lower overall price, as the MSRP of the ASF072X-T1 table mount is just under $180. This DHI-ASI7213X-T1 has a 3-year warranty and is special-order only with no returns or money-back-guarantee.
We are offering an extra $1000 discount PER Dahua camera purchased until 06/30 and 50% off optional programming fees to the first 100 customers so that all programming can conveniently be done by us remotely (or on-site if you prefer). Click to receive the extra $1000 discount for the cameras or for the kits.
Here is a full webinar on the Dahua solution. The necessary protocols to achieve the most accurate temperature reads are in the video.
Another video on Dahua’s solution mentioned on ABC News:
ZKTeco short video:
ZKTeco full webinar:
As of 05/20, the 4-week lead-time on ZK has been temporarily eliminated. It is in-stock, but stock is very low. We have reserved some for our stock.
ZKTeco datasheets, FAQs (frequently asked questions–both from ZKTeco as well as additional FAQs I created), QSGs (quick-start guides), and user manuals can be found on the Custom Video Security website under each product page: SF1008+, SF1005-V+.
All of the products in this report are subject to normal payment terms, and financing is in place if you prefer to pay smaller monthly payments over time instead of committing to a larger up-front investment. Unlike the other manufacturers, CohuHD requires a non-refundable 50% deposit up-front for their temperature-monitoring products.
We do have on-site demos for both Dahua and ZKTeco at a warehouse in North Hollywood, CA, and we can schedule on-site demos if required. I recommend watching my pre-recorded webinars (links are in the spreadsheet) to do your research and only to request an on-site demo if necessary.
Dahua’s biggest downside is they are not NDAA-compliant for federally-funded projects. This includes the federal government and any project using federal funds such as certain school projects. But they remain—to this day—a favorite product of the majority of our customer base due to their high value, feature-rich offering at a relatively low price point.
I have been asked about FLIR. Since Custom Video Security is not a FLIR authorized-dealer, and since time was of the essence in completing this report, I skipped research on FLIR and the other manufacturers with which we have no direct relationship. But Dahua did acquire FLIR in February 2018 and uses FLIR technology inside its thermal cameras.
Lastly, if and when you install a temperature-monitoring system, the FDA states a prominent label should be publicly posted showing “the [temperature] measurement should not be solely or primarily relied upon to diagnose or exclude a diagnosis of COVID-19, or any other disease.” One such example of a label is as follows:
By: Raymond Shadman