Thermal imaging is nothing new, but years of refining computer thermal vision algorithms are now paying off for Brisbane-based company Bigmate as organisations look to all the tools available in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Before the virus outbreak began the group was already in the process of developing a new product called “Thermy”, building on its “Warny” solution used to protect people working around dangerous machines, forklifts and trucks.
The purpose of Thermy was to create a “true skin view” that could detect people’s elevated temperatures while isolating background objects that distort readings such as a hat, glasses or even a beard.
Bigmate GM Brett Orr tells Business News Australia the new product launch was in the works for 2.5 years, progressing a technology that had already been “saving life and limb” in workplaces and had also expanded into detecting spontaneous combustion that could potentially burn down buildings.
“We didn’t predict Covid-19. What we did do is our whole basis is around risk management, and risk management is making sure people that are sick aren’t infecting other people in a working environment; otherwise productivity is down,” says Orr.
“If someone walks in with an elevated temperature, that’s very, very hard to detect. Sometimes even the person doesn’t realise that. We have technology that allows you to know straight away if someone needs to see a doctor.”
The product was originally flagged for release in late 2020 or early 2021, but when the outbreak began management decided to reallocate its programming team away from non-essential projects onto Thermy.
“A lot of people are bringing in thermal cameras and thermal imaging and saying they have a solution to Covid-19 by detecting temperatures within environment. Granted, the cameras are part of the solution, but they’re only part of the solution,” says Orr.
“The key here is having the ability to be able to isolate a whole lot of things in field of view.”
One of the ways in which Thermy logically extends Warny’s capabilities is by using thermal cameras, providing real time information through dashboards, hosted in Australia on Amazon Web Services (AWS) for remote viewing and trend analysis.
If someone with an elevated temperature profile is identified, an alert will be sent via multiple media, aligned to the company’s workplace health and privacy policies.
Orr says the technology has been designed so that it’s simple to use for a customer.
“What happens is that they will have a camera set and a tripod, and a little box arrive on site,” he says.
“All of that is connected with video that tells them where they need it connected and what it needs to point at. Then they plug it into a powerpoint, turn it on and they receive monitoring instantaneously.
“The other interesting thing is that that works in isolation, so if you lost an internet connection or there was no connectivity there, it doesn’t matter; it’s still going to report and continue to push that information through.”
He says business has grown very quickly since launch, and while conversations tend to extend past Covid-19, the virus is usually the instigator of discussions.
“We’ve got two clients that are signed up right now with Covid-19 – there’s one industrial client to continue to keep their wheels and mechanisms working so they can continue to contribute to the economy,” he says.
“The other is a people care organisation, so looking at the more vulnerable within our society and making sure they can manage that risk as well.
“The targets are mining, factories, hospitals, local government, federal government, really the list is endless.”