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Thermal IP Cameras: What You Need to Know

Chances are you are already familiar with what thermal camera technology looks like, you just don’t know it yet. But what exactly does it offer as an IP security solution and why should you care?

Not all light is visible to humans. The light that we see is actually part of a much larger spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Other parts of this spectrum include microwaves, radio waves and x-rays. There is also infrared, which is emitted by any object that is hotter than absolute zero (roughly -273°). As it is not technically possible to achieve absolute zero due to the laws of thermodynamics, everything emits infrared radiation.

Thermal cameras can pick up this infrared signature and translate it into a variety of formatted, viewable images. The most familiar of these is the rainbow effect, where the coldest objects in the image are represented by blacks and blues and the warmest by yellows, reds and whites, but a wide-range of pseudo-colouring methods are available to suit almost any requirements.

Because a thermal camera uses infrared as opposed to visible light, it works even in complete darkness. This makes thermal cameras ideal for detection in low- to no-light environments (another often overlooked benefit of a thermal camera is its ability to operate perfectly in situations where bright spotlights or harsh lighting could cause glare or flare in a visible light camera). Also, thermal imaging is capable of penetrating rain, snow, fog or concentrated airbound particulates such as smog, resulting in a more reliable surveillance solution. The technology is not perfect though. For instance, at long distances, high humidity or rain can distort or blur infrared signatures as the heat emitted from the object is dissipated in the surrounding atmosphere, but in the majority of cases it will still provide an acceptable, if less accurate, image. But there remains one legitimate concern: glass. Glass is incredibly good at blocking infrared, so good in fact that it cannot be used as a lens material in infrared cameras. A variety of more expensive materials are required to solve this problem. Despite this, the benefits of thermal imaging are compelling enough to warrant the additional expenditure.

IP cameras are now beginning to incorporate this technology. While thermal imaging has been used in the military for decades, the expense and complexity of the technology has proven prohibitive for CCTV and security camera solutions. However, as with most technological advancements, it is finally becoming cost-effective to build this feature into some high-end models. At the moment, although the feature remains at the higher end of the market, thermal imaging is already implemented in high-security buildings where a constant surveilling presence is a must, such as airports, banks and prisons.

Until recently, another barrier to installation was the difficulty in integrating a thermal camera solution into an existing CCTV installation. Now, with the growth and inevitable dominance of IP network camera solutions, compatible thermal cameras are much easier to incorporate into existing implementations. In fact, the best way to utilise thermal imaging technology is in parallel with standard IP camera solutions. Thermal imaging is a technology here to stay.

See the full range of Thermal IP Cameras available at Network Webcams

Published on October 21st, 2010 by Kevin Bowyer

One Response to “Thermal IP Cameras: What You Need to Know”

  1. Hermanto Hari says:

    In the day light, some time very difficult to see a flame on the flare stack of an gas processing facilities because the color is the same as sky color.
    Is it possible to use a thermal camera for the above purpose?. If yes, what do I need to consider about the thermal camera specification for this purpose?

    I appreciate if you can guide me to choose a correct type of thermal camera.

    Hari Hermanto