Vodafone has launched a heat detection camera to screen employees entering the office for signs that they may have the coronavirus.
The internet of things (IoT) device uses thermal imaging, with each camera able to check the temperature of eight people at a time and 100 people per minute.
The launch is in partnership with UK-headquartered surveillance firm Digital Barriers.
Vodafone and Digital Barriers say the thermal camera is accurate to within 0.3°C and takes less than half a second to scan a person’s body temperature.
Captured thermal images are sent to a laptop in real time. If someone has a raised temperature a “discreet” alert is sent so that the person can given a medical check to establish if they have Covid-19.
The firms are marketing the heat detection camera to enterprises and the public sector.
“The heat detection camera brings together Vodafone’s expertise in IoT with innovative technology and a secure managed service to create an enterprise-grade solution that protects employees and front-of-house staff,” said Scott Petty, chief technology officer at Vodafone UK.
“Our IoT network can connect many cameras quickly and without disruption in almost any location; and our ongoing partnership with Digital Barriers provides reassurance that the underlying software and hardware is engineered to the highest standards.”
Zak Doffman, CEO of Digital Barriers, said: “This heat detection camera has been designed to help companies safeguard staff and customers, reopen facilities and get back to work safely. The solution combines class-leading temperature screening with highly secure remote access and alerts.
“Partnering with Vodafone UK to bring this to market will ensure it is widely available and supported by a world-class IoT network and managed services operation.”
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Temperature screening systems are one of many measures being explored by employers to help offices re-open. They have already been deployed at some airports around the world in a bid to stop the spread of the virus, while Amazon has deployed thermal cameras in its warehouses.
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However, experts have warned against relying solely on thermal cameras because people may be carrying the virus but showing no symptoms. There are also concerns that they could generate false positives.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has questioned the efficacy of temperature screening at airports.
“Temperature screening alone, at exit or entry, is not an effective way to stop international spread, since infected individuals may be in incubation period, may not express apparent symptoms early on in the course of the disease, or may dissimulate fever through the use of antipyretics,” the WHO said.
It added that such measures may “require substantial investments for what may bear little benefits”.
Critics have also raised privacy concerns, warning that surveillance measures should not be continued post-pandemic.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC: “We don’t want to see the world after Covid-19 where we end up with measures that last beyond this crisis and companies feel they have the free hand to go around taking people’s temperature all the time.”