Are thermal cameras a magic bullet for COVID-19 fever detection? There’s not enough evidence to know

Scott Adams, Deakin University; Abbas Kouzani, Deakin University, and Tracey Bucknall, Deakin University

During the frenzy of the past few months to secure resources for the fight against COVID-19, the demand for technologies that promise to detect symptomatic individuals has been sky-high. However, not all proposed solutions work as advertised.

Thermal cameras are already being implemented as a means of detecting people with fever-like symptoms in high-traffic areas such as hospital entrances, shopping centres and office buildings, and potentially mass-attendance sporting events when they resume.

People who show up as having high temperatures can then be directed to further assessment and encouraged to isolate to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

But the evidence suggests thermal cameras are far from a perfect solution, offering limited accuracy if set up incorrectly, and raising data privacy concerns.

Read more:
Coronavirus: how long does it take to get sick? How infectious is it? Will you always have a fever? COVID-19 basics explained

Accuracy is important

Despite the urgency of the COVID-19 situation, we cannot abandon accuracy. If temperature screening incorrectly detects many people as having a fever, then healthcare services will be burdened by needless secondary assessments.

On the other hand, if the technology fails to detect many people who do have symptoms it may create a false sense of security and lead to future COVID-19 clusters. This is especially important in high-risk environments such as aged-care facilities or hospitals.

The most accurate tools for measuring temperatures are the ones used to assess hospital patients for fever, such as mouth, ear and rectal thermometers. However, these tools require training to use correctly, and bring patients into direct contact with a device which must then be cleaned before it can be used again.

The requirements for training and cleaning are a major drawback during a pandemic and are the reason these tools are not widely used for mass fever screening.

Why thermal cameras?

As a result, both government and industry are deploying automated systems involving infrared thermal cameras instead to perform fever-screening from facial temperature measurements. Many such systems have already been deployed in high-risk locations across the country.

These systems are sometimes seen as a magic bullet for mass fever screening. Measurements are almost instant, there is no contact, and data can be viewed at a distance, so there is minimal disruption in public places and little risk of cross-contamination or harm to the operator. And the system can be used with minimal training.

Read more:
Why do some people with coronavirus get symptoms while others don’t?

Lack of evidence

However, there is a glaring lack of clinical evidence for thermal camera-based fever screening solutions. So far there has been no multi-site, large-scale independent clinical trial to assess the accuracy of these systems. To our knowledge, no thermal imaging system has been approved as a medical device by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.

This is concerning, particularly as these systems are being trusted to protect high-risk areas. It is possible that in the rush to find solutions to keep people safe, the limitations of such systems have been overlooked.

The limits of thermal cameras

The most crucial limitation of these technologies is biological. The skin on a person’s face is not one single temperature, and does not uniformly reflect their core body temperature, which is needed to assess fever.

After entering a building on a cold winter day, a person’s forehead temperature stays unusually low for minutes afterwards. This could potentially allow a feverish person to be incorrectly screened.

Research suggests the region of the face that best reflects core temperature is the inner corner of the eye. This is a very small target, so to measure this area an individual must be very close, and directly facing the camera. Even a small change in angle has been found to alter the readings.

Even if the system can measure the right part of the face, many other factors can change the reading, such as room temperature, airflow, wearing glasses, image background, and skin dampness.

In 2017, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released guidelines on how to deploy thermal camera systems to account for these factors. The recommendations include only measuring a single person at a time, keeping the subject and camera close, and ensuring each person pauses while directly facing the camera.

Read more:
The coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for a surveillance debate beyond ‘privacy’

Privacy problems

In addition, many thermal camera systems include facial recognition capabilities to make it easier to identify anyone who triggers an alert. Hospitals, shopping centres and office buildings around the world are now receiving facial images of every person who enters their facilities.

Significant questions remain over whether these organisations are up to date with the required security practices to collect and store this type of private information safely.

In places such as aged-care facilities and hospitals where the impact of an outbreak could be catastrophic, there is an ethical obligation to follow best-practice protocols, and the advice of experts.

Currently, in the case of thermal cameras for mass fever screening, the obligation would be to ensure the systems follow the recommendations put forward by the ISO, and avoid providers who don’t comply.

More research is needed to investigate this technology and begin developing a library of reliable independent research. This is necessary to make sure decisions about this technology can be made on the basis of firm evidence during COVID-19 and future pandemics.The Conversation

Scott Adams, Postdoctoral Biomedical Engineering Researcher, Deakin University; Abbas Kouzani, Professor of Engineering, Deakin University, and Tracey Bucknall, Professor, Chair in Nursing & Director of Nursing Research, Alfred Health, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


SurfRecon, Inc., Shelley Lubben, and the Pink Cross Foundation have partnered to bring the latest Internet-safety software to families and communities struggling with Internet pornography and to raise awareness about the Pink Cross Foundation, which helps individuals trapped in the adult-entertainment industry start a new life, reports SurfRecon, Inc..

“We realize that parents are struggling with trying to protect their families from Internet pornography, and filters cannot do the job by themselves—especially when someone in the home has a pornography problem,” said Shelley Lubben, Director of the Pink Cross Foundation, “Filters are great, when they work. But I have heard too many scary stories about smart, tech-savvy kids bypassing an Internet filter to access Internet porn.

“We all need to do a better job watching our kids, and SurfRecon is the tool that parents to do just that.”

The new internet-safety software the partnership promotes is the SurfRecon pornography-detection tool, which works hand in hand with a filter to offer “protection + detection” in a home or business.

Besides raising awareness about SurfRecon pornography-detection tools, the partnership also provides much-needed funding for the Pink Cross Foundation by contributing a portion of all purchases of SurfRecon products through the Pink Cross Foundation’s website back to the foundation.

“I thought teaming-up with the Shelley Lubben and the Pink Cross Foundation was a great idea, because not only are we working together to help parents protect their families from pornography,” said Matthew Yarro, Executive VP for SurfRecon, Inc, “But we are also solving another problem. We are helping individuals, performers and sex workers, leave the adult entertainment industry and start a new life.

“We are proud to be contributing to the Pink Cross Foundation.”


What Is a SurfRecon Pornography Detection Tool?

The latest wave in Internet-safety tools is a pornography-detection tool, and SurfRecon is the leader. A pornography-detection tool leverages digital signatures, similar to fingerprints, that uniquely identify a pornographic image or video. SurfRecon currently maintains the largest collection of digital signatures with over 200 million in its database.

The SurfRecon software comes pre-installed on a standard USB thumb drive, which can be used on almost any Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer system. The software is easy to use and allows an individual to quickly and accurately scan a computer for pornographic content. The tool also offers a number of safety tools for individuals reviewing any content found.


About SurfRecon, Inc.

SurfRecon, Inc. is an Orem, Utah-based company that develops cutting-edge digital detection technologies. It’s flagship product, SurfRecon, is a pornography-detection tool that is in use by families, businesses and law-enforcement agencies around the world.


About Shelley Lubben

Shelley Lubben is a mother, a missionary to the sex industry, fighter for truth and advocate for sex workers and porn performers who are abused by the adult industry.

Shelley is also a former porn actress fighting tirelessly against the pornography industry, which affects most of the world in a destructive way. Unrelenting in the cause of human rights, Shelley is passionate to educate people all around the world about the abusive and illegally operating porn industry as well as inspire the world to stop viewing pornography and stop contributing to the destruction of men and women who are being abused daily in the pornography industry.


About The Pink Cross Foundation

The Pink Cross Foundation is a compassionate humanitarian outreach dedicated to helping improve the lives of persons struggling with pornography addiction, sex industry abuse, sexual abuse and more. Shelley Lubben, former porn actress and prostitute in the 90’s, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depressive Disorder, Impulse Control Disorder and substance abuse due to years of trauma from the sex industry. She was prescribed anti-depressants, Lithium, and sleeping pills and recommended counseling for the next twenty years!

After eight years of recovery at the Champion’s Center, Shelley conquered the horrible effects of her past and became a Champion in life through the power of Jesus Christ. Ten years later Shelley is on a mission to go back to the sex industry to reach out to porn stars and sex workers with the power and love of Jesus Christ. Shelley is also on a mission to smash the illusion of porn and help people overcome pornography addiction.

Report from the Christian Telegraph