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June 3, 2020


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Thermal imaging

Return to work: could elevated temperature screening be part of the ‘new normal’?

The ‘new normal’ will see a number of changes to the way businesses operate, and temperature screening could be at the heart of this, argues Neil Hendry, VP EMEA at Digital Barriers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a challenging shift in the way we live our lives – with those businesses still open slowly adjusting to a new way of working, despite being uncertain about what the future may hold. However, the question on the nation’s mind is what comes next?

DigitalBarriers-TemperatureScreening2-20The Government has already set out its strategy for easing lockdown measures, with many who cannot do their job from home already encouraged to return to work with appropriate measures in place. Retail outlets that have been closed since lockdown began on 23rd March have even started reopening, with more set for a couple of weeks’ time. However, while this is a cause for optimism, the truth is that we are still a long way from the discovery, mass production and availability of a vaccine. As a result, we can expect physical distancing and other sensible precautions to remain in place for some time.

While nobody can predict what our ‘new normal’ will look like over the next few years, businesses can start to put new infrastructure in place to mitigate any immediate dangers as lockdown begins to be relaxed. Handled in the right manner this can reassure employees and customers alike to return to some semblance of normal life, for the good of the economy and our health.

Safeguarding the workforce with temperature screening

Technology such as elevated temperature screening can mitigate some of the danger and uncertainty surrounding the easing of lockdown and must be a part of the return to work strategies we see deployed. It is not the whole answer but can be a critical tool in limiting the exposure of a potentially infected individual to others, thereby limiting the risk of a local epidemic resulting from an isolated case.

Elevated temperature screening solutions use both a thermal and optical camera to analyse body temperature, a key indicator of the presence of a potential illness, and sound a discreet alert when a specific temperature threshold is exceeded.

READ: Things to consider when using thermal imaging for temperature screening

Able to screen multiple people simultaneously, this technology can be situated at the entrance to countless premises – such as hospitals, pharmacies, warehouses, commercial buildings, transport hubs and construction sites. And as Vodafone itself makes clear when deploying our technology for itself and to its customers, it is a highly effective way of quickly identifying staff and customers who show signs of possible infection. When alerted to an elevated temperature, operators can take preventative action to minimise the risk of a localised outbreak.

We are now familiar with infrared, no-touch thermometers being used within key industries. However, to get an accurate reading the thermal camera must be within a five-metre distance of the person being screened. With social distancing measures still in place – and not set to be relaxed any time soon – having a temperature screening solution that can operate remotely is hugely valuable. Stand-off temperature detection, that can operate reliably in areas of poor bandwidth and network connectivity, can allow temperature screening without the need for close human interaction, thereby further cutting the risk of transmission.

Necessary considerations

There are numerous considerations to take into account when looking at implementing an elevated temperature screening solution. The first is accuracy. It’s important to adopt a technology that can be introduced quickly, but more importantly, the accuracy of any technology is imperative. Pairing the thermal camera with a blackbody can help regulate the temperature to within 0.3°C.

Connectivity is also an important consideration. Cameras can be installed in multiple locations, alarms can be viewed locally or can be sent remotely across the network, as well as viewed on a smartphone app – in essence, providing a full end-to-end solution linked to a centralised command and control location, meaning the technology doesn’t need direct supervision from staff in the immediate vicinity. It’s crucial that companies looking to safeguard their employees can introduce these protective technologies without overhauling their existing surveillance infrastructure.


While the current conversation is focused on how to return to work, we mustn’t forget those industries which have been working harder than ever. Hospitals, pharmacies, care homes and supermarkets can all benefit from the introduction of elevated temperature screening. Never has it been more important to protect our key workers and this technology can play a vital role in that fight, which is why the speed and ease of implementation is crucial.

Businesses, especially those in key industries, may have a lot on their minds but they can’t afford to let due diligence slip. Another major consideration when introducing elevated temperature screening technology should be around which vendor to use, as some high-risk vendors – many of which are blacklisted in the US – are offering these capabilities. The security credentials, as well as the breakdown of global supply chains, should drive home the importance of buying British-made technology during this time.

Finally, a solution with an upgrade path to include other future features and enhancements, such as facial recognition would be ideal for businesses to use in line with other building security measures.

The country has faced a challenging few months, but steps are now being taken to return to normal – a ‘new normal’. People are eager to return to work, but this can’t happen at the expense of their health. Fortunately, elevated temperature screening solutions could make a safe and controlled return to work a possibility in the near future, thereby safeguarding the wider workforce including colleagues, customers or fellow commuters.

You can find more advice on returning to work safely from our sister title, SHP Online.

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