Dec 30, 2022

INAOE Designs a Thermal Camera for Spotting COVID-19 Exposures in Densely Populated Spaces

Category: Product News

Off-axis, 4-mirror objective design in a compact system helps identify potential infections in large crowds

Elevated body temperature is a key indicator of many serious infections, including COVID-19. In recent years, airports, hospitals, schools, work centers, and other public and private facilities have begun deploying thermal cameras in their waiting areas to help identify potentially infected persons so that health and security authorities can intervene and isolate them as needed. This approach, while being a step in the right direction for public health, has a few severe limitations, starting with its unsuitability for monitoring large crowds.

"Traditional thermal imaging works well if you're assessing elevated temperature in a single person," said Jorge de Jesus Alvarado-Martinez, a doctoral candidate studying optical instrumentation and metrology at Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica, y Electrónica (INAOE), a public research center in the Mexican state of Puebla.. "However, this is insufficient for the purposes of syndromic surveillance. For that, you need a thermal camera capable of evaluating groups of people, all at once."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alvarado and some of his colleagues grew interested in the ways optical design—in particular, thermal imaging—could be adapted to help with syndromic surveillance, which is the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data for the purposes of reducing exposure to infectious diseases. Syndromic surveillance helps public health officials detect, monitor, and understand health events in ways that enable timely response and intervention to protect populations from exposure.

For Alvarado and his team, improving thermal imaging technology for syndromic surveillance was a matter of finding an alternative optical design that assesses whole groups of people in a public setting, and speeds up the detection process by only identifying people with elevated temperatures rather than reporting on each individual person in the frame. To meet this challenge, Alvarado's team used OpticStudio to design an optical system that differentiates members of a crowd based on bioclinical signals, such as cough and temperature, directly related to the physical symptoms of COVID-19.

Read the full story to learn more about the ways OpticStudio enabled Alvarado to design this new system while achieving significant benefits around cost savings, faster development, and easier materials selection. And to learn more about OpticStudio, the industry standard for optical design software, try it for free!