Thermal Imaging vs. Night Vision Devices

Thermal imaging cameras are technically not cameras, but rather sensors that detect heat (also called thermal energy or infrared). Technically, these devices are detecting radiation. The amount of this radiation goes up with the temperature.

With enough precision a thermal imager can see minute differences in heat and represent this as an image (or thermogram) on a screen. The temperature differences detectable on some of the world’s most sophisticated devices can be as small as 0.01°C. Various colors are used to represent temperatures so when you see a black and white thermal image the lighter the color, the hotter the object (newer thermal imagers can invert this or use a wide variety of colors). Human beings, animals and cars generate heat and are usually warmer than their surroundings, allowing the user of a thermal imager to get a good look at them. A coldblooded animal such as a snake will be harder to see because their body temperature adjusts to their surroundings.

Because they detect radiation, thermal imagers do not require any visible light to produce an image.


Thermal imagers can, to some degree, see through smoke and debris, allowing firefighters to find people who have passed out because of smoke inhalation, or children who are hiding in closets and too afraid to come out. A thermal imager can also tell a firefighter if a door is hot and possibly contains a fierce blaze on the other side.

Thermal Imaging Uses: Hunting

Hog hunters are especially fond of thermal imagers. Wild hogs can be extremely destructive, especially to farms, but they’re also clever. They rarely go out during the day, and have the benefit of tree or plant cover in many areas. Farmers hunting hogs to protect their farms often use thermal imagers. They can see past their crops to find the animal underneath. Hunters also love thermal imagers for finding hidden deer. As an easy to carry and use thermal imager, hunters are able to scan the field for long periods of time without arm fatigue. This is an important feature to look for if you plan on using your thermal imager for long periods of time.

Military and Police

One of the most common users of a thermal imager is a law enforcement or military professional. They need to be able to see potential threats without being detected and thermal units give them this chance. Modern thermal imaging technology is tough enough to withstand the abuse of recoil, so many police officers and soldiers now employ thermal imaging rifle scopes such as the ATN ThOR 640 Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight. The drawback of using thermal imagers in life-and-death situations is that while they’re incredibly effective at detecting people or animals, identification is far more challenging. You may see a man in front of you, but this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to tell if he’s a friend or a foe.


Thermal imaging cameras are one of the most effective tools for surveillance because they work equally well in the day and night. A regular CCTV camera is limited by its need for light, and night vision doesn’t function during the day. The chance to see through smoke and fog also gives thermal a leg up on other surveillance techniques.

Energy Audits

Heating and cooling companies have used thermal imagers for years to see where buildings are leaking heat. Small cracks or holes cause homes to lose hundreds of dollars a year on heating and cooling bills.

Deer Spotting

Thermal imagers that mount behind the grill of a car or anywhere near the front of a vehicle to allow the user to spot deer or other wildlife that can potentially run out into the road. Many people die every year swerving to avoid hitting a deer, and these devices help lessen the danger.

This article comes from opticsplanet edit released

What’s The Difference between Thermal Imaging and Thermal Night Vision?

Let’s start with a little background. Our eyes see reflected light. Daylight cameras, Thermal Night Vision devices, and the human eye all work on the same basic principle: visible light energy hits something and bounces off it, a detector then receives it and turns it into an image.

Whether an eyeball, or in a camera, these detectors must receive enough light or they can’t make an image. Obviously, there isn’t any sunlight to bounce off anything at night, so they’re limited to the light provided by starlight, moonlight and artificial lights. If there isn’t enough, they won’t do much to help you see.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

Thermal imagers are altogether different. In fact, we call them “cameras” but they are really sensors. To understand how they work, the first thing you have to do is forget everything you thought you knew about how cameras make pictures.

It makes pictures from heat, not visible light. Heat (also called infrared, or thermal, energy) and light are both parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a camera that can detect visible light won’t see thermal energy, and vice versa.

Thermal cameras detect more than just heat though; they detect tiny differences in heat – as small as 0.01°C – and display them as shades of grey in black and white TV video. This can be a tricky idea to get across, and many people just don’t understand the concept, so we’ll spend a little time explaining it.

Everything we encounter in our day-to-day lives gives off thermal energy, even ice. The hotter something is the more thermal energy it emits. This emitted thermal energy is called a “heat signature.” When two objects next to one another have even subtly different heat signatures, they show up quite clearly to a regardless of lighting conditions.

Thermal energy comes from a combination of sources, depending on what you are viewing at the time. Some things – warm-blooded animals (including people!), engines, and machinery, for example – create their own heat, either biologically or mechanically. Other things – land, rocks, buoys, vegetation – absorb heat from the sun during the day and radiate it off during the night.

Because different materials absorb and radiate thermal energy at different rates, an area that we think of as being one temperature is actually a mosaic of subtly different temperatures. This is why a log that’s been in the water for days on end will appear to be a different temperature than the water, and is therefore visible to a thermal imager. We detect these temperature differences and translate them into image detail.

While all this can seem rather complex, the reality is that modern thermal cameras are extremely easy to use. Their imagery is clear and easy to understand, requiring no training or interpretation. If you can watch TV, you can use a thermal camera.

Thermal Night Vision Devices

Those greenish pictures we see in the movies and on TV come from Thermal Night Vision goggles (NVGs) or other devices that use the same core technologies. NVGs take in small amounts of visible light, magnify it greatly, and project that on a display.

Cameras made from NVG technology have the same limitations as the naked eye: if there isn’t enough visible light available, they can’t see well. The imaging performance of anything that relies on reflected light is limited by the amount and strength of the light being reflected.

NVG and other lowlight cameras are not very useful during twilight hours, when there is too much light for them to work effectively, but not enough light for you to see with the naked eye. Thermal cameras aren’t affected by visible light, so they can give you clear pictures even when you are looking into the setting sun. In fact, you can aim a spotlight and still get a perfect picture.

Infrared Illuminated Cameras

I2 cameras try to generate their own reflected light by projecting a beam of near-infrared energy that their imager can see when it bounces off an object. This works to a point, but I2 cameras still rely on reflected light to make an image, so they have the same limitations as any other Thermal Night Vision camera that depends on reflected light energy – short range, and poor contrast.


All of these visible light cameras – daylight cameras, NVG cameras, and I2 cameras – work by detecting reflected light energy. But the amount of reflected light they receive is not the only factor that determines whether or not you’ll be able to see with these cameras: image contrast matters, too.

If you’re looking at something with lots of contrast compared to its surroundings, you’ll have a better chance of seeing it with a visible light camera. If it doesn’t have good contrast, you won’t see it well, no matter how bright the sun is shining. A white object seen against a dark background has lots of contrast. A darker object, however, will be hard for these cameras to see against a dark background. This is called having poor contrast. At night, when the lack of visible light naturally decreases image contrast, visible light camera performance suffers even more.

Thermal imagers don’t have any of these shortcomings. First, they have nothing to do with reflected light energy: they see heat. Everything you see in normal daily life has a heat signature. This is why you have a much better chance of seeing something at night with a thermal imager than you do with visible light camera, even a Thermal Night Vision camera.

In fact, many of the objects you could be looking for, like people, generate their own contrast because they generate their own heat. Thermal imagers can see them well because they don’t just make pictures from heat; they make pictures from the minute differences in heat between objects.

Thermal Night Vision devices have the same drawbacks that daylight and lowlight TV cameras do: they need enough light, and enough contrast to create usable images. Thermal imagers, on the other hand, see clearly day and night, while creating their own contrast. Without a doubt, thermal cameras are the best 24-hour imaging option.

This article comes from flir edit released

Thermal Infrared Camera for iPhone and Android


I think that at some point in the future, smart phones will have a built in infrared camera. But for now, you are going to have to use an IR camera add on. This is the Thermal infrared camera. What do I think about it? Let’s find out.


But what does an IR camera do? What can you use it for? Here is a more detailed overview of the physics of infrared light, but I will give you the short version.

  • Solid objects produce electromagnetic radiation. We like to call this stuff “light” (not to be confused with visible light).
  • When objects increase in temperature, two things happen. First, they produce more light. Second, the wavelength of light gets shorter. Note that they don’t just produce one wavelength, but in general the hotter the object the shorter the wavelength.
  • If you look at the wavelength of light (technically, the wavelength of the highest intensity light), you can get an estimate for the temperature of that object.

The best example is your stove element. Before you turn it on, it is room temperature and produces light. Just about all of this light from the element has a wavelength that is much too large for your human eyes to detect. Instead, you see the element because light reflects off the surface and enters your eye. If you turn on the element, it starts to get hot. Eventually, it will get so hot that you can see the light emitted since the wavelength is short enough to be in the visible spectrum.

So the infrared camera take the light that you can’t see and displays a false color image where different colors correspond to different temperatures (mostly).

Once the camera is attached, you just open the Thermal app and you are good to go. The app has 4 modes:

  • Camera mode. You can capture video or images of what the camera sees and of course you can change the color scheme (so that different colors represent different temperatures). The images are 206 x 156.
  • Temperature mode. Here the camera will give an estimated temperature for a location in the middle of the image.
  • High/Low mode. In this case, the temperature spot will jump either to the hottest or coldest location in the field of view.
  • Threshold mode. In this mode, you can set the camera to only display object above, below or at a particular temperature.

For the temperature readings, the sensor can detect values from -40°C to 330°C. Oh, a quick reminder about emissivity. The IR camera can “see” things through two different mechanisms. It could see the light that an object emits from it’s temperature (this is what you want). However, it could also “see” things because of reflected IR light. Different materials reflect more IR light, this reflection is expressed with the emissivity coefficient. A coefficient of 1.0 would mean that no IR light is reflected and a 0 would be an object that reflects all IR light.

This article comes from wired edit released

The smartest thermal network camera

Thermal imaging sensors and cameras keep them hip in the world of computer vision where mobile startups are propelling the field. The Boson is a small thermal network camera and can be used for many applications like:

  • Thermal imaging—recognizable to most of us as the “predator vision” demonstrated by the alien in the 80s Schwarzenegger film
  • Facial recognition for various security or marketing efforts
  • Pedestrian detection (e.g. being able to detect the number of humans in a certain area and their movement or activity level)

There are many more things these cameras can do…even the super-resolution similar to the much internet-maligned CSI “zoom in” is actually possible through software manipulation of these kinds of cameras according to Movidius’s Jack Dashwood.

Regardless of product features, two things interest me about the launch of the Boson (well, besides predator vision because who doesn’t love predator vision). One is the continued trend in miniaturization and its implications on interactive eyewear. The second is the fact that the Boson has a processor integrated directly into it. As a trend, this is called System-on-Sensor.


The Boson is half the size, one tenth the volume, one seventh the weight and twice as power efficient as the previous model which was called the TAU 2. Movidius’s tiny 12-core, low power processor (which we’ve covered before) allows the Boson camera to get much, much smaller.

This makes integration into interactive eyewear or other smart glasses/helmets much more efficient and thereby allows those wearables to also become smaller and more efficient themselves. This interests me because smaller, more powerful interactive, heads-up displays could sell more units and get more use if they are not giant monstrosities you wear on your head.


This leads to the second trend: System-on-Sensor. Not only are there size benefits by bringing the processor directly into the sensor, there are new abilities in the sensor itself. The 12 cores on the Myriad 2 chip are fully programmable which means the Boson can directly process images, combine thermal pixel information, or process facial recognition algorithms, directly on the Boson itself, in real-time. This camera doesn’t need to offload this processing to another subsystem or to the cloud.

A low power processor like this still has limits to what it can do, for sure, but this is a trend to keep an eye on as it takes the power of IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to a new level where they can network together to complete advanced capabilities on their own.

If there is any truth to what Peter Diamandis predicts will be a trillion-sensor economy in the next 10 years or whether infrastructure like this could lead to intelligent, camera-based neural networks that can “act on information” instead of merely recording it, remains to be seen. But little advances like this could play a part in that possible future.

This article comes from techcrunch edit released

Thermal Imaging Binoculars

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We offer long range thermal binoculars and thermal monocular spotters with addon sensors such as laser range finders LRF, compass, gps, geo location and additional tactical sensors for long range target location and detection.

This article comes from spi edit released