Coronavirus to open ocean of mass temperature measurement devices for KOMZ?

The coronavirus pandemic is opening a new segment in the market of process safety devices — the Tatarstan president was recently presented a new unit that can take workers’ temperature at a distance and deny access for ill people. The device will be made at KOMZ, and the developers intend to find clients in every give or take big enterprise of the republic. However, some are sceptical about the development. Read about the prospects of such devices in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Thermal imaging camera for president

On the May holiday, the Kazan Optical-Mechanical Plant (KOMZ) presented Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov a new thermal imaging camera whose production plans to set up in the enterprise to prevent the coronavirus infection. As the Tatarstan president’s press service said, it is a topographic set that takes the temperature of people who come in at a distance. Such a unit can take 30 people’s temperature at once, moreover, it recognises employee’s faces. After noticing a person with a high temperature, the device can automatically deny him access and send a signal to the post.

“If the security guard is distracted, the device will make a signal, take a photo and shoot a short video and show a thermal image with temperature. Our device takes photos and can compare them with the image base, and in case a person with a high temperature is detected, access will automatically be denied, and the person won’t simply enter the enterprise. We can completely exclude a human error factor when entering the enterprise. The client himself can set the temperature bar for the system to react,” the developers of the device told Realnoe Vremya.

The device is especially in high demand during the pandemic in large enterprises, the president’s press service said. Top officials’ attention to the development of the device can mean that such thermal imaging cameras can become an indispensable accessory in big enterprises of the republic in the future.

Up to a thousand devices a month

The device, however, isn’t a development of KOMZ: it was created in Aleksandr R&D Enterprise in Ryazan, which is a part of MacroOptica). Though this enterprise is a long-term partner of KOMZ. The device has already been tested at Ryazan Railway Station in Ryazan. Now the device is manufactured on a large scale in Moscow Oblast, but the virus requires expanding the production. Specific production volumes of the device at KOMZ haven’t been confirmed yet, but it might be several thousands of devices a month.

“We see an upsurge in demand for this device in different enterprises. And we are sure the necessity of quick control and statistics on employees’ health will remain topical tasks after the pandemic ends too. We haven’t so far discussed specific volumes, but it can be several thousands of devices. We just need to agree on several key issues after which KOMZ together with Aleksandr R&D Enterprise can begin the production. This will happen in the short run,” Danil Safronov, development director at MacroOptica, told Realnoe Vremya.

A high margin error is the main complaint about thermal imaging cameras in general: readings of such devices allegedly can be inaccurate within a degree, which plays an important role when taking a person’s temperature. Aleksandr R&D Enterprise solved this problem by using neural networks — it is assured the margin of error of the device is about 0,1 degree. This is comparable with the margin of error of a usual mercury thermometer. The same algorithms can also recognise people’s faces through the camera’s lens. In this case, the device will serve as a surveillance camera.

Will KOMZ’s thermal imaging camera make it?

Safronov is also sure that not only big factories will purchase the devices:

“The circle of potential purchasers is quite wide: it can be both enterprises with the staff of more than 200 people where the personnel with contactless thermometers can’t simply handle a flow of people and small enterprises with less than 100 people where the director wants to obtain true and accurate data of his employees’ measurements without human factor and analyse long-term statistics,” he adds.

The company assumes that such thermal imaging cameras will soon appear “on every industrial, cultural or construction site of the Republic of Tatarstan”. However, the company didn’t name the price of one device. According to Safronov, the alternatives existing in the market now are Asian products with quite a low quality: “The range of choice is wide, but comparison parameters aren’t clear. Many solutions are like Chinese phones in the first decade in the 2000s. They look convincing but operate with doubted quality,” he supposes.

At the same time, some are sceptical about the prospects of the device. According to Chairman of the Tatarstan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Shamil Ageyev, existing technologies of usual industrial thermal imaging cameras already managed to provide necessary accuracy to take people’s temperature.

Advanced issues found
“What a novelty is it? Such devices used to be applied in the oil industry, they were used to look at welds. The State Institute of Applied Optics created such a thing quite a while ago. This device is a dual technology that is used in peaceful purposes. The margin of error was high. All astronauts used to go through such a device before the flight, and a copy of that device was already at KOMZ, and the accuracy was the same...”

As for prospects of the device, Ageyev thinks that all turns on how panicky “generals” of the industry will be.

“Temperature will be taken first, then the amount of sweat, oxygen. All this is relative [...]. Like the current rush for gloves, and then it turns out that they aren’t so necessary. Everybody wore masks without putting them off first, and then it turns out than they aren’t necessary outdoors. And now everybody will rush to buy them. It is like fashion: everybody used to wear bell-bottoms, then straight trousers were worn.”

By Aleksandr Artemyev