08.09.2021 • Topstoriesthermal cameras

Three Questions for Five Experts: Thermal Cameras for Fire & Safety

In this series, GIT SECURITY EMEA ask three questions to five industry experts about the issue's special focus. This time we asked five experts for their view on thermal cameras for fire and safety.

f.l.t.r.Phillip Antoniou, Mobotix; Pom Chen, Hikvision; Ingo Stahlkopf, Head of...
f.l.t.r.Phillip Antoniou, Mobotix; Pom Chen, Hikvision; Ingo Stahlkopf, Head of Sales at Optris; Dr. Bernd Spellenberg, Dräger; Nikitas Koutsourais-Marcos, Flir

1. What is the best use of thermal cameras for fire and safety applications?
2. How do you avoid false alarms with your systems?
3. Please describe a use case where your thermal cameras are successfully installed.

Dr. Bernd Spellenberg, Product Manager Thermal Imaging Cameras, Dräger

1.    Dräger offers handheld thermal imaging cameras designed predominantly for use by the fire service to assist in various applications our clients must tend to. Thermal imaging cameras for firefighters are extremely robust and very easy to operate. Since most of our models are ATEX approved for use in zone 1 areas, they can be used in any application where detection of hot spots and, more generally, unusual temperatures is of interest. Particularly one of our models, the Dräger UCF 9000, has features which far exceed the feature set of ‘typical’ firefighting cameras. Those include customizable color palettes, an integrated visual camera and a special mode to show iso-thermals.

2.    Interpreting thermal images generally is not easy and a lot of mistakes can be made. For example, with a thermal imaging camera, you cannot look through windows. In this case, the window acts as a mirror and you can see yourself in the image of the thermal imaging camera. Thorough training in thermography is advised, so the customer understands how a thermal imaging camera works and for which applications it can be used.

3.    Many users of our thermal imaging cameras are not involved in firefighting operations, but simply use the camera to identify hot spots in ATEX rated areas. Being able to quickly scan an area without interrupting operation and without the need for a light hot work permit saves valuable time and decreases the risk of unexpected down time.

Nikitas Koutsourais-Marcos, Sales and Business Development Manager Security at Flir

1.    Thermal cameras can provide earlier warning than any other sensors and are specially indicated on situations where a fire can have severe impact due to damage fast propagation or safety aspects, like deposits of flammable materials or electrical groups, spontaneous fire from different waste deposits or paper factories. Also, they can achieve longer ranges and wider areas than any other sensors and can be used outdoor, this minimizes infrastructure costs and in outdoor scenarios a much earlier warning than other sensors like flame detectors. Outdoor applications with thermal cameras include forestry fire, where thermal cameras make a relevant contribution to the environmental protection.

2.    We have a wide variety of settings and different measurement tools like spots or areas within the image, multiple can be configured and depending on the application the choice of the tool to use and the avoidance of areas in the image that can generate false alarms like sun reflections are not considered, also important for sun reflections is to consider the best camera location in regards to the sun rotation. FLIR has the background legacy and knowledge to provide best advise for the optimal combination. We also have the possibility to define the temperature threshold or increase in a time range to trigger an alarm, collecting data and understanding the environment can help to define the threshold in the most efficient way to balance early detection and false positives. We have available deep integrations with 3rd party companies that apply intelligent analytics to the information from the camera in different ways, and can filter alarms based on behaviors and other image and radiometric factors.

3.    We have one available on the discover page for the most typical type of application. In this case, to prevent the development of spontaneous fires in the waste piles, our client invested in proven hot-spot detection technology and now monitors the plant with thermal imaging cameras: German Waste Facitly Case Study. We also have CAE for forest fire that maybe more attractive/differentiated: Fire helps prevent wildfires


Pom Chen, Thermal Product Marketing Manager at Hikvision

1.    Today’s thermal cameras do more than just help protect perimeters in low light conditions – they can also help protect property and assets from fire. Those whose operations present a special fire risk – such as factories, warehouses, waste recycling sites, data centers, and even in car parks where EV Charging Stations are present – can benefit enormously from installing thermal cameras. Thermal cameras “see” the heat of an object at any light level and recognize when that heat elevates to the risk of fire. Hikvision thermal cameras support flexible rule settings and alarms of temperature exception, such as high temperature, low temperature, and temperature difference; alarms are triggered immediately and sent to security teams if there is a temperature ­anomaly.

2.    We incorporate AI algorithms in the camera to reduce false alarms. For instance, in waste recycling sites or landdrills, there are forklifts moving through the sites to transmit wastes, and the wastes are usually exposed in the sun. Therefore, the sunlight reflection and hot engines of vehicles can cause heat. Our thermal cameras using smart algorithm can recognise forklifts to reduce false alarms caused by their hot engine. For sunlight reflection, our bi-spectrum thermal cameras with an optical lens provide visual images of the scene, and analyses if the hot spot is caused by sunlight reflection. If so, it will be filtered. With an optical lens inside a thermal camera, that means if an alarm is raised,  it can be further verified by visual images, giving more context to the issue.

3.    A recent use case about Hikvision thermal cameras minimising fire risks, is at a major French recycling company. The waste industry deals with a number of potentially combustible materials, from aerosols to lithium-ion batteries. And when these are all put together and processed, the chances of a fire are high. The solution was made up from Hikvision technologies by MyLinks, a specialized fire detection solutions integrator. MyLinks installed a variety of ­Hikvision thermal cameras, and seamlessly integrate them with the fire prevention infrastructure installed in the premises such as water cannons. So for example when an elevated temperature is detected by a thermal camera, the relevant cannon responds immediately by spraying water in that specific area. The enhancement of a thermal camera makes it possible to detect and extinguish very quickly when a fire does start

Phillip Antoniou, Vice President EMEA & APAC at Mobotix

1     There are various types of best use of Mobotix thermal solutions. They are indispensable in many civil security and surveillance applications far beyond fire protection. An increasing number of industrial companies, public institutions and authorities use Mobotix thermal technology to protect their assets and personnel. You can even use it to improve production and processing efficiency, resulting in a more significant investment return. Finally, it is also possible to detect threats early on with thermal images, even in darkness or unfavorable weather conditions, e.g., dust, fog or smoke. A thermal imaging system detects hidden suspicious persons due to their thermal characteristics.

2.    Mobotix thermal cameras can display temperature variations as low as 0.1 °C within a temperature range of -40 °C to +550 °C., which is within the peak range currently available for general use. Also, using Thermal Radiometry (TR), up to 20 different temperature events can be configured simultaneously over the complete sensor image. This creates preventative measures to analyze critical situations in advance. Finally, you can bring out the high-contrast details by superimposing the thermal image and the real image. This creates sharp images with clear details, showing dangerous “hotspots” that are otherwise not visible on thermal images.

3.    Kuhn Rikon is a Swiss company world-renowned for its pots and pans. In 2015, the company suffered a devastating accident. During mechanical pot polishing, an abrasive spontaneously combusted. Since then, all zones of the polishing machine have been monitored separately using Mobotix thermal cameras, which are intelligently linked to the fire alarm control panel. They can trigger three escalation steps independently if required: 1. Heat warning – 2. Pause the machine – 3. Switch off the system. The system has been running smoothly since 2018. Other facilities are also now using this solution. Thanks to the simplified control, productivity has even been increased by approx. 5%.

Ingo Stahlkopf, Head of Sales at Optris

1.    Wherever a small point of heat needs to be detected within a certain area a thermal imager aka Infrared camera must be used. Especially in cases where the exact point of hazard is not known the IR-Imager can detect single hotspots and provide alarms accordingly.
There are typically 3 systems for IR camera usage:
◾    Scanning systems - The camera, mounted on a pan-tilt arm measures the area at cyclical intervals.
◾    Stationary systems - One or more fixed installed cameras observe an area according to its field of view.
◾    Mobile systems – A handheld IR camera is used to measure areas of interest manually.
Optris offers products for scanning systems and stationary systems. A thermal imager visualizes its array of single thermal sensitive pixels. Related to the used optics and resolution of the IR Imager a wide area can be monitored. Such as disposal areas, garbage bunkers, biomass areas, scrap metal or others.

2.    There are several levels for set up the system for proper measurement as well as to avoid false alarms. At first the system needs to be set up in a way that only the area of interest is observed. For that reason the IR image of our IR camera can be evaluated very detailed and individually in the software PIX Connect. The areas of what exactly should be monitored and what should be excluded or not be considered can defined by adjustment of different areas of interest, each with individual shapes, if wanted. Additionally, for a hot spot detection, that means a continuous finding of that pixel with the highest temperature, excluded areas can be set up. In this way, false alarms caused by vehicle exhaust, e.g. can be avoided. For sure the alarm value itself or the pre-alarm needs to be adjusted in accordance to the application.
The next level is the self-monitoring function. The user must be sure the system works properly. For that reason, an analogue signal can be created in case of communication loss between camera and computer, power failure or broken cables. The user then is informed immediately, and the control system can react as well to avoid any further downtimes or similar. There are two products available which are even able to work autonomously without using a permanent PC connection.

3.    Among others Optris provided its infrared cameras for integration in a fire prevention system in sawmills. The application requires a very fast response if a hazard of fire is recognized. Critical areas along the manufacturing line with several planer machines are equipped with IR cameras of Optris PI640. If a critical temperature value is identified a pre-alarm signal is provided to the control center so the operator is informed immediately. Those hotspots may create by friction between machine and wood, improper machine cooling, damaged blades or just improper planing. If the temperature increases further the fire alarm is activated automatically. The operator sees the whole process centralized on one screen as each single camera is visible in one instance on one screen. The cameras communicating via Ethernet to the central PC. The PLC of the customer gets all information straight from the Process Interface, each for one camera, directly.

Business Partner

Optris GmbH

Ferdinand-Buisson-Str. 14
13127 Berlin

Business Partner contact

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