Over the past several years, infrared technology—once reserved for advanced systems, often for the military—has come down in cost, gradually making its way into many of the electronic devices we use every day. While the technology is still being developed and improved for sophisticated homeland security and space research applications, it is now also found in ultra-innovative commercial-grade systems and even in consumer electronics.
Read on to learn more about the wide range of applications for infrared technology.
Infrared has a number of potential uses in this field. For example, it can give thermal cameras unrivaled performance and reliability for the surveillance of strategic assets:
- Border security and coast guard patrols
- Sensitive industrial and security-related facilities (defense, energy, water, R&D labs, prisons, refineries, etc.)
- Airport surveillance and passenger entry control
Some surveillance cameras use infrared technology. These cameras can detect the presence of humans, animals, drones, or any other type of intruder in real time, day or night, even in bad weather. They are also robust enough to withstand use in hostile and wilderness environments. Many are equipped with systems to alert the user in the event an intruder is detected.
Buildings are more connected than ever—especially commercial buildings. Connected systems have the capacity to improve safety and security and can help create a quality work environment. They can also generate savings. And infrared technology is an integral part of many smart building solutions. Infrared can be used to observe and analyze occupant behaviors and activities so that building systems and services can be improved.
- Monitor posture
- Detect presence in unauthorized areas
- Observe occupancy patterns (conference rooms, hallways) to improve traffic, right-size workspaces, and improve working conditions (heating, lighting)
- Detect the hot spots that can occur before a piece of equipment fails so that preventive maintenance can be performed.
People counting : Infrared technology can count people anonymously. For instance, a camera can count the number of people that get on an elevator and generate an alert when the maximum capacity is reached, ensuring optimal safety and comfort while protecting personal privacy.
People counting can also help building owners and operators get the most out of their properties. HVAC systems can be managed according to the number of people in a workspace for optimal comfort and energy savings. Workstation occupancy information can be used to manage hot desking and other shared workspace configurations so that users can find an available workspace when they need one.
There are many potential uses for infrared technologies in smart buildings. The overriding objective is to provide better working conditions, improve occupant safety and security, and support more efficient energy management.
“New space” is the next iteration of space exploration. The main stakeholders in the 20th-century space race between the US and the USSR were government agencies and their private-sector contractors. The budgets for these space programs were massive. Other countries, like India, Japan, and China, entered the space race later on. Because their labor costs were much lower, they were able to bring spending down significantly.
The “new space” market is purely private-sector. Big tech companies, often with deep pockets, are now engaged in a different kind of space race. From Elon Musk’s SpaceX to initiatives by GAFA CEOs like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, new space is here.
This emerging market will use infrared technology in a number of ways:
- Earth observation
- Atmospheric and soil analysis
- Optical telecommunications
- Space debris management
Space exploration : Infrared technology has demonstrated its value to exploratory space missions over the past several years. The constantly-increasing quality of infrared images (generated from elements that emit heat) are a boon to Earth and other space observation missions.
Infrared technology can be used to detect the tiniest gas leaks and provide information about the exact location and size of the leak. This application is of particular interest to the oil and gas industry, where leaks can present a serious safety hazard. The safety of refineries and other oil and gas facilities is not the only thing at stake: Gas leaks and their consequences also pose a threat to public safety and to the environment.
Infrared technology is widely used in the steel industry, in coal-fired power stations, and incinerators to detect gas leaks or to perform combustion leak tests—usually either carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4).
Solar photovoltaic power plant monitoring
Infrared technology can be used to monitor the heat emitted by solar panels. It can also reduce the risk of personal injury or damage to equipment during the maintenance of large solar power plants and infrastructures.
Surveillance drones: Drones equipped with infrared cameras can monitor solar power plant operations and track production. They can also detect heat losses as well as the hot spots that can occur prior to a malfunction. Drones are highly maneuverable and can be deployed very rapidly.
To learn more about the many ways that infrared technology can be used across the spectrum, download our white paper on “Understanding and Using Infrared Technology"