Ramping up testing for thermal imaging cameras to battle COVID-19
Callaghan Innovation and Auckland Bioengineering Institute have been helping The Cacophony Project test their thermal imaging cameras in the field, with the aim of detecting people in who have a fever – one of the main symptoms of covid-19.
You may remember we covered the thermal cameras in the last edition of MedTech Bites. Since then, testing has begun in a number of locations across Auckland.
Marcus King from Callaghan Innovation says the first challenge was to create a reference point to calibrate the cameras.
“We generated fevers in ourselves by soaking in a sauna cranked up to the maximum temperature, then taking readings with the thermal cameras,” he says. “We also went to the police and army to test with a lot of healthy subjects. That all helped us figure out some of the issues around calibration and drift.”
Marcus says the best case is that they will be able to reliably detect people in the community who have a fever, so that they can get tested and isolate themselves. But he says getting to that point has been tricky.
“It’s been challenging trying to do this under lockdown level 4 and staying within the Health & Safety guidelines – and trying to keep focused when under pressure from companies to get the product into use,” he says.
Sam Richardson from Auckland Bioengineering Institute joined the project early on as the installation engineer.
“We were sent the first lot of cameras and had the task of setting them up at a few places around Auckland, including Tasti Foods, MercyAscot and the ASB head office,” he says.
Throughout the project, Sam has been providing engineering feedback about the device and how it could be improved, as well as making updates to the user manual.
“The most challenging part of the project has been managing expectations,” says Sam. “The camera system was originally developed for imaging pests in the forest, so it’s not yet a polished product when it comes to imaging people in an indoor environment.”
“But even if it encourages people who are feeling under the weather to stay home, then it’s having a positive impact on New Zealand’s efforts against covid-19.”