Want to find out if you’re hot or not? Look in the mirror. No, not to see if you’re attractive, but to see if you have a fever. Japanese Company NEC Avio Infrared Technologies recently introduced a new fever-screening tool to the market: a mirror-like infrared device that detects and displays a person’s skin temperature on its surface. Because the tool works without touching anyone, it could be used in airports or other public places where authorities want to screen for communicable diseases like the flu.
“Thermo Mirror,” which looks a typical beauty table mirror, contains sensors that measure infrared radiation coming from a person’s skin to determine his or her temperature. The reading only takes a few seconds and works from about a foot away. It sets off a beeping alarm when the person is deemed feverish. In contrast to infrared cameras, which can cost up to $10,000, the mirror thermometers come in two models that are just $1,440 and $1,880. The company plans to sell 5,000 of them this year.
Although skin temperatures are variable and thus less accurate than internal temperatures (imagine someone just stepping inside from the cold, or taking off a warm jacket), a software system could conceivably track the average temperature of people screened by the mirror and alert for abnormalities. Though no information about such a system has yet been mentioned for the “Thermo Mirror,” NEC Avio Infrared Technologies does advertise monitoring systems with its other infrared thermography products. If the mirrors are calibrated correctly and a regular under-the-tongue thermometer is on hand to settle disputes, I forsee few qualms with this as a widespread screening device. Especially during flu season, the new technology could potentially benefit public health efforts on a large scale.