Since the start of the pandemic, the interest in thermal cameras has increased exponentially around the world.
Thermal cameras are not new technology but in the fight against the global pandemic the heat sensing technology has taken centre-stage; as one of the tools used to detect high temperatures which could potentially detect COVID-19.
However, sentiment is mixed on thermal cameras, they can be viewed with a suspicion that often comes from a simple lack of knowledge of how the technology works.
Conversations around privacy and AI come to the service, and questions about their effectiveness are raised.
Yet it is clear that a lot of countries around the world have invested into this technology in hopes to decrease the spread rate of the virus and increase the chances of normality in our society.
Given this, we analysed articles published in each region of the world to gather the sentiment of thermal cameras in order to understand if these nations value the worth of thermal cameras as a positive or negative factor in our new daily lives.
Simply put we are asking the question:
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Our methodology – what data we used and how we analysed it
Our source primarily came from news articles and general information about the implementation of thermal imaging cameras around the world.
We’ve collected and analysed over 400 articles available to the public. The start point was when the pandemic started till what was recently available.
For each article in the page, we extracted all the paragraphs. With this, we utilised the langdetect Python library in order to detect the language of the first paragraph of the article. If the language was other than English, the text was translated through the article body by direct scraping Google Translate.
We then performed the sentiment analysis of each article in each region. For the sentiment analysis, we used the TextBlob library in order to compute the polarity of each sentence of each article and calculated the average sentiment polarity per article. We illustrated the average sentiment polarities of the articles in each region in a violin plot.
How has the world looked at thermal cameras as a way to combat the
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of hardship around the world. Governments around the world have looked at a plethora of ways to combat the virus such as multiple tiers of national and local lockdowns, quarantine, facemasks and social distancing.
Technology has also been heavily integrated into combating the virus to help people adapt into their homes, workplace and in the public. Yet, it is clear that much of what we’ve learnt or experienced in this pandemic is that we’re far from the normality we had before the pandemic.
New technologies and attitudes will be a part of many people’s lives such as WFH (work from home), remote meetings such as Zoom and the increase of deliveries from Amazon and similar services.
Travelling has also been affected and different rules are applied to each country, yet those procedures are most likely not far from each other and the same technology is applied.
One of those technologies are thermal cameras, and although the height of the pandemic has passed it is worth investigating the value thermal cameras have provided post-pandemic period and what it could mean in the future.
Governments around the world and companies have looked at thermal cameras to help ease the spread of the virus whilst providing a sense of security for travellers, commuters and shoppers.
The market for thermal cameras is exponentially rising, they have been implemented in various places that would see mass gathering of people. These places are mainly airports, restaurants, shops, offices and even government monuments/plazas.
The sentiment from the general public is quite positive, it gives them a sense of security and safety, meaning a lot of businesses are investing into this technology so they can get the economy moving.
However, there is still a lot of scepticism of its effectiveness, even thermal imaging experts have said that the usage of this technology isn’t precise due to the nature of COVID-19.
Furthermore, scientists have added that the limitation of these technologies is biological. The skin on a person’s face is not one single temperature, and does not uniformly reflect their core body temperature, which is needed to assess fever.
There are also privacy concerns due to the more complex thermal imaging cameras which are AI meaning the detection of individuals with high temperature would also link or access their own information.
Not much could be said about the sentiment of thermal cameras, generally, it is highly positive, it is somewhat required to have them. Some African countries have struggled to contain the virus more than the others, meaning some governments and businesses are looking for various solutions in containing the virus and one of those ways are thermal cameras.
There are still some low levels of skepticism, however, this is mainly influenced by Western scientists’ notion.
Parts of Asia, especially China is already a heavily surveilled country so the implementation of thermal cameras was nothing new. People have accepted it with no resistance as surveillance is very much a way of life.
However, in South Asia, specifically in India workers have voiced concerns over more than just temperature being monitored, much of the worries that have come about are privacy concerns.
Thermal imaging has allowed large-scale travel to return and food markets to reopen. It hasn’t replaced masks but is implemented alongside them and sanitary regulations.
Cameras are being used to allow the safe travel of people across the EU. Questions and concerns are arising about the intrusive nature as many people don’t want mass surveillance.
Temperatures can vary and thousands of other health symptoms cause a temperature so thermal cameras can be inaccurate. GDPR could become an issue as thermal imaging is still a grey area. Generally people want to feel safe so most have accepted it.
Fever detection cameras are becoming more normal in gyms, workplaces and shops. However, there are still worries among Brits about privacy concerns.
Thermal imaging is mainly used in public sectors. The wealthier regions are combining technology together to provide multiple services during the pandemic.
Evidence is still inconclusive as to whether thermal imaging is helping to prevent the spread of covid in the Middle East. Other than malls and public gathering places, employers have not invested as much into thermal imaging as other regions.
Latin America has one of the lowest sentiments of every region. Mainly affected by funding. Security and military infrastructure is backed by thermal cameras.
Buenos Aires subway/train station is now using thermal cameras until
lockdowns and quarantine ends. They are not removing the technology after herd immunity. Thermal imaging used on Rio Negro police officers to avoid infections in the security force. Surveillance of the general population has really taken off.
So there we have it, thermal cameras without a doubt have grown exponentially within the period of the pandemic and it’ll most likely grow even further within the decade. However, there are still incremental layers of skepticism which even the experts and scientists themselves have reiterated.
The main concerns are the effectiveness of detecting COVID-19 or various illnesses, experts have said that many are investing too much to be given inaccurate information. Furthermore, there are also concerns of privacy, some thermal imaging have implemented AI/smart technology which could even go as far as to access an individual’s information on the spot.
Yet with the need to go further and past this pandemic period, businesses, governments and nations alike will look at a variety of ways to adapt and ease their clients, workers and people during these times; and one of those ways is the integration of thermal imaging technology.