The Changing Landscape

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Thermal imaging for the fire service has changed dramatically in the past several years. Thermal imaging technology has become more accessible for more departments. The technology in these cameras has become more sophisticated and the cost of thermal imagers has decreased significantly. For these reasons, the key elements and features that fire departments look for and value have evolved as well.

The shifts in thermal imaging are exceedingly obvious when you look at a few key changes:

  • Small form factors
    Some imagers are lighter than two pounds and designed to easily clip to turnout gear with a retractable strap.

  • Improved image clarity
    The latest technology in image processing keeps the heat of a raging fire from “blowing out” the details around it. Previously, detail was lost as the entire scene was processed in a single high-heat or low-heat mode. Now, some imagers can process different portions of a scene differently, to display details even in areas with extreme temperature variances.

  • Greater affordability options
    Access to thermal imaging technology has changed as imagers now can be purchased for as low as $5,000 and can carry low total costs of ownership, in some instances. This is a far cry from the days when even the least expensive thermal imager could run more than $20,000.

What this means for firefighters

  1. A Thermal Imager (TI) can be simple, light, and easier to use.

  2. Images can be extraordinarily clear.

  3. Upgrade options, promotions, and decreased total cost of ownership can make it possible to deploy more units in more places.

What this means for TI purchases

  1. Hands-on demos are more important than ever.

  2. Image clarity has trumped camera resolution as the most important factor in displaying scene details.

  3. Understanding the true total cost of ownership over the life of the imager is critical when making purchasing decisions.