One of the flagbearers in the thermal imaging revolution is Seek Thermal, a technology company en route to making thermal imaging sensors available for less than $250 per unit for car manufacturers. “What makes thermal imaging so compelling is its ability to help drivers make split-second decisions at high speeds across a wide variety of lighting and weather conditions,” says Tim LeBeau, Chief Commercial Officer, Seek Thermal. “Thermal cameras know what is ahead because unlike conventional cameras or radar, they can identify the unique heat signatures of a human or animal by reading and evaluating the infrared energy they emit. The camera is looking for heat, and it can see it day or night. While a driver’s view may be obscured by darkness, glare, smoke, fog or oncoming high-beam headlights, thermal imaging sees right through those obstacles and any other visual clutter to report back and help prevent collisions.”
The California-based company has undertaken a mission “to make transportation safer for both passengers and pedestrians.” Radar, LiDAR and visible camera sensors play a significant role in identifying people but—at night—thermal imaging can function at a more optimal capacity and therefore offers an additional and unique value within the industry’s suite of sensing technologies.
By investing in the required infrastructure to mass produce thermal imaging sensors, Seek Thermal has positioned itself to make giant strides in the coming years. Adds LeBeau, “When we started seven years ago, thermal imaging was more of a craft industry. We incorporated new technologies, robotics and automation into our manufacturing processes and are now primed to scale quickly. Within four years, we have already achieved more than 20 percent of the unit market share.”
While automotive safety and enhancement is a core tenet of the Seek Thermal mission, the company serves many other key stakeholders and vertical markets through a variety of products such as the Compact Series designed to turn smartphones into thermal imaging tools, and the Reveal Series catering to outdoor recreation such as boating and hunting. Seek Thermal also offers a range of OEM Thermal Camera Cores to deliver optimal performance in applications such as security surveillance and test and measurement. Though automotive is a key driver, Seek Thermal will continue to participate across verticals such as fire and safety and law enforcement, as well as expanding its predictive maintenance capabilities in Industrial IoT.
LeBeau concludes, “A few years ago, only five percent of firefighters had access to thermal imaging cameras. Recently, we developed a program for 100 percent of the Los Angeles Fire Department to be outfitted with thermal cameras. By 2022, we expect a wide range of implementation in the automotive industry due to lower costs and high value in creating a safer environment for drivers and pedestrians.”