Local company using thermal imaging to find a COVID fever in a crowd

Sep 8, 2020

A major sign of COVID-19 is a noticeable fever, but current devices - like a temperature gun - can be erratic or slow. Now a local start-up company has a way of spotting people with a fever in a crowd.

Buffalo Automation started out looking for a way to use technology and artificial intelligence to help boats drive themselves. When COVID-19 surfaced, the company decided the basic technology could be used to fight the fever. That is why one building affiliated with the University at Buffalo's Medical School has a camera with the company's software monitoring doors.

CEO Thiru Vikram said the secret sauce is the software. The UB offshoot specializes in thermal imaging. Vikram said the software can spot a fevered person out of a group coming through the door.

This camera scans those who enter a building at the University at Buffalo's Medical School.
Credit Buffalo Automation

"It's really extracting someone's face from an image and it's comparing all the temperature points within the face. Compare the temperature difference of the forehead to their neck. Compare the temperature difference of their nose to their forehead. And you build a graph like that," Vikram said. "It's doing some analyis with all of the previous people who have walked in there. You see 10 people walking in and you've got a good sense of their pattern and then an 11th person shows up and their pattern is different, perhaps because they have a fever."

Vikram said as a business, he and others at the company see the company's software having expanded uses, like counting the number of people coming in the door to avoid going beyond the allowed number.