Startup: Thermal Radar

By John Honovich, Published Sep 30, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Two years ago, we covered a thermal panoramic system that covered huge areas, but came with a huge pricetag of ~$250,000.

Now a startup named Thermal Radar [link no longer available] claims to be the 'World's First Affordable 360° thermal camera' and is offering their unit at 90% less cost.

In this note, we examine the company's offerings and see how they compare with similar products.

Low Cost Thermal Panoramic

The manufacturer, Thermal Image Radar (TIR) offers Thermal Radar [link no longer available] systems in models ranging in price from ~$16,500 to $28,000 MSRP. Below is an overview of what they look like:

The primary application for thermal panoramics is wide area outdoor intrusion detection. For example, TIR claims human detection over about 70 acres, an expanse that would normally take multiple fixed sensors or thermal cameras.

Key Claims

To achieve panoramic views, Thermal Radar's sensor rapidly spins inside its housing. For optimal detection range, the sensor is mounted on a tower. TIR claims detection performance is up to 600m for a human target, 1800m for a vehicle, and up to 5 Km for a fire.

Their promo video below gives an overview:

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Key Technical Details

(Up to) 5MP Thermal Panoramic: The base thermal unit using FLIR Tau 2 microbolometer core [link no longer available] with resolutions of either 336 X 256 or 640 X 512 pixels. However, the 5MP claim comes from stitching a series of images together. Between 9 and 16 image 'stops' are stiched together to comprise a full 360° panoramic. 

Claims '1 Image per Second': The actual frame rate varies between specific models, ranging between 0.47 and 0.91 FPS. A 'frame' is comprised of a rull 360° rotation, which takes 2.1 to 1.1 seconds depending on camera FoV focus and sensor AoV.

Portable Tower Mount: For best results, Thermal Radar should be installed above the ground. TIR offers units pre-installed on 'self contained' collapsable tower trailers about 25 -30 feet high. The company claims this 'package can be towed by ATV and deployed in minutes' with trailer options including battery/solar power, and GSM/WiFi network radios. 

Analytics: The system comes with its own built-in analytics. Being thermal should help performance. However, the low effective frame could be a problem. Testing should be done before rolling out if analytics usage is desired. Third party analytics would be very difficult to run given the use of a sweeping / moving camera.

ONVIF Conformant Claim: While TIR claims Thermal Radar is 'ONVIF Conformant', ONVIF does not offer guidelines for 360 implementation and Thermal Radar should not be considered interoperable. The manufacturer elaborated by saying "We have structured our alert package to be ONVIF compliant", but VMS integration is still being developed, saying they "are currently working on CISCO and Milestone integrations."

Company Background

The company says they have raised $5 million. The management team does not have thermal manufacturing experience. They do have some surveillance / security experience, most notably Joel Moss [link no longer available], who was previously an executive at AxxonSoft, MangoDSP and OV. The company also cits a join venture product with IEC Infrared Systems, a thermal imaging specialist.

Thermal Radar is seeking integrators and distributors.

Competitive Comparison

The biggest advantage of TIR's offering is lower price compared to other thermal panoramics.

However, its claimed human detection range of 600m is a fraction of the 2.5 - 8 Km claimed by it's closest competitor, HGH's Spynel series. We covered an older variant, HGH's IR Revolution in this note.

Potential / Caution

This is one of a limited set of new higher end products and has the potential to deliver medium scale monitoring at much lower costs than historically.

However, since this is a startup and a new product, aimed at demanding customers, we urge due diligence in testing the product and its fit for the critical infrastructures where this would be used.

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