LAS VEGAS -- Thermal imaging doesn't usually come cheap. Devices that pick up heat signals can cost thousands of dollars, or you have to be an alien born with the capability, like Predator was. Now there's another option. At CES 14, Flir Systems announced the Flir One, a thermal-imaging gadget for iPhone 5 and 5S, which comes with a sub-$350 price that won't kill your pocketbook.
The Flir One slips onto your iPhone's back and sports both a visible and thermal camera. It has its own battery pack, which can power the device for up to four hours. It also can be redirected to act as a battery backup for your phone.So what can you do with a thermal-imaging system? You can check for heat leaks around your house, track your domestic cats with the lights out, locate (and avoid) bears in the wilderness, or look to see if someone really is lurking down in that dark alley.
The CES demo is quite a bit of fun. The Flir One picks up the warmth of handprints left on a wall. People glow yellow and red. The edges of a display light up warmer than the middle. I imagine tracking Arnold Schwarzenegger through a jungle.The accompanying app can give temperature readouts, and colors can be adjusted so black shows up as hot, or cold spots glow blue. This is Flir's first foray into consumer thermal systems, but years of development have gone into creating a thermal camera that's extremely tiny and could one day be directly integrated into smartphones.
Flir is in a bit of a race with the Mu Thermal Camera, a successfully funded Indiegogo project that showed just how much consumers want to get their hands on one of these systems. Mu's original target for release is this May. Flir is aiming to release its device this spring. Let the thermal games begin.