Video surveillance cameras have come a long way in their ability to show meaningful images in low light. Infrared lights are a common feature of every the lowest priced cameras. Low light cameras can show a reasonable image in extremely low light conditions. But none of these come close to the images from a thermal camera and their effectiveness in video surveillance and outdoor intrusion detection.
Thermal camera are able to show temperatures through a color image. They show cooler temperatures in green and blue and hotter temperatures in yellow, orange, and red. Because humans (and other mammals) have a predictable warm temperature, they can show people through pitch black and other low visibility conditions such as thick smoke.
This images illustrates how clearly a person can be identified in a thermal image compared to a traditional black and white image. A person can be identified in pitch black but also at a longer distance since the color contract of the image allows for much clearer identification of persons.
This technology makes video analytics much more effective in cutting through irrelevant activity and focusing in on human activity. Video Analytics can trigger alarms and notification when a person is approaching or taking other defined actions.
The cost of thermal imaging is coming down fast. Five years ago a high quality thermal camera could easily cost $100,000. Today that price can be $5,000 or less. Thanks, in large part, to thermal cameras being included in mass market vehicles, their prices will continue to decline until them are on par with standard video devices. There is nothing inherently more expensive about the production of thermal imaging chips. So as production rates increase the rates will continue to decline.