Where We Live: FLIR thermal imaging boon in pandemic


Company's slogan is 'The World's 6th Sense'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic have more businesses taking temperature checks of their employees and customers before they can enter. That’s good news for FLIR, a Wilsonville-based company that is the world’s leader in heat-detecting technology.

FLIR makes hundreds of devices, all based on thermal imaging technology. The applications are endless, from the military to law enforcement. As the pandemic continues, nearly all industries from airports to office buildings, are calling FLIR.

A woman gets a temperature scan from a FLIR thermal imaging camera (Courtesy: FLIR)

“We’ve seen a tremendous spike in our business, almost exponential,” said Ezra Merrill, the Vice President of Marketing for FLIR.

A FLIR camera mounted underneath a police helicopter confirmed that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding in a boat in 2013, leading to his capture.

The ability to detect minute heat differences from a distance make FLIR one of the world’s unique technology companies.

FLIR 2_526496
A FLIR thermal image of the Eagle Creek Fire in September 2017 (File)

“FLIR was established in 1978, actually in Tigard before they moved to Wilsonville, and it’s grown through acquisitions,” Merrill said. “Some of the acquisitions have a history in infrared that go back into the 1950s.”

FLIR is now a $2 billion company with nearly 5000 employees worldwide, with 300 working in Wilsonville.

“It means a lot to us to be on Oregon company,” he said.

An early FLIR device, undated (Courtesy: FLIR)

While elevated skin temperature detection is hot for FLIR now, it’s also looking towards the future. Variations of FLIR’s thermal imaging technology are already on 700,000 vehicles and could be the key to self-driving cars.

“The power of a thermal camera is that it can see straight through darkness. In fact about four times further than your headlights down the road, and it’s very good at detecting thing that are warm, like a human,” Merrill said.

It’s appropriate that FLIR’s company slogan is “The World’s 6th Sense.”

They do point out their skin temperature cameras aren’t medical devices but rather screening devices for entrances to facilities. FLIR suggests further examination if a thermal camera detects a high temperature.

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