Thermal Imaging Radar (TIR) – a game-changer in the video surveillance industry?
With a couple of respected industry awards to its name and a promise to provide intrusion detection for a fraction of the cost compared to its nearest rivals, Thermal Imaging Radar (TIR) could well be a game-changer in the video surveillance industry. In an exclusive interview, Sub Editor Fran Seden spoke to Global Sales Director, Michael Petty and Chief Executive David Kaye about the technology.
With a serious problem is usually where the most innovative solutions begin, and this case, some may agree, is no exception. As owner of a construction company facing continual theft and vandalism, one of the company’s founders, Mike Dortch decided to take action. He started building a surveillance trailer on site to catch the criminals in the act, and it was here that the idea of Thermal Radar was born.
So how does it work and what sets it apart from the competition? “Traditionally,” Petty (pictured left) explains, “intrusion detection was very expensive, but Thermal Radar now makes wide-area detection of people and vehicles much more cost-effective using a patented rotating FLIR thermal sensor which provides detection over a one kilometer diameter.”
It is also an IP66 certified device, I am told, making it viable in all weather conditions from -40c to +55c. All components within Thermal Radar, including the rotating assembly are protected and sealed within the enclosure. It also performs many of the same functions of a conventional radar system by resourcefully gleaning depth and distance approximations from its imagery, Petty says. However, Thermal Radar geo-spatially locates intruders in a 3D space using a completely passive system, and it is not an ITAR restricted device, as radar systems often are, making it a much friendlier and strategic solution for intrusion detection, Petty continues.
(Michael Dortch and Larry Price, TIR founders)
In terms of its analytics, Kaye (pictured below right) comments that originally, Thermal Radar was developed as a low power solution for remote locations, and that having the analytics package contained inside the device itself was critical. “Thermal Radar utilizes very simple yet highly effective analytic detection software written by our in-house development team because of the uniqueness of our 360° nature. Detections and classifications are made from a single thermal frame when compared to a background model developed in the imagery. Intrusion identification is done by confidence level with shape and size. We have developed a new exclusive “blur mask” which assists in dampening the noise of repetitive motion making actual intrusion detections more accurate,” he says.
Finally, when it comes to a distribution model, Thermal Imaging Radar utilizes security-savvy and competent system integrators to sell, install and support its products in Europe and throughout the world. Petty says the company has a few partners in Europe and is looking to grow that base. “We have continued to market our product in Europe participating in trade shows and we are hoping to find additional quality technical integrators throughout Europe and the Middle East that can become resellers for Thermal Radar. We believe that the EMEA region has perhaps our greatest untapped market. We expect that 2017 will be a monumental year for our European sales efforts,” he explains.
For all these reasons the team at TIR considers its product a unique and disruptive technology. “Thermal Radar has all the benefits of detection with visual verification but with a lower price point combining the video stitching detection, thermal imaging and tracking in one smart unit, so I guess we are quite different to what we see readily available on the market,” Kaye adds.
And, if the response from the wider industry is anything to by, the excitement over Thermal Imaging Radar reaches beyond the TIR team. The technology has received “some of the biggest awards in the business,” Kaye explains, including Popular Science magazine’s “Best Security Invention of 2014” and ISC West’s Award of “Best Imaging Product of 2014”, just to name a few. “We have seen tremendous repeat business from customers throughout the world,” he adds.
Those customers include businesses in the energy sector – a market which has been very significant for TIR.
“The idea that a small, low power device, scanning an intrusion area of over 850,000 square meters every two seconds is revolutionary and we have shown Thermal Radar to be a better way of securing business borders in many market segments,” Petty comments. “We are also having great success in the Oil and Gas market, Airports, Prisons, Water Treatment facilities, Solar Installations, border security, and ports,” he adds.
Indeed one of the company’s greatest successes has been in the UK with VAR Remote Surveillance Ltd. It provided 20 units to the national power grid allowing them to cover and protect critical and sensitive areas, Petty says.
Despite, or perhaps because of the product’s success so far, Thermal Imaging Radar looks quite different now to how it was originally envisioned. Concludes Kaye: “It was intended to be a stand-alone intrusion detection product that consumed very little power (6w). Thermal Radar did not start out as a product that easily integrated into VMS and PSIM platforms but the marketplace quickly told us that Thermal Radar needed to become the centerpiece of their integrated security approach. Thermal Radar now integrates seamlessly into various platforms and creates a remarkable “VR type” 360° panoramic viewing experience providing unrivaled situational awareness.”