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Infrared thermometers — non-contact temperature measurement

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, infrared thermometers have been in high demand throughout the world. These thermometers allow a person’s temperature to be taken contact-free and can provide an initial indication of whether they may have a COVID-19 infection. This is essential especially in places with a high concentration of people such as airports and shopping malls. This measurement technology is being applied in these locations by using infrared cameras and forehead thermometers. On an international level, governments are using this approach to limit the propagation of the pandemic. However, this approach can only be successful if the thermometers supply reliable readings. The problem with non-contact temperature measurements is their generally high measurement inaccuracy. Therefore, calibration laboratories and metrology institutes ensure that the measurements are as accurate as possible. Furthermore, the correct use of the thermometers is also crucial. Although demand is high, not all countries are able to offer access to this practice: some do not have the funds and technical equipment necessary to calibrate the thermometers.

The Quality Infrastructure Fund is designed to improve this situation as soon as possible. This will allow countries such as Georgia, Ghana, Mongolia, Rwanda and Uganda to be equipped with the appropriate equipment for calibration. The fund is financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; PTB is in charge of the administration and implementation of these activities. This fund will also be an instrument for supplying equipment for the calibration of infrared ear thermometers. These are mainly used in hospitals, since non-contact temperature measurement is not sufficient in the medical field due to its measurement inaccuracy.

A nurse taking the temperature of a patient with a forehead infrared thermometer, both are wearing face masks.
Contact-free temperature measurements via infrared thermometers have been in high demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To maximize the success of this measure, PTB’s temperature experts are offering their advisory support via video conference. A further contribution within this framework was a video seminar focused on the calibration of infrared thermometers. In this seminar, the advantages and disadvantages of this measurement technology were explained. The seminar was organized by Chinese metrologists from NIM in a cooperation project with PTB and other researchers on an international level. The overall response was very positive: not even the time difference stopped numerous metrology institutes in Africa, Asia and Latin America from participating. We are especially pleased to hear the positive feedback that has shown that the taken measures are very helpful for our partner countries.

To view the video seminar, please use the following link: