Imagine a phone that will show you where someone is hiding, even if it is pitch-dark. What you can do with thermal imaging is left to your imagination.
Thermal imagining was previously reserved for industrial use. It can be used to display areas in any environment that is much hotter than the immediate surrounding area, such as a human body, or in manufacturing where a process become hotter than it should be. The technology is now being made available to consumers with the introduction of a new smartphone.
The Cat S60, branded with the Caterpillar name, a company known for manufacturing heavy construction equipment, is actually manufactured by the UK’s Bullitt Group, and includes infra-red thermal imaging technology from USA’s FLIR. The British company imagines the thermal imaging camera to be a fixture in all smartphones, in much the same manner that conventional cameras have become a standard feature. What may be an even more intriguing is if it were a single camera with a toggle mode to switch into thermal imagery when necessary.
The Bullitt Mobile unit is really a licensee of Caterpillar, and the CatS60 is one of the models produced in the line up known as Catphones. It was originally designed for outdoor use, with rugged construction, and the company claims that it can withstand a drop of 1.8 meters on to concrete floors. The specs also indicate that the Cat S60 which features a shatter 4.7-inch touchscreen that supports wet finger tracking is certified water-proof to a depth of 5 meters for up to an hour.
In a recent interview, the senior product manager at Bullitt, Pete Cunningham, expressed the view that the company hopes that the repetitive lack of breakthrough innovations seen in smartphones should help the Cat S60 to become popular among consumers.
An objective look at the leaders in smartphones may show that not much in the way of revolutionary or disruptive has really happened to the leading iPhone nor the Android-based Galaxy brands since they were first introduced, although they are both excellent products, but the lack of innovation, is see to be partly responsible for the perceived slowdown smartphone in sales of smartphones.
The Cat S60, which is powered by the popular Google Android mobile operating system will retail for $599, and will be officially be revealed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, and the company has suggested several situations, where the phone with thermal imaging camera can be used. Examples include firefighters being able to navigate smoke-filled or darkened rooms to pinpoint the location of fires, or law enforcement detecting the activity of a vehicle using thermal imaging.
While the Cat S60 is designed for industrial use, the company hopes that the Android based phone with embedded thermal imaging sensors, will be a popular consumer item with five years, and more manufacturers will adopt the technology in much the same manner that use of cameras has evolved. Cunningham hopes that it will be up to the imagination of the users to decide what they can and will do with it.
Thermal imaging on smartphones is not really new, but implementation required the addition of accessories, while with the Cat S60, the improved technology is already integrated.
It is also hoped that this innovation can lead to a revitalized way or continued advances in the evolution of mobile, as more sensors of various types are added to more devices.