May 11, 2021
See-Worthy: Seek Scan Helping Athletics Return
Wesley Sykes, managing editor

As the country embarks on a return to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, how can athletic facilities ensure the health and safety of its staff and spectators? With athletics returning on a wide-spread level and spectator capacity, as well as in-person personnel, increasing, how can facilities efficiently examine those who enter the space and limit the risk of liability? 

Those are just some of the questions the folks at Seek Thermal have been answering since 2012. After decades of advancing military and professional-grade thermal imaging technology, Seek Thermal’s founders saw the data being useful to solve everyday problems — like detecting elevated temperatures among people in close quarters  — that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Seek Scan, a thermal imaging system, is designed to quickly automate body temperature screening using skin temperature as a proxy. It’s specifically designed and calibrated to deliver accurate skin temperature measurements while enabling social distancing protocols. 

seek scanIn a few seconds, the system automatically detects a face, identifies the most reliable facial features for measurement, and displays an alert if the readings are warmer than the customizable alarm temperature.

“Essentially, it’s a tool to detect people with elevated temperatures, which could be possible signs of fever, COVID, or some piece of information that someone is sick,” Walter Dombrowski, technical product manager at Seek Thermal said. “We don’t know what the future holds with COVID and its variants, but Seek Scan allows the ability to perform non-invasive and quick testing with accurate results.” 

Designed to be operational in five minutes or less, the temperature-controlled heat source is set up roughly four to five feet from the computer system and camera. The system doesn’t require an operator, users can simply stand at the desired spot and the thermal camera focuses on the inner eye duct — the most accurate form of internal body temperature, Dombrowski said.  In a few seconds, the system automatically detects a face, identifies the most reliable facial features for measurement, and displays an alert if the readings are warmer than the customizable alarm temperature. The results are within half of a degree in Fahrenheit, below the requirement for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. 

Unlike typical industrial thermal cameras, Seek Scan was developed for precise skin temperature measurement and also includes a fixed heat source to maximize accuracy. It uses thermal imaging technology which consists of an array of uncooled microbolometers. These microbolometers detect infrared light radiation (heat) emitted from an object. Each microbolometer (pixel) outputs a value that is translated into temperature data, and through image processing, this temperature data is used to create a visible heatmap thermal image.

seek scan“Thermal imaging systems are an important singular component of a broader strategy to create safer and healthier environments as we reopen our country,” Bill Parrish, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Seek Thermal, said in an issued press release. “There is plenty of ongoing discussion about the technology’s capabilities. The position of SeekThermal is that products such as Seek Scan can provide an initial assessment of a person’s body temperature and should follow FDA guidelines by meeting the accuracy specification, including a reference heat source (blackbody), and be made for single person screening at a fixed distance. While thermal imaging is not a panacea for detecting anyone with novel coronavirus, the technology can help detect elevated temperatures and provide safer environments for businesses and other gathering places.”

Montclair State University, an NCAA Division III school in Montclair, NJ, began utilizing Seek Scan back in June as the school prepared to welcome back students in the fall. With more than 500 student-athletes playing 18 sports on campus, Red Hawks head athletic trainer Tara Temple relied on the thermal skin temperature device to maximize her small staff while also keeping the health of students and staff intact. 

“Safety is always our number one goal,” Temple said. “This is a very unique time and Seek Scan has brought a great level of ease and comfort to our building. We didn’t have to be right next to everyone when they were in front of the temperature gun, which allowed for contact-less temperature screenings.

“For our main athletic building, it’s made everything so much easier because we can have one person behind the desk and a piece of plexiglass and they can watch as everyone goes through,” she continued.  

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Though it’s a great indicator of possible illness, Seek Scan should not be used to diagnose or exclude a diagnosis of COVID-19 or any other disease or condition. A diagnostic test by medical professionals must still be performed to determine if someone has COVID-19. 

And while the health and safety of individuals have been at the forefront of the minds of everyone for the last year, you can bet your bottom dollar that many other businesses have been trying to capitalize on this thought. Many other companies use infrared or near-infrared technology that can be inaccurate, but with Seek Scan’s design available long before FDA guidelines came out, it appeared to Dombrowski that those guidelines were designed with Seek Scan in mind. 

“That, in combination with our use of fixed heat source, is what makes us very different from everyone else,” Dombrowski said. “Having one player get sick can be a huge blow to any program, but having that player or personnel pass it around the team and staff can be devastating. This is a great tool to prevent those types of situations.”

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