It is kind of amazing the amount of cool military technology you can buy and use now. GPS used to be pure military, we can put our cameras on drones or use them as targets for fun (when the FAA isn’t watching), and you can now use infrared cameras to see through walls and potentially protect your home. FLIR is the leader in these cameras (I have one of their cameras mounted on the front of my Jaguar project car) and in the US, the company just brought out an iPhone accessory called the FLIR One that turns your iPhone into a tool that the Q Division in Her Majesty’s Secret Service would be proud of. And you might actually find it could save your home...
Let's take a closer look at this gadget, which is currently available in the States, with European availability hopefully coming before too long.
Good infrared cameras can see through walls and detect temperature changes. For instance if you wanted to see how well your insulation was working you could turn your heat up to high on a cool night and scan your house for hotspots, which would showcase where hot air was escaping or insulation was inadequate. Then you could fix any problem areas to keep your heating costs down.
In addition if you have a leak in your wall, not an uncommon problem (I found one of those myself recently) the camera will generally identify it allowing it to be fixed before the water does cosmetic, structural damage, or creates dangerous mould.
If you’ve ever had a leak inside a wall you know how incredibly expensive the damage it can create can be once the leak becomes visible to the naked eye. Often you have to replace and/or treat a large damaged area for mould, and if it goes on long enough, it could even damage the structural integrity of the home (though, fortunately, the latter is rare).
A lot of our homes are getting on in years and often the plumbing subcontractor was selected because he was low bidder, not because he was any good, and they often put the wrong metals together causing premature pipe failure (I’ve run into this several times) years after the home is finished and some pipes just age out and fail.
These can also be used to find animals in walls before they die and create their own unique fragrant problems, or to help locate a pet underneath the home or in the wall so they can be saved. They are also handy for looking at problems in a car engine (exhaust or fluid leaks) and if you have a high performance PC they can showcase hotspots that need to be addressed to ensure it doesn’t fail prematurely (certain parts like drives will fail if kept too hot for too long).
The FLIR One is a camera back for the iPhone. It snaps on, then you download the companion apps to make the thing work. It actually has two cameras: one takes a low resolution infrared shot (infrared is by nature low resolution) and the other takes a regular picture. Combining the two gives the image context so you see where the problem is, and don’t have to try to figure out what the heck you are looking at. Without this feature you could tell there was a problem but it would be hard to tell exactly where that problem was.
I should add that with this phone back in place you phone has been converted into an industrial tool; the end product is impressively robust so you won’t be leaving this adapter on your phone indefinitely, it is clearly a project-focused product. While the FLIR One isn’t cheap at around $350 (£210) it can be used instead of dedicated infrared cameras costing three to five times as much, making it a bit of a bargain.
An infrared camera has a number of interesting uses but perhaps the most impressive is just being able to show your friends that your camera can see things theirs can’t, and it does have a bit of that James Bond vibe going for it. Apparently there is a lot of interest in this technology because Amazon (US) even has a dedicated FLIR store for folks using these cameras for everything from animal spotting (hunting/fishing) to detecting intruders.