Turn Your Smart Phone into a Thermal Imaging Camera with the Flir One

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The Flir One Can Transform your Android or iPhone into a Thermal Imaging Unit

Mentionables:

            • Pro: Reads a Thermal Range of -4° F to 248° F
            • Pro: Share Thermal Images Through Email or Social Media
            • Pro: Protected by 1 year warranty

Cameras and tools can be big and bulky.  But they are tools, so that means they are necessary.  So even though they aren’t the most convenient items to carry throughout the day, we still need to navigate through life with them.

flir one iphone

And thermal cameras and imagers are large, hand-held objects that we need to take with us to job sites.  But they don’t always have to be to cumbersome to transport.  Which is why Flir created a thermal adapter for any iPhone and Android Phone.

thermal imaging cameras

The Flir One connects to any smart phone, and transforms the camera into a thermal imaging device.  So when you’re on a job site, searching for those hot spots in a newly built home, or in a facility seeing which breaker is drawing the most amps, you’ll benefit greatly with the Flir One attachment.

And although this unit is smaller than Flir’s EX series, it still offers many of the same great features.  With MSX, you can still all the detailed contours in any image.  And because the device is still a Flir product, it comes with an excellent warranty.  But there are other smart phone options available.  The iSeek is a quality thermal imaging unit that connects to any smart phone.  So make sure you do a thorough comparison prior to your purchase.

But there’s much more to it than that.  So here’s the review of Flir’s One thermal imager.

Review of FLIR ONE Thermal Imager for iOS an Android

flir one android

Anything promising superhero powers on your mobile phone must be an epic game or heroic hyperbole — but with the Flir One, it’s close to the truth.

When 19th-century physicists started uncovering the invisible universe of radiation, radio waves and X-rays, it was fashionable to see this as proof of spirits, ghosts and the afterlife. That hasn’t panned out, but while we’re now used to hearing voices from space and seeing around the world, there’s something undeniably spooky about the Flir One, a thermal imager that opens an affordable window into the world of the long infrared.

The Flir One is a small device that clips onto the Micro-USB port of your Android device, or the Lightning port of your iOS tablet or smartphone. It takes pictures, still or moving, in long-wave infrared, using a second, visual-light camera to simultaneously provide an overlay that lets you easily identify what you’re looking at. It can also produce an absolute temperature estimate of a spot on the image — again shown as an overlay.

The images themselves are garishly coloured, with the default palette ranging from dark blue for the coolest parts of the image to bright yellow or white for the hottest. Intermediate levels are shown as shades of red or orange. This is immediately recognisable from any number of movie scenes, science documentaries or police chase programme, where people and vehicles are tracked in darkness by their infrared radiation — and indeed Flir has been in business since 1978 selling many of the professional and military IR imaging systems behind those pictures.

The company’s engineering pedigree comes through in the quality of the hardware and of the software, which is simple to use, robust and well-designed. The app integrates smoothly with Android and iOS’s default image storage and sharing options, making it instantly usable for anyone who knows their mobile. It has some neat tricks: you can reveal the visible-light image behind the infrared by rolling the one over the other through swiping, while an efficient edge-detection system overlays the shape of objects onto the infrared image, considerably aiding identification of what you’re looking at without obscuring the details of its thermal shape. Many different palettes are selectable, each highlighting different aspects of the thermal image, and PC and Mac software is available that allows a much finer-grained image analysis and manipulation.

Many of FLIR’s higher-end thermal cameras make use of what is known as MSX, which is essentially the blending of a digital camera light image with an infrared one. The result is a thermal image with just enough physical characteristics overlaid from the light image to give better context and detail. FLIR managed to fit in MSX technology into the ONE, giving it a crisp and clear image that you won’t find with some thermal imagers in a higher price range. For a smartphone imager, this is very impressive.

The hardware unit has its own rechargeable battery that runs for about an hour before needing to be charged through its own Micro-USB port. It doesn’t also charge the phone when that’s in use, but you can run the unit while charging, giving you the option of much longer periods of portable operation if you take a power pack along. The only control is a small on-off button with its own status LED, which is a bit fiddly to operate. The only other criticism is that the unit doesn’t feel particularly solidly attached in use, at least on Android phones, but given the huge range of different form factors it has to work with it’s probably copes as well as it can.

Another difference between the two platforms is that the iOS model can swivel to point in either direction — Flir suggests you can take a ‘thermie’ (an IR version of a selfie), but the Android version is fixed in whatever direction your USB port demands. You can use a Micro-USB extension cable to operate the imager away from your phone, which is a useful option if your USB connector is awkwardly placed or makes the Flir One point towards you, but this is fiddly and needs practice.

Flir supplies a lanyard-hung carrying clip, which works quite well if you’re out and about and want to also use your phone without encumbrance.

Pros

  • Includes infrared and visual-light cameras

  • Available for iOS and Android devices

  • Delivers absolute temperature estimates

  • Affordable for a thermal imaging camera

Cons

  • Expensive for a smartphone add-on

  • Fiddly on-off button

  • Android version has fixed orientation

In Conclusion

The FLIR ONE is not some novelty gadget for your phone. It is a fully functional thermal imager that provides surprisingly good images that you can use for a variety of applications inside, outside, and away from your home. It’s easy to use, durable, and an excellent gateway into the world of thermal imaging.

Buy this if you want an inexpensive way to turn your smartphone or tablet into a versatile, capable thermal camera.

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