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This mechanical engineering alumnus is taking the public’s temperature amid the coronavirus

As states begin to relax their quarantine guidelines, more people will be venturing back to work, enjoying public outings, and eventually, returning to school. With the risk of a second wave of the coronavirus a possibility, having the ability to quickly detect if someone is sick is crucial to stopping a local outbreak.

Using a specialized camera with an optical and thermal sensor, Rob Merchant ’83, the president of MTS Intelligent Surveillance Solutions in East Brunswick, New Jersey, has created a device that can scan an individual’s eyes and face to provide an immediate body temperature reading.

“This camera can show the optical image, thermal image, and radiometric value associated with a target,” he says.

Taking into consideration other values like ambient air temperature and energy emitted by objects in the vicinity, Merchant asserts that the device “can provide a fairly accurate surface temperature that can be equated to body temperature.”

The device is already being used in Hackensack University Medical Center, where it greets incoming hospital staff and patients in the lobby with a quick scan. A technician on the other side of the machine can see the temperature readings and can give a thumbs up or down about whether to proceed inside.

Though the technology isn’t necessarily new, Merchant says, it’s how a person deploys it that gives it its true value in today’s pandemic climate.

“The application of human abnormal surface temperature is not that new, as these devices have been deployed in some airports around the world to help identify passengers coming in on international flights that might have fevers,” he says. “The obvious current pandemic has boosted their popularity.”

Merchant, who majored in mechanical engineering, sees the cameras as a way to provide peace of mind for both consumers and businesses. He cautions that the cameras need to be used responsibly—something his company takes pride in.

“We focus on what you need to know to use this, how it can work for you, how it can work in your environment, and what the ramifications are from both using it and from the information it provides,” Merchant says. “As the world takes on a new paradigm, it could be used in areas such as lecture halls, common areas, and dormitories to provide a level of assurance, and reassurance, that people do not have a fever.”

— David Pavlak

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