Smartphone add-on monitors electrical circuit overloads

A heat-measuring accessory for your smartphone can let you see overloaded circuits before they cause trouble.

flir lead image
Credit: FLIR

Accumulating gadgets and devices in the workspace might have you wondering: just how much of that stuff is safe to plug into desk-side-proliferating extension boards?

PC screens have gotten bigger, and numerous gadgets like smartphones and tablets at many desks mean that IT might be pushing the envelope when it comes to power-draw around a building.

That’s particularly the case with older structures that were designed to accommodate the occasional typewriter—and possibly a calculator or two. They were never designed for the high power consumption of a connected society.

Thermal imaging for phones

Oregon-based FLIR Systems reckons it has a solution. It says it can identify overloaded circuits through heat.

The company has recently released a thermal imaging device that simply attaches to a smartphone, and lets users view a live image of the difference in the temperature range of an object.

It says that its technology lets you see overloaded circuits before they become a problem. An overloaded circuit will produce more heat in comparison to a normally functioning one. That disparity shows up on the screen as bands of color when you point the phone at the breaker panel.

Hotter circuits

If you can identify the breaker, you’ll know where the overloading is taking place.

You can also eyeball trouble-spots at workers’ desk areas—such as a space heater along with a few gaming consoles and some giant TVs all connected to one outlet—and nip the unsafe behavior in the bud, with the collected evidence.

And you can do it before the rats’ nest causes a fire—and consequently creates more work for IT.


FLIR’s three-model line-up includes devices for iOS and an upcoming Android version. The thermal accessory attaches to the base of the device.

The cameras work by expanding the spectrum that the eye can see. Thermal energy has a longer wavelength than visible light. It’s so long, in fact, “that the human eye can't even see it, just like we can't see radio waves,” FLIR explains on its website.

With thermal imaging, “the portion of the spectrum we perceive is dramatically expanded, helping us ‘see’ the heat,” it says.

Dual cameras

FLIR’s devices have two cameras so that they can provide physical detail too. The thermal image is superimposed with the visible image using a kind of extraction.

The extracted image, plus the thermal image provide physical attributes, along with the heat detail.


And it’s not just in circuit protection that the devices have a purpose. FLIR, who has been involved in thermal imaging since 1978, is introducing an app store to go along with the smartphone add-ons, too. SDKs are available.

Apps include InfraHorse, for example. That’s a solution for equine enthusiasts to monitor the condition of horses through heat detection.

Another is Thermal Sentry, a motion detection system that detects movement in temperature anomalies, and alarms if the specified degree of motion is exceeded. It’s very accurate FLIR says.

Night vision is another use. An app called Manything FLIR ONE will include live steaming and let you see in total darkness, the app developer says on its website.

The FLIR One hardware costs from $149.99 to $249.99.

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