Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have developed a novel Smart Fever Screening System (SFSS) that could help border officials easily spot passengers with a fever.
Since the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003, thermal imaging detectors have been widely deployed at border points for screening of inbound travelers with a fever – an important symptom for patients of SARS, COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. However, officers would have to monitor two screens on both thermal and color (CCTV) images to track the unwell person within a matter of seconds.
Now, using artificial intelligence, real-time tracking and big-data analysis, a multi-disciplinary research team led by Prof. Richard So from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Decision Analytics at HKUST, has devised a new system that is not only more accurate in detecting fevered suspects, even with their faces partially occluded, but can also enhance operation efficiency by combining thermal and color images onto the same screen. This video shows how the image of the unwell person is ‘bracketed’ in red, enabling officers to recognize them immediately.
Different from regular fever monitoring systems, which use mainly infrared cameras, the new AI and deep learning-based system is more accurate in terms of facial and heat detection. Using deep learning and the science of anthropometry, the system can track a human face even if it is covered by a mask and partially occluded at the same time. The system is designed to detect and pick up a fever suspect walking in a crowd.
Detection of temperature also tends to be more accurate as it relies on computer algorithms instead of human judgment, according to the tones of thermal images. The system also compensates for the effects of detection distances and environmental factors such as a heat source in the background. Moreover, as the tracking focuses distinctively on the face, the detection result is unlikely to be affected by hot objects carried by that person unless the objects are directly over the person’s face.
“Fever screening has always been the first and most important gatekeeper in maintaining public health. Thanks to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), our system can be applied at major control points during this critical period. We are glad that our home-grown technology can contribute to safeguarding public health by providing the authorities with a more efficient solution,” said Prof. So.
The system has been implemented at various control points, government facilities and the university itself in the fight against COVID-19.