I’ve never been very good at predicting the future! I missed the .com boom, I lost badly in the recession, and I certainly failed to pick the winner in the last few presidential elections. I’ve never even been good at guessing what the weather will be, but I just enjoy being out in whatever comes.
What I’ve done over the years is to simply plod along, placing one foot in front of the other doing the best I can—it seems to have worked thus far! Based on this common sense approach, our company has been able to help our customers use thermography to save literally billions of dollars, operate more safely and avoid costly future mishaps. Given that, I guess I don’t really care whether or not we can predict the future!
Without the use of a crystal ball, we understand that when an electrical connection or a bearing is heating abnormally, eventually it will fail and cost more than it would have to properly maintain it. We can also help builders, insulators and homeowners tighten up their properties by ensuring that all insulation is in place and working as intended–resulting in greater comfort at a lower energy cost.
The key to our prognostications, of course, is “seeing the unseen” and understanding what it really means. Now that I think about it, what we do is probably not much different than what meteorologists or stock analysts do in their areas of expertise, but we just operate on a different wavelength—literally!
So, what’s in store for thermography in 2011? I’m confident we will see a number of new infrared imaging products. I’d bet one or more will sell for less than $1000. That is exciting. And it is also scary given that these systems will be limited in their capabilities while still requiring a significant investment in knowledge and skill on the part of the user. Unfortunately, I must predict that along with some success, there will also be disappointments with these new tools.
No doubt that some of the new systems will also be more fully featured than ever. I just hope these features are of as much value to the end users as they are to the sales people. I’m hopeful we will see 3-5 minutes worth of fully radiometric video recording capability, preferably to an in-the-imager flash drive as a standard. Perhaps we will also see an “inexpensive” ($10-15K) 640×480 array—systems that I’m sure would allow us to discover and perfect new applications for this technology. With inspiration like the iPhone™ and the remarkable array of “apps” that have followed it, I’m also predicting advancements that I have never dreamed possible!
I ’m hopeful we will see new and better options for training, including online trainings that actually produce skilled, confident thermographers. Until we have “smart imagers”—and I don’t see that happening in the New Year—we’ll still need smart thermographers! The process of getting smart in 2011 will remain the same and be equally achievable: gain basic training, master the imager, get qualifying experience using it in the field, and then demonstrate your skills and knowledge to others.
Will we see new applications? Certainly! With higher resolution imagers we could see continued progress in medical imaging and other applications in natural sciences. Even with smaller arrays, the image quality is so much better that we’ll surely see the old tried and true applications—electrical, mechanical, roofs, and buildings—done better than ever. With simple training, the very low-cost imagers could replace spot radiometers and provide a great deal of value at the “toolbox” level. With a little hard work, we may also have new inspection standards to guide us. Along those lines, I’m thrilled to predict the new RESNET standard will have a significant impact in the new and existing home market!
Be advised however, that even in the 8-15 micron band, the future is not crystal clear. However, I can say with 100% certainty that thermal imaging in 2011 looks very promising. I know that I will be working hard in the New Year, along with lots of other very bright people in this industry, to make these predictions a reality.
Thanks for your support and interest in this thermal imaging blog. I look forward to seeing how my “predictions” play out in 2011. I wish all of you a very thermally pleasant (and safe!) New Year.
John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner