Fever, as many would assume, is not an illness but rather a symptom of an underlying disease or infection characterised by a temporary increase in body temperature. It is how your body responds to an illness or infection and is a sign that your body is trying to fight that underlying infection. But it's not a pleasant feeling when you have a fever.

The diagnosis is usually done manually and could sometimes be a very tedious process. However, a new AI-powered temperature screening device that could detect the symptoms of fever could soon be making its way to Singapore hospitals and healthcare centres.

iThermo temperature screening device

Currently, under trial run, the real-time temperature screening device simply uses a smartphone fitted with thermal and 3D laser cameras which detect the forehead temperature of the individuals walking by. This works similar to body temperature scanning done by thermal cameras at airports but with AI which tells the temperature of the febrile individual. The device works even if the individual is wearing spectacles, surgical masks or even headgear.

Dubbed iThermo, the innovative device was developed by Singapore-based Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), a technology agency for public healthcare and local AI start-up KroniKare which has also developed an application that diagnoses chronic wounds using just a smartphone. iThermo is currently being tested at the IHiS headquarters in Serangoon North and St Andrew's Community Hospital in Simei.

The AI-driven device can measure the body temperature of individuals from up to 3 metres away, and generate an alert whenever a febrile individual walks by it.

Ground-breaking innovation

Wuhan Coronavirus
Twitter / Imran Iftikhar

A groundbreaking technology like this could be a boon to the healthcare industry if it makes it to mainstream healthcare. Not only does it addresses the problem of long queues and the time taken for temperature screening, which is the case with manual process that's currently the situation, but also decreases the dependence on manpower for the carrying out large-scale screenings, especially in the times of epidemic outbreaks such as the ongoing coronavirus contagion that's sending shockwaves around the world.

Coronavirus in Singapore

Speaking of which, the coronavirus outbreak response level in Singapore was raised to code orange on Friday. As per the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition, code orange indicates a moderate to high public health impact, requiring organisations to cancel or delay less-important large-scale events and conduct temperature screening for group events.

IHiS CEO, Bruce Liang speaking to reporters at IHiS headquarters suggested that healthcare institutions and businesses find it challenging to perform large-scale temperature screenings in a quick and efficient manner. "The whole idea (of the device) is to detect those who may be febrile in a crowd, instead of manually screening everyone for their temperature," he added, suggesting the new device would help minimise the problem of long queues, allowing medical and paramedics to attend to other more pressing needs.

Smartphones and AI are the future of healthcare

Liang also noted that the device can be easily deployed in places where large groups are funnelled throw a few entry points, such as at stadiums and office buildings.

The iThermo device analyses the images shot from the smartphone camera, which captures the facial features and maps the images to those from the thermal and 3D cameras, thus measuring the temperature and distance using AI. It also feeds real-time updates including how many febrile persons were detected to a dashboard which enables remote monitoring of the status at various sites.

Meanwhile, over the last few days, long queues have been reported at some office buildings that have started manual temperature screening of workers and visitors, as a precautionary measure to tackle the coronavirus infection. Recently, eight new cases of Coronavirus infection have been reported in Singapore alone. KroniKare has reportedly ramped up the production of the iThermo device and it will be deploying 100 units by the end of February.