Here are two decidedly different hardware, plus software, applications designed to enhance the capabilities of a smartphone or tablet. Either could be quite handy out in the field for diagnostics or documentation.
First there is a thermal camera, plus app, for “seeing” heat. This combo is an interesting concept for troubleshooting, 2015-style, that takes advantage of the combined talents of a tiny thermal camera that measures heat, a smartphone onto which the camera mounts, and a free software app that interprets the images the camera takes and the phone displays.
The Seek Thermal Camera for Android and iOS devices by Seek Thermal, www.thermal.com, is a black magnesium camera measuring less than 2” x 1” that, when connected to a smartphone and used with the free companion app, becomes a thermal imaging device with the ability to see heat. The camera measures infrared waves (heat) in objects (even in the absence of visual light) and converts the infrared waves into images (photos and videos) that can be recorded and displayed on the smartphone. The images, using various colors, reflect differences in temperature in areas of the target shown onscreen.
The camera (separate models for Android and for iOS devices) plugs into the microUSB connector on Android devices and the Lightning connector on IOS devices. It creates true thermal images with a resolution of 206 x 156 by capturing 32,000 thermal pixels across its field of view.
The temperature differences between the pixels are translated into visible images. The colors used in the images represent the range of temperatures from cool to hot. Seek Thermal camera (like all thermal cameras) has “small body” shutters that pass in front of the lens periodically, enabling the camera software to recalibrate itself based on the ambient temperature. The camera can detect objects up to 1,000 feet away.
The free companion software app (downloadable at Google Play and the Apple app store) enables HVAC and plumbing contractors to take images for diagnostic purposes to assess equipment for poor performance and/or check the status of installed equipment for loose wiring and other hidden problems. It can also be used to expose water damage and detect missing insulation and leaky windows.
The app includes a range of controls for taking and sharing thermal images and has the ability to select from four temperature measurement modes, including automatic highlighting of everything in the scene above or below a specified temperature. Users can take advantage of nine different color ranges (technically called LUTs, an abbreviation for Look Up Tables) that can be applied to temperature measurements. The app also includes Thermal Plus, a capability that allows users to swipe between a thermal view and a normal view.
The camera, which has a variable focus lens and uses a VOX Micro Bolometer, comes with a waterproof storage case. It has a field of view of 36 degrees, a full frame refresh rate <9 frames/second, and a detection range -40C to 330C.
iblazr LED Flash, www.iblazr.com, is a fully synchronized enhancing flash for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone that, working in concert with a free companion app, can facilitate better-lit job photos when photographing equipment in poorly lit locations. Sporting four LEDs and a wide 70 degree beam angle, the tiny flash (about 1” x 1 1/4”) plugs into the 3.5 mm audio jack of the smartphone or tablet and, when activated, provides a bright contrast light for photos taken with the device. The iblazr has its own built-in battery so it won’t drain a smartphone’s power.
The user can adjust the brightness to three settings: 16 Lux at 1 m (similar to a smartphone flashlight), 60 Lux at 1 m, and 120 Lux at 1 m. The flash can be used with a smart device in a constant light mode without synchronization. When iblazr is used with controls in the app, the brightness level can be synchronized precisely by using the slider on the right side of the screen.
The flash comes with a built-in rechargeable 130mAh battery, a cable to plug into a USB port for charging, a diffuser, a cold shoe mount, and a carrying case. The specs state up to 500 flashes on a single battery charge. In a pinch, the device can also be used for a constant light to shine on equipment or an installation when you need to see details ambient light doesn’t quite allow. According to iblazr, it is possible to get about 25 minutes of light at the highest setting and up to three hours on the lowest.
Adding light to the site
Not taking photos but just need some more light on the situation from your Android phone? Brightest LED Flashlight (Intellectual Flame Co. Ltd., downloadable free for Android 2.0 + up at Google Play) turns it into a flashlight and includes strobe mode with sensitive frequency controller.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].