Thermal Imaging with your iPhone

August 19th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

This is SO cool.

FLIR Systems now has an iPhone add-on that turns your iPhone 5 or 5s into a thermal imager, for $349. (In contrast, my FLIR i7 imager was, as I recall, $2,000.)

FLIR One thermal imager back for the iPhone 5 or 5s.

FLIR One thermal imager back for the iPhone 5 or 5s.

Called the “FLIR One“, I think these are going to be pretty popular, and I’m sure the price will come down over time.

There are many uses (besides the gee whiz factor). You can see in the dark with it, see small animals in the woods, identify subtle temperature changes associated with water leaks, overloaded electrical wires, find insulation voids in your walls, air leaks around windows and doors, tell when your girlfriend or wife is really mad at you, and open up a whole new world of cat photography on Facebook.

Who knows? Maybe we will even have reports from all over the world documenting the existence of the atmospheric greenhouse effect.

Contrary to the TV series 24, though, you can’t see through solid surfaces like walls and roofs with it. You can’t even see through glass windows, which are also opaque in the infrared. But anything that subtly changes the temperature of the surface of a wall, like the presence of pipes or studs, can usually be seen.

I suspect that law enforcement and the bad guys will both be using it to gain an advantage. I won’t go into the ways in which that might happen.

The specifications for the FLIR One show pretty high sensitivity (0.18 deg. F), but a fairly restricted range of temperatures it will sense (32 to 212 deg. F). On the plus side, it also has a visible light camera and offers a visible/IR blending option for photos. It comes with its own battery, which is kept separate from the iPhone battery system.

Just to be clear…this is not an “App”…it can’t be done with just software. It has a microbolometer sensor array in it which receives infrared energy through a IR lens and measures the resulting tiny changes in temperature at each element in the array, then converts those changes to a pretty accurate estimate of temperature.

Since I recently switched from iPhone to Samsung, I’ll have to stick to my FLIR i7 imager for now. Oh well.

8 Responses to “Thermal Imaging with your iPhone”

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  1. ossqss says:

    C’mon Flir, you can’t even multitask with iphone. Where is the gadget for my note 3 and I will buy it tomorrow.

    Neat stuff though. Soon it will be built in and not an accessory. If you samsungers have not shot 4k video with you phones, you should try it as a side note. Applicable only to the S5 and Note 3, and I think the new LG.

    Thanks for the bait doc 😉

    • Craig Durst says:

      Have a look at Therm-App ( It will work on your note 3, is available now worldwide and offers about 3 times the resolution of Flir One.

  2. dave says:

    “…tell when your girlfriend or wife is really mad at you…”

    Just after they meet for the first time.

  3. Erik Beall says:


    actually there is a product for any Android or iOS device (including iPads) with wireless connectivity, called the Hema-Imager. We’ve been demonstrating our prototypes at SPIE tradeshows (Photonics West and DSS) with Heimann Sensor/Boston Electronics and we are currently taking pre-orders on Kickstarter at Plus, we use a thermopile array with very similar specs to the Lepton core, but with the added benefit that we do not need to do a manual nonuniformity correction (the manual slider you see on the FLIR ONE that must be slid and held for 2-seconds whenever the image washes out). Finally, our pledge level right now is $100 less for the two weeks we remain available on Kickstarter.

    Please check us out and let us know what you think.

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  5. George says:

    I never thought I’d see thermal imaging articles popping up about a phone but yea, sure enough it’s there. I have been watching them circulate on different news channels all morning long. I wrote some articles about it on my website . You should definitely check out my blog if you have time. I write about stuff like this every day.

  6. Allen says:

    Flir One is 1/3 the price of Therm-App but Therm-App is more than 10x better in quality. Flir got a lot to catch up if their want to release theIr Android version. Just take a look at this YouTube to get a rough idea.

  7. Curt says:

    Still waiting for the Slayers to show up claiming these do not really detect IR radiation…

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