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MIAMI 2014: FLIR touts thermal imager for smartphones

MIAMI — Thermal imaging specialist FLIR Systems hosted a media event Wednesday night at Miami’s Bayside Marina that was designed to highlight the way the technology manufacturer is furthering its corporate mantra: “Infrared Everywhere.”

FLIR hosted about 140 guests on a party boat, including members of the press and representatives of its competitors in the marine electronics market — Furuno, Garmin, GOST, Nobeltec and Simrad — which have integrated FLIR’s proprietary infrared technology into their own products.

“We think that’s a powerful statement on how far we’ve taken this technology in such a short period of time,” FLIR vice president of maritime sales Lou Rota said.

FLIR also used the relaxed cruise setting to showcase its next step toward its mantra — FLIR One, the first thermal imager designed for smartphones.

Introduced Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it won the top prize, FLIR One attaches to any Apple iPhone 5 or 5s smartphone and displays a live thermal image on the phone's screen. The product will be available in the spring with an MSRP of $349. FLIR says pre-orders indicate that FLIR One will sell very well.

“FLIR One is all about putting thermal-imaging technology into the hands of hundreds of thousands of high-end consumers, who will then be much more likely to invest in our standalone products,” Rota said.

FLIR sees diverse applications for FLIR One, ranging from diagnosing engine and systems problems to detecting the onset of fever in a child.

The company, which was built on high-end infrared technology for military and then commercial applications, entered the marine industry in 2006 and has rapidly expanded its tech footprint there.

Just a few years after introducing its handheld First Mate infrared camera at a consumer-friendly price point of about $2,000, FLIR sees FLIR One as its next game-changer.

“Our mission is to stick to driving down costs by driving up volume,” Rota said.

The heart of FLIR One is its proprietary Lepton thermal-imaging camera core. The company invested three years and $100 million in research and development in the technology.

Rota said the thermal-imaging camera, integrated on a microchip, will “open up applications nobody has even thought of yet.”