Ottawa digital media firm unveils rapid-temperature-check platform

UTG Media

With temperature checks likely to become commonplace in many offices and public buildings for the foreseeable future, an Ottawa-based digital media technology firm says it has engineered a novel way to make the screening process more efficient.

This week, UTG Digital Media launched a touchless digital display screen that can take a person’s temperature in a matter of seconds and sound an alert if someone has a fever. 

UTG chief executive Alan Wehbe says the company has been getting “great feedback” about the device. As governments begin plans to gradually reopen economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he says he hopes the system will be deployed in office buildings, factories and warehouses as well as restaurants, supermarkets, schools, community centres and other public gathering places as part of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The device, known as TempRay, looks much like a typical computer tablet and can be mounted on walls or countertops or integrated into automatic doors and access gates. 

The company says its thermal imaging technology supplied by a German manufacturer can detect a person’s body temperature to within 0.2 degrees Celsius in just a few seconds. The system is also equipped with AI facial recognition software that can identify individuals even if they are wearing masks and instantly alerts employers if a worker is running a fever and should be sent home.

Wehbe says the system can also be linked to employee ID card or fingerprint readers, adding all data is kept on a workplace’s own servers rather than cloud-based storage facilities. 

“At that point, you’re not really worried about security because the employees’ information is already in the (company) database,” he says.

In public places such as grocery stores and restaurants, the device can be set up to take temperatures without identifying people, Wehbe says. If the system detects someone has a fever, an alarm sounds and the machine issues a warning.

“You can’t really cheat it,” he says.

Several major businesses are exploring the use of temperature checks as a way of safely operating their business. Air Canada recently announced that it would begin taking the temperature of passengers before they're allowed to board an aircraft, while Tim Hortons now requires all employees to get their temperatures checked before starting their shifts. 

However, some – including Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam – have cautioned that temperature checks are ineffective on their own as a screening measure for COVID-19 because many people who are infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms.

Founded 12 years ago, UTG Digital Media now has about 10 employees at its head office in Ottawa as well as 230 at an assembly plant in Hong Kong. 

The company produces digital signage and display terminals for clients such as supermarkets, museums and car dealerships. The firm’s revenues have fallen roughly 40 per cent since the pandemic began, Wehbe says, adding he hopes sales of the TempRay system can help offset some of those losses.