The FLIR ONE Case Gives Your iPhone Thermal Vision

The FLIR ONE iPhone case significantly ups the imaging powers of your iPhone 5 or 5s, making it into a thermal imaging camera that lets you see heat signatures from either live people and animals from up to 100 meters away, or from environmental sources including heating ducts, wall gaps and more.

Most of FLIR’s products to date are aimed at hunters and professionals, but this iPhone case brings an affordable smartphone-based thermal camera to the masses for the first time, the company told me at CES. The FLIR is $350, which might seem steep for a case with a built-in camera, but it’s actually around $750 cheaper than their least expensive standalone model currently available, and it provides an easy-to-use interface that anyone could quickly learn.

The app for the FLIR ONE offers numerous modes that interpret thermal data differently, with some showing many degrees of temperature, and others more clearly showing more or less binary differences between extreme heat, average temperature and extreme cold. Amazingly, it also picks up residual heat, like that left by a foot on a carpet for quite a while after a person was there.

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At first, I was a little skeptical about the potential use cases for a thermal iPhone case for the average consumer, but the company’s representative at CES explained that you could use it for something as simple as figuring out whether your dog is climbing up onto your bed when you leave or not. It could also be used for home security, detecting thermal leaks in your house, or finding water leaks in pipes behind the walls.

Of course, it can still be used for industrial and commercial applications, too, including contracting, home inspection and building maintenance. Users can snap photos of infrared images for their phone’s library, and share pictures from within the app. There’s also a plan for an SDK later in 2014, to let others build apps for the case.

The case also has a battery within that powers the camera itself for up to four hours of continuous use, which can also provide up to 50 percent more power for your iPhone, too, if used as a backup battery. The company says it’ll ship this spring, but pre-orders are open now. Thermal imaging might not be on the top of every smartphone user’s wishlist, but it could end up appealing to more people than you might suspect.