While most exhibitors at this week's Mobile World Congress (MWC) are focused on products for personal consumers, a British company has launched a rugged handset aimed at tradespeople.
Bullitt has developed the Cat S60 smartphone, in conjunction with construction equipment maker Caterpillar and premium technology company FLIR Systems Inc.
Until now users wanting to access thermal imaging on their smartphone have had to buy an accessory to clip onto the device, whereas the sensor developed by FLIR in its Lepton microcamera is fully integrated.
"Everything in the universe either emits thermal energy or reflects thermal energy and the camera senses that and detects that and that's what it replicates on the screen," senior product manager at Bullitt, Pete Cunningham, told Reuters at MWC in Barcelona.
Cunningham envisages multiple uses for the camera, such as firefighters navigating a smoke-filled room to avoid fire or police officers being able to prove when a vehicle was last driven.
Although primarily aimed at tradespeople, Cunningham believes the feature will be incorporated in fifty percent of all smartphones within five years.
"If I want to buy a new house then I can go around and I can check to see whether there is damp patches around or whether the current owners have painted over and tried to hide any issues with leaks or damp patches, so that's another great example," he said. "Also silly things like I'm going into the bakers and getting the freshest bread, you can point the phone up and identify where the freshest bread is. Or I let my dog out in the evening and it's pitch black, so now I can find my dog without having to chase around and rummage in bushes."
Bullitt says the Cat S60 smartphone can withstand a fall onto concrete from a height of1.8 meters high without smashing and survive being five meters underwater for up to for an hour.
"In addition to being the world's first smartphone to integrate thermal imaging it's also the world's most waterproof phone," said Cunningham. "You can take this to depths of five meters waterproof. It's also designed to be dropped from 1.8 meters onto concrete without smashing, so there's lots of other rugged credentials that means we deliver it in this size. I think over time you'll see the ability to reduce the thickness of the device as well."
Cunningham told Reuters the phone enables users to capture the temperature of multiple points within a room at the same time. "You can capture the temperature of a point. We can do that at multiple points as well, so we can capture multiple points on the screen at the same time. The temperature range at the side of the screen gives you the minimum and maximum temperature in that scene at the time," he said.
Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, market information providers in the mobile and wireless sector, said he expects it to be popular among electricians, mechanics, and builders.
"Why is it interesting? Well, they're going after tradespeople, not the traditional mass market consumer," said Wood. "They want builders and electricians and mechanics and they can use that device and you can do simple diagnostics with it, so you can hold it up to a wall, you can see if a pipe's leaking, you can hold it up looking at an engine and you can see where gas is leaking. You can look at a wall and see where the cavities are; lots of different applications where dedicated thermal cameras are being used today but by putting that into their phone it makes it a bit more of an attractive proposition."
The Cat S60 will be available in June, retailing at $599 USD.