Smart Thermometer Can Tell Flu From Cold

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, the seasonal flu was one of the most dangerous infectious diseases, but a lot of people have trouble telling the difference between a flu and a cold by their symptoms alone. This gave [M. Bindhammer] the idea to design a smart thermometer that can distinguish between flu and cold.

Automated medical diagnostics is certainly an important technology of the future. [M. Bindhammer]’s project, named F°LUEX, is the second version of his iF°EVE thermometer. After taking the body temperature it asks the patient a set of questions about his symptoms and then calculates the probability of whether it is more likely to be a flu or a cold. [M. Bindhammer] uses a method commonly used in medical diagnostics based on Bayesian statistics which assigns a probability score to both hypotheses. It takes into account how often a certain symptom occurs when you have a common cold or flu as well as the overall probability of catching one or the other.

The hardware of the project is based on a custom PCB that includes a medical-grade MLX90614 infrared thermometer with an accuracy of ±0.2˚C around the human body temperature. The sensor is being read out by a Teensy 3.2 and information is displayed on a small OLED screen. Everything is housed in a 3D printed enclosure that received a nice finishing by painting with primer and acrylic spray paint. Unfortunately, [M. Bindhammer] project also got delayed by the corona crisis as his order for the temperature sensor got canceled due to the current high demand. But that does make us wonder how useful this could be to discriminate between cold, flu, and COVID-19.

An IR thermometer is something useful to have around not only for medical applications and can also be built without a custom PCB and minimal parts.

A Stylish Low Part Count Non-Contact Thermometer

A non-contact thermometer is a pretty common tool these days, and one that most of us probably have kicking around the lab. You can grab them online for as little as $10 USD, and while they’re nowhere near as capable as a thermal camera, they certainly have their uses. But even with their increased availability, there are at least two safe assumptions we can make about owners of said gadgets: they didn’t make it themselves, and they are probably pretty ambivalent about its aesthetics.

Which makes this project by [Ijon Tichy] particularly interesting. Not only is this a non-contact infrared thermometer that’s extremely easy to build should you be so inclined, but it’s actually quite attractive. In fact, if it wasn’t for the video of it in operation after the break, we would have assumed it was some kind of faux-retro cosplay prop. Even if you don’t have any use for an IR thermometer, you might just want to add one of these to your toolbox on principle.

The main components of the thermometer are a MLX90614 sensor, a gorgeous HP QDSP-6040 bubble display, and a ATtiny2313 microcontroller to tie it all together. The rest are passive components, with the exception of the TP4056 charging module that got tacked on to handle the 200 mAh lithium-ion battery. All of the components are arranged neatly in a line down the length of the thermometer, which is assembled on a piece of perfboard. Rather than go with a 3D printed enclosure that would cover it all up, [Ijon] decided to encapsulate everything in a clear epoxy resin. It looks fantastic, though you’re going to want to triple check all those solder joints before pouring on your “enclosure”.

[Ijon] has provided the diagrams and source code you need to build your own version of this artisanal thermometer, but we think with a custom PCB and perhaps a less liquid enclosure that still shows off the goods, this could be a very popular gadget for the discerning hacker. As we’ve seen, even the most basic of tools can benefit from a stylish makeover.

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DIY Thermal Imaging Done Low-Tech Style

[Niklas Roy] has always wanted to try out thermal imaging and saw his opportunity when he received one of those handheld IR thermometers as a gift. But not content with just pointing it at different spots and looking at the temperatures on the LCD display, he decided to use it as the basis for a scanning, thermal imaging system that would display a heat map of a chosen location on his laptop.

DIY thermal imaging system
DIY thermal imaging system

He still wanted to to be able to use the IR thermometer as normal at a later date so cutting it open was not an option. Instead he firmly mounted a webcam to it pointing at the LCD display. He then wrote software on his laptop to process the resulting image and figure out what temperature was being displayed.

Once he got that working, he next put the thermometer on a platform with servos connected to an Arduino for slowly rotating it in the horizontal and vertical directions, also under control of the software on his laptop. Each time the thermometer measures the temperature of a spot, the software decodes the temperature on the LCD display and then tells the Arduino to use the servos to point the thermometer at the next spot to be measured. Each measurement takes a little time, so scanning an entire location as 70×44 spots takes around a half hour. But the end result is a heat map drawn on the laptop, done by a device that is low-tech. [Editor’s Snark: Because attaching a webcam and processing the images is “low-tech” these days.] He can overlay the heat map on a normal photo to see at a glance where the hot spots are.

The software he wrote is available on GitHub and the video below shows it in action. We’ve got to admit, it’s pretty awesome to watch. You can even see the heat map being filled in one measurement at a time.

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Reading An IR Thermometer The Hard Way

[Derryn Harvie] from the MakeHackVoid maker space hacked a $10 IR Thermometer and made it talk USB. Sounds easy? Read on.

He opened it up in the hope of finding, and tapping into, a serial bus. But he couldn’t find one, and the main controller was a COB blob – hidden under unmarked black epoxy. Normally this is a dead-end.  (We’ve seen some interesting approaches to decapping epoxy blobs, and even ICs with lasers.)

But [Derryn] went his own way – intercepting the data going from the micro-controller to the LCD display, and reverse engineering it using another microcontroller. He scraped off the solder mask over the tracks leading to the LCD display, and used an oscilloscope to identify the common drive lines. He then used a function generator to excite each of the LCD common lines and the segments lines to build a complete matrix identifying all the combinations that drove the segments. With all the information decoded, wires were soldered so he could hook up an Arduino, and the cut tracks repaired.

Since the LCD was a multiplexed display, the bias voltages were at four levels. Luckily, he could extract most of the LCD information by reading just eight of the segment drive lines, using up all of the analog inputs on the Arduino. Perhaps a different microcontroller with more ADC inputs would have allowed him to display more LCD functions. Well, he can always upgrade his upgrade later. If you have a similar hack to implement, then [Derryn]’s code could be useful to get started.

Thanks, [csirac2] for sending us this tip from MakeHackVoid.

Modular Arduino Based Infrared Thermometer


[Brian] started out with a clear and concise goal, “allow a regular human to associate an audible tone with a temperature from an infrared contactless thermometer.” With his latest project, the ESPeri.IRBud, he has achieved this goal.

One of our favorite parts of [Brian’s] post is his BOM. Being able to easily see that the IR temperature sensor costs $26 at DigiKey is unbelievably helpful to readers. This specific sensor was chosen because others have successfully interfaced it with the Arduino. Not having to reinvent the wheel is good thing! For the build, [Brian] decided to hook up the IR temperature sensor to a re-purposed flexible iPhone headset wire. Having used headphone sockets to connect to the sensor and speakers, the actual device is quite modular. Hearing this thing in action is quite cool, it almost sounds like old-school GameBoy music! Check it out after the break.

Have you used an IR temperature sensor in one of your projects? Let us know.

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