In 2021, compared to 2020, the market will decrease a bit due to the drop in EBT/EST (Elevated Body Temperature/Elevated Surface Temperature) camera shipments. But this drop could be compensated for in the following years.
Thermography & surveillance will remain the biggest segments in the civil market.
The market sees an evolution of FPAs (Focal Plane Array) to higher resolutions.
An emerging trend is the combination of cameras and advanced processing to use them as sensors.
Thermal detector: competition is very fierce, with many Asian players profiting in 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Asian companies, including Senba, Orisystec, etc., have already started developing digital & smart sensors along with intelligent software and embedded algorithms.
Western thermal imager players, including FLIR, Lynred, Seek Thermal, for example, are returning to traditional applications mainly. Chinese companies such as GuideIR, IRay, Hikvision, and Dali are pushing the adoption of their thermal imagers, with existing strong sales channels, mainly in traditional surveillance (CCTV).
The overall thermal imaging market is expected to decrease from $6.6 billion in 2020 to $6.2 billion in 2021, before climbing to $8.7 billion in 2026.
Although the decreasing sales of EBT/EST applications pulled down the commercial market, there is an increase in demand for traditional thermal camera applications, such as thermography, surveillance, firefighting, ruggedized phones and personal vision systems.
Thermal imaging still struggles to enter the smart building, automotive, and consumer markets, which could drive high volumes. The smart building segment demands very low prices, and there is competition with low-resolution thermal detectors (thermopile arrays).
A promising use of thermal imaging in automotive is in ADAS to trigger autonomous emergency braking in all conditions. However, this technology still requires development to meet automotive reliability and performance requirements at an acceptable cost level.
Finally, while the killer app for thermal imaging in the consumer market might not have been found yet, the market is at the early stages of new developments.
After acquiring Metaio in 2015 and getting access to its Thermal Touch technology, Apple released a patent in 2021 showing a new use case for thermal imaging as a user interface for AR applications.
In 2020, Chinese thermal imager manufacturers supplied thermal imagers massively, mainly due to the EBT/EST applications, and more than doubled their shipment market share in going from 18% in 2019 to 39% in 2020.