There was a time when phone cases were just that, phone cases.
They performed a useful function to be sure — keeping your phone attached to your belt or protecting it from scratches or damage.
With the advent of smartphones, however, the stakes became a bit higher.
There was a greater investment to protect, to be sure. But there was also a greater opportunity for innovation.
The already substantial capabilities of these devices could be extended, and suddenly, phone cases that added additional functionality started to make a whole lot of sense. At first they were simple enhancements like a full keyboard (assuming the device didn’t have one) or an additional memory card slot.
But now, devices have grown more flexible, and with that, the ability to extend their functionality has grown as well — sometimes in unexpected ways.
A case in point: the FLIR ONE iPhone case.
The FLIR ONE case provides a rather unique capability for iPhones: thermal imaging.
Thermal imaging cameras allow users to “see” heat produced by people or equipment in their environment, and it has important security and maintenance applications.
For example, thermal imaging can detect a water leak behind a wall without knocking a hole in it. It also can see if someone has been in the general area within the last few minutes. People leave behind residual heat signatures wherever they go.
Thermal imaging can even see people or animals moving around in extreme darkness and can also tell with a fair degree of accuracy how hot a surface is without needing to touch it.
The FLIR One comes with an app that will allow users to save captured images to the iPhone and allow them to be shared on social media channels, capture video, control the battery, take spot temperature readings of a specific location or surface, or blend standard and thermal images to add detail.
The FLIR One case also contains an onboard battery that will power the device for more than two hours and can be used to extend the life of the device, and comes in grey, white and gold.
It is available for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S and costs $350, which is about half the price of a standard thermal imaging camera. It will be available in the spring for iPhone and later in the year for specific Android devices.