What I learned at the Flir event
In the past, we've covered Flir fairly loosely, with the basic idea that thermal imaging was too expensive for most of our readership base to be installing on a regular basis. That's increasingly wrong-headed of us. Their cameras still aren't cheap, but they're getting cheaper. In 2005, the company's low-end camera was $10,000. Now it's $3,000. That's a significant difference. Consider that the high-end residential market is real. We wrote about it back in January, but I heard tonight that residential sales now accounts for three percent of Flir's annual Commercial Vision Systems revenues, or roughly $12 million. That's nothing to sneeze at. Further, Flir will grow 15 percent in 2009. Not bad for a recession. So, who's doing most of the selling on the residential side? Apparently, it's more the A/V guys than anyone else. They put in a $200,000 sound and video system, what's another $3,500 for a camera? So, this isn't for residential guys who are used to making the $99 initial installation sale, that's for sure. Commercially, Flir is finding more acceptance as it uses volume to reduce price. The company recently sold its 100,000th camera since the launch of its CVS in 2006, so there's a fair amount out there, that's for sure. Of the new products they had on display at tonight's press event, undoubtedly the coolest was the H Series, which is a handheld thermal imager than can take jpegs and MPEG4 onto an SD card. Selling at $5,000, it would seem perfect for police departments, anyone scanning a large perimeter with patrolling officers, even big game hunters. It's cool as hell, really. The company also discussed for the first time its purchase of Salvador Imaging, which gives the company EMCCD technology, which is basically CCD chips with an extra layer of secret sauce that produces amazing color images in low-light conditions. Very impressive. This new EMCCD, now that's it's also dropping in price, could be an interesting way to avoid IR illumination entirely. Anyway, a nice presentation by Flir, including some cool capture of coyotes roaming the Anaheim hills and a zoom in on a multi-million-dollar home that had a sweet infinity pool. One can see how these cameras could be useful.