A few years ago a thermal infrared camera would have set you back at least a few thousand dollars but now you can buy a camera accessory for your smartphone for just $250.

Seek Thermal's camera plugs into the charging port of your Android or iOS device allowing you to see live thermal images on the phone's screen. Techtimes got a chance to play around with the camera at CE Week in New York.

The Seek Thermal camera is very small and portable and very simple to use. The tiny device weighs just 8 oz and easily sits on top of your smartphone without making it feel any heavier or bulkier. Once you've installed the Seek Thermal app you just plug in the camera and with one tap you have thermal imaging on the screen.

The camera can detect objects up to 1000 feet away in total darkness, that means it a few pixels will show on your screen, and should allow you to fully identify a human body within 150 feet. Seek Thermal's Brenth Lasala told us that you to get an accurate temperature reading you really need to be within ten feet.

There are a number of different settings in the app. The first shows a cross hair that identifies the temperature at that point. Then there's Hi Lo mode that will highlight the temperatures at the highest and lowest points in the camera's field of vision. Threshold mode allows you to only display objects that are above or below a certain temperature.

The most common use of Seek Thermal is for in the home for DIY and various contractors. It's useful for checking temperatures in various areas of your house to see where you're losing heat to try and create a more heat efficient home. It also allows contractors to see through walls and find the sources of leaks or detect damp.

But Lasala says that since its launch in October Seek Thermal has found a host of unexpected uses too. It's popular with hunters who can detect the body heat of animals in the dark or through thick brush. Police officers have found it useful in identifying the number of people at a dark scene and gives firefighters a quick way of evaluating fires.

It's also been used to monitor circuit boards. Loose electrical connections get very hot, so it allows electricians identify problems before you get a blown circuit.

Such is the detail of the camera that it will show up your fingerprint after you touch a surface which could be used for nefarious reasons like pin code tracking. As with any tech, Lasala said you can't tell what it will be used for until you put it in people's hands.

Seek Thermal is available from their website, Amazon or at Home Depot for $249. There's also the Seek Thermal XR for $299 which films a narrower field of vision (20 degrees compared to 35 degrees) but detects objects further in the distance. Both cameras can detect temperatures from -40 C (-40 F) to 330 C (626 F) and use a 206 x 156 thermal sensor.

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