Large-scale laundry facilities can leverage infrared (IR) cameras and the Internet of Things (IoT) to mitigate damages and loss associated with laundry fires. Combustible fabrics, the possible presence of flammable or reactive contaminants and unmonitored or uncontrolled heating of laundry piles increase the potential for spontaneous combustion as many laundries have found out to their cost.

Spontaneous combustion depends on the following conditions:

  • Availability of a fuel source
  • Availability of an oxidising agent
  • Availability of a heat source

IR cameras operate on the heat transfer principle of radiation and have a focal plane array of detector elements that sense infrared light from object surfaces. The radiation captured by the IR camera detector is digitised, converted to data, and displayed as a viewable image. Calibrated IR cameras can report temperature measurements from specific spots, lines, and areas on live or recorded images.

IR cameras are the first to alert before a fire develops. They 'see' a warming-up of material early in the fire development process before forming smoke particles or flames. These warming materials appear as hot spots in a thermal image and are quantified with regions of interest (ROIs) like spots, lines, or areas that report temperature values. Applying multiple ROIs to an image and setting temperature thresholds per ROI allows monitoring and alarming multiple locations within the camera's field of view. When the threshold condition of an ROI is satisfied, alarms trigger notifications to the appropriate personnel.

The internet of things (IoT) refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked into industrial software applications that use advanced predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These connected networks create systems that monitor, collect, exchange, analyse, and deliver valuable insights into a system or process.

Thermal imaging and IoT EFD

By connecting infrared cameras that alert at the earliest stages of fire development, potential fires can more readily be detected and prevented. Safety alerts are sent to hundreds of people quickly and effectively with IoT. Communication options include voice calls, texts, and emails to targeted recipients to establish quick and effective awareness. Another advantage is scalability. Facility managers can connect multiple locations to a central monitoring and alarming dashboard. Understanding the situation at all facilities improves the oversight and management of multiple systems from a single control point.

IoT (Early Fire Detection' systems are less expensive to install and maintain than traditional detection systems. As the EFD application resides in the cloud, there is no need for a dedicated facility computer server. Users access the EFD system anywhere and anytime with any internet-connected device. And with the appropriate credentials, control and alarm settings can be modified remotely to optimize performance.

IoT EFD systems can share dashboards and map views. Sharing a live map view with first responders allows for scene assessment before arriving on-site, saving time and optimising safety. These maps identify the alarm sensor location, monitored area, alarm conditions, facility entry, and exit points.


IR Camera IoT EFD systems do not replace existing detection and response protocols. Instead, the system functions as an early warning system – detecting areas in the facility where ignition may occur. Because IoT EFD systems leverage cloud computing, they require less hardware with a reduced installation burden. By warning earlier on the pathway to ignition, managers of facilities that store laundry can avert costly and potentially life-threatening fires before they are permitted to start and spread.

David C Bursell is passionate about imaging technologies and solutions. For over 23 years, he has been extensively involved with infrared imaging science. He has worked for imaging companies, including Inframetrics, FLIR Systems, and MoviTHERM, where he is currently the vice president of business development. His education includes a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Boston University.