Flir continues to explore consumer tech sector

Company hopes its spy-based technology goes mainstream.

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Wilsonville-based Flir Systems is aiming to diversify its business by expanding into the world of consumer electronics to augment its business as a defense contractor.

Part of that expansion includes a thermal imaging smartphone attachment. Flir is hoping its new technology is used by hunters, amateur auto-repairmen among others.

But the company has an uphill marketing battle, reports.

“There’s definitely a significant opportunity for the company,” said Jonathan Ho, an equity research analyst who follows Flir for William Blair and Company. Consumer or commercial products could open up new markets for Flir, Ho said, but the company has work to do to give the technology popular appeal. “Today it’s a little bit of a cool gimmick,” he said, “but there hasn’t been a true use case.”

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In 2014, the company brought in $1.53 billion in revenue, but wants to continue expanding in the current bull market.

Plenty of companies stumble with this kind of transition, clinging to old products as new technologies remake an industry. Photocopiers, film cameras, newspapers – perhaps even the PC – were technological marvels displaced by new concepts.  Flir did its share of soul searching before making the shift, according to Travis Merrill, Flir’s chief marketing officer. The company hired him away from Samsung last year to lead its consumer push: “There was a lot of debate about that,” Merrill said. “You’re pushing the cost boundary down, and that can be frightening for a company that’s in a leading position with high ASPs (average selling prices.)”

One of the most-widely reported concerns during the unrolling of their thermal imaging software was that it would enable thieves to steal ATM PINs en masse.

As Flir One has been on the market for nine months, reports that PIN thieving has not seen a spike.

The reason may be that thieves need more than your PIN to steal money. They also need the number on your ATM card. And the trick doesn’t work on the metal keypads commonly found on outdoor ATMs, because those metal buttons reflect heat.

Still concerned? After typing in your PIN, gently rest your palm across the keypad. That will cloud the thermal image and make it unreadable to any thief looking to steal your heat.

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