This project relies on an affordable MLX90640 thermal camera module that was recently released in the Chinese market and that’s now available through websites like Banggood.com. It has a fairly low resolution — just 32×24 pixels — but it’s relatively inexpensive and comes in a small package. It’s usually populated on a separate board that includes an STM32F103 microcontroller. Communication is handled either directly via I2C to the MLX90640, or through an RS-232 serial interface with the STM32F103 microcontroller.
Walker2000 decided to use the latter option to connect the board to a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The manufacturer of the camera module does provide software to use, but it’s completely in Chinese. For that reason, Walker2000 decided to setup a script that polls the camera and then creates a visualization using OpenCV. The Raspberry Pi runs headless with a VNC server, that way he is able to connect to the server with his smartphone to see the output from the camera. It may not have the resolution of a high-end thermal camera, but at less than $100 to build, it’s much less expensive.