WORCESTER, Mass. - Researchers at WPI are developing an app to turn a smartphone into a thermal imager to detect infected wounds before they become life threatening.

The app will use photographs, heat images, and algorithms to detect infections of patients at home. Visiting nurses and other health workers would be able to quickly identify if a patient needs specialized care for diabetic ulcers, pressure sores, incisions, trauma-related injuries and other wounds.

"In some cases, the surface may look like everything is okay, but under the surface there may be things going on that indicates there is an infection” said WPI professor Emmanuel Agu. “For those hidden cases, some of the new cameras coming out have a thermal camera. The heat distribution on the surface of the wound can be a tip if there is an infection under the surface."

The National Institutes of Health awarded the team more than $2.4 million to develop the app.