Are smart rings the future of wearable tech?

As a new virus, COVID-19 is throwing off medical experts around the world. But, as time goes on, it’s clear that our bodies know we have the virus well before we experience any symptoms. Could smart rings—the wearable devices we typically use to track our sleep, time-management skills, and exercise—help healthcare workers detect symptoms earlier? And, does this mean smart rings could be the future of wearable tech?

Are smart rings the future of wearable tech?
Motiv Smart Ring Sizing Set in Use

We’re learning more about the COVID-19 virus every day. For instance, we know that asymptomatic carriers can spread it unknowingly and widely. And that people who have the virus can experience silent hypoxia, or extremely low levels of oxygen for days without shortness of breath. Could wearable tech help us get a handle on what we can’t see or feel? Oura, a company that produces smart rings, thinks so. And, as a whole, the smart ring sector seems poised to be the future of wearable tech.

OURA Smart Ring Design

OURA Smart Ring Design

Smart rings may detect COVID-19

According to Engadget, Oura has joined forces with West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute in an attempt to detect the spread of COVID-19 among medical staff. By equipping wearables with AI prediction models, researchers found they could accurately predict fevers, coughs, and fatigue 24 hours before a wearer displayed those symptoms. The hope is that a smart ring with these capabilities could increase the lead time of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis to three days or more. This could help limit the asymptomatic spread of the virus to patients, family members, the public, and other healthcare workers.

Additionally, the scientists want to use Oura’s biometric sensors “to measure increased body temperature, as well as psychologically driven changes induced by stress and anxiety.” The researchers also worked with Oura’s technology when studying chronic pain, addiction, aging, and more.

OURA Activity Tracker

OURA Activity Tracker

Finally, the University of California San Francisco is also carrying out studies that use Oura rings and an algorithm to track the vitals of emergency medical workers.

Smart rings offer a comfortable design

The most common forms of wearable tech are smartwatches and wristband or strap-style fitness trackers. Engadget speculates, “The simplicity of wearables could help alert healthcare workers to subtle signs of infection, allowing them to more quickly make the decision to self-isolate and help prevent spreading the virus further.” So the brilliance is in the design. We’ve had thermometers, stress monitors, and oximeters for some time. But, nowadays, we can wear those devices—all of the time. And a ring design is especially convenient.

A reviewer for CNBC wrote, “I liked the ring better than wrist-worn devices because it’s so unobtrusive—I didn’t really notice it after a while.” It’s hard to continuously wear something that is bulky and gets bumped around during your day-to-day activities, which is one of the issues wearers often have with wrist wearables. A sleek, easy-to-slip-on ring, however, is something that rarely gets in the way. And if you’re already used to wearing a ring, it won’t make much of a difference to you as you go about your day.

GO2SLEEP Home Sleep Test Device

GO2SLEEP Home Sleep Test Device

You can wear smart jewelry at night

Also, since most smart rings include sensors that track your sleep quality, you’ll need to wear them at night. Again, the ring design is more convenient than a wrist wearable because wearing a ring to sleep is much more comfortable than a bulky, watch. Especially if you sleep with your arm curled under your pillow.

The reviewer for CNBC also mentions that, stylistically, the Oura looks a little strange when you wear it next to other rings, for instance, a wedding ring. Even if you wear it on the other hand. This might be a concern for the device moving forward since appearance is an integral part of a gadget‘s likeability.

Smart rings have a better battery life

Because of their small size, smart rings consume less power than other wearable devices. So, on a typical charge, they can last for three to five days without needing a recharge. Most smartwatches can last only one to two days after a full charging session.

Tech that’s affordable

Best of all, smart rings are affordable. Smartwatches and wristbands can set you back $200 or more. These little dodads, however, can cost as little as eight dollars. Of course, the cheapest versions won’t offer the most comprehensive features. But that’s ok. It always feels good to save a little money when you can.

OURA Smart Ring Design is Fashionable

OURA Smart Ring Design is Fashionable

What can smart rings do?

Digital trends writes that many smart rings are designed as fashion items. They’re fashion accessories that can be a bit helpful. And others assist with a variety of tasks like sending and receiving notifications, managing your smartphone, NFC payments, fitness functionality, and sleep tracking.

Track your sleep

In its original design, the Oura smart ring tracks your sleep. Throughout the day, it monitors your sleep, activity, and readiness. A thermometer measures your body temperature continuously and compares it to your baseline temperature. The ring can also measure blood volume pulse from your fingers. And a 3D accelerometer and gyroscope can track the intensity of your body’s movements during inactive and active periods. Its goal is to show you how your body recovers from stress, fatigue, and exercise. With this data, the Oura presents daily goals to help you balance out activities and get the optimal rest to exercise ratio you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Another smart ring that tracks your sleep is the Go2Sleep ring. It works with an app on your phone to determine whether your blood oxygen saturation is lower than normal. If it is, an alert will cause your ring to vibrate and wake you. You can sync the device with the app via Bluetooth and track your data and that of your family members wherever they are. This is especially useful if you’re taking care of an elderly parent or grandparent.

Manage your world with NFC

Some smart rings make your life easier through NFC. Imagine being able to unlock your front door, pay for groceries, and send an email all with a simple motion of your hand. Wearable notes that the NFC Opn ring has onboard tech that lets you unlock doors and phones and transfer information. This particular ring has a tag for public information and one for more sensitive data, things like your smart door lock and payment information. The sensitive tag is located on the inner part of the ring and thus requires a more deliberate motion to use.

The Lycos Life Ring features two programmable NFC chips that can save and send messages and other data through its Android app. With just a tap, you can send simple messages and share contact information. You can also use it to securely log in to your favorite apps and websites on your phone without a password. The Life Ring is compatible with the Tap2Transfer collaboration feature between Lycos devices.  

Help you stay in shape

Like their wrist-bound cousins, smart rings can also help you stay in shape. One of the most highly rated smart rings, the Motiv Ring, is a fitness tracker. It will monitor steps, distance, and active minutes, as well as your heart rate via an onboard optical heart rate sensor. The gadget is waterproof up to 50 meters, which means you could get caught in a rainstorm during your run, and it’ll be alright. With support for Amazon Alexa, you can check in on your stats.

Another smart ring that will keep you healthy is the Circular Ring. It has everything you need to understand your body and empower yourself to live a healthier life. It monitors your sleep, tracks your activity, and studies your overall wellness. Every day it will give you an overall wellness score so that you will know when you’re at your best or when you need to take it slow.

Get through checkout lines faster

If you’re tired of having to sift through your wallet for your credit card every time you buy something, you’ll want to look into the McLEAR smart ring. Allowing you to pay with your finger, it has the same contactless payment capabilities as cards with microchips. This wearable is compatible with both iOS and Android. It sets up a secure account between your cards and then lets you pay when you close your fist. Also, the ring’s app helps you track your spending habits.

Are smart rings the future of wearable tech?

That remains to be seen. Smart rings certainly offer great benefits when you compare them to smartwatches. They’re more comfortable to wear both night and day, have a longer battery life, and are more cost effective. On the other hand, many of the rings have a bit of an awkward style that might dissuade people from wearing them. However, in terms of health and preventative care, companies like Oura are doing exciting work. It may be that future smart rings will be most useful to hospital personnel and people whose stats need continuous monitoring. This would make smart rings handy items, indeed.

Meet Lauren Wadowsky

Lauren has been writing and editing since 2008. She loves working with text and helping writers find their voice. When she's not typing away at her computer, she cooks and travels with her husband and two daughters.
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