Updated: May 27
Crazy for Oura Rings? The Oura Smart Ring is the most recent addition to a wave of wearables powered by the Internet of Things (IoT). Attractive and sleek, the ring has rapidly gained popularity, but does it really work?
"Any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic.” —Arthur C. Clarke
In 2019, Oura Technologies introduced its smart ring, which now stands at the pinnacle of minimalist fashion and wearable technology. It’s chic, it’s comfortable, and it talks to your computer like nothing else. First, there was the “One Ring to Rule them All” (Lord of the Rings Reference). Then, there was the Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring. Next, we were introduced to the highly popular mood ring. Coming full circle, we now marvel at the Oura Smart Ring, designed to collect accurate health data from your finger and relay it to your smart phone or computer.
Oura: A Fast-Growing Technology Company
Founded in Finland in 2013, Oura Technologies set out to revolutionize the health technology landscape. About seven years later, in 2020, Oura announced $28M in Series B funding enabling 150,000-plus lifetime smart ring sales. According to this press release from MobiHealthNews, the wearables company also announced that Dr. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and a well-published sleep researcher, had joined Oura as a chief science advisor.
The Finnish company has seen support from a diverse group of investors over its lifetime. Its previous fund-raises have included the likes of tech leaders such a YouTube cofounder Steve Chen and Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin, as well as celebrity athletes like Shaquille O'Neil, Lance Armstrong, Manu Ginobili and Nick Foles.
A Quick Look at the Features and Benefits of an Oura Ring
So, how does the Oura Ring work? Let’s dive in.
Pulse - By sensing the arteries in the finger, The Oura Ring tracks the wearer’s pulse.
Temperature - Using infrared sensor technology, it tracks the wearer’s body temperature.
Respiratory Rate - Using a technology called “heart rate variability,” (HRV) the Oura Ring can even calculate one’s respiratory rate.
The Oura Ring’s ultra-sensitive accelerometer tracks activity throughout the day, whether you’re being a couch potato or working out.
By integrating with other technologies, Oura Ring’s app, which is available for IOS or Android platforms, can help track and visualize a wearer’s sleep cycles. Even household chores are now part of your daily activity log. Petting the cat burns calories? Who knew!
According to Oura CEO, Harpreet Singh Rai, "Improving your sleep is the first step in spurring better habits and ultimately preventing avoidable health issues. We’ll continue to apply data and insights to understand larger, sweeping trends and preventative care as we elevate human health. Now, especially during these tough times, and well into the future.”
As normal sleep progresses throughout the night, we go through various stages. REM, or Rapid Eye Movements, indicates dreaming sleep. From there, the body gradually slips deeper into four stages of deep sleep. Then, like a diver surfacing from deep water, the body gradually reverses these stages, often engaging in more REM sleep as waking approaches. By tracking the wearer’s sleep, the Oura Smart Ring moves ahead of the competition, and gives the wearer a jump on the coming day.
Getting to the Point: Why People Love Oura Rings
Designed to be worn continuously, even while swimming, the Oura Ring is waterproof and durable. In addition, it boasts a battery life of between five-to-seven days, and charges wirelessly via Bluetooth. With the full gambit of emergent devices connected within IoT, The Oura Smart Ring is a variable powerhouse.
In keeping with the cutting edge of wearable fashion, Oura offers the Smart Ring in a range of colors and designs. A perspective wearer can choose from black, silver or gold designs, fit to any size a standard ring can be made.
For those health-conscious lovebirds among us, Oura also offers a special diamond engagement or wedding Smart Ring - how romantic is that?
Fortunately, for privacy-conscious consumers, Oura repeatedly asserts that the data gathered by the Smart Ring is private and confidential; hopefully this goes a long way toward alleviating the concerns that one’s spouse or fiancé may be checking up on their paramour’s habits…
Are Oura Rings expensive?
Prices of the Oura Smart Ring are comparable to that of the Apple Watch, or the FitBit. A Smart Ring can be purchased, with a little shopping around, for roughly $200, however, prices may range up to $800, depending on color and style that is selected.
When it comes to durability and material quality, Oura assures its customers that the base structure of the ring is made from durable titanium. However, Oura does caution that, like any ring, the Smart Ring may scratch or fade, or become damaged due to wear.
It should be noted that the diamond engagement or wedding models of the Smart Ring retail for approximately $3600. But, having read that a typical wedding ring goes for a year’s salary, this is still a good deal - and it does so much more than just look good!
How Oura Rings Reshape Health Data Tracking
In comparison with conventional medical data-gathering procedures, such as EEG and ECG, oximetry, pulse and blood pressure monitors, Oura claims that the accuracy of the Smart Ring is above ninety-eight percent. The reason that a comparison to an EEG tracing is included is the Smart Ring’s ability to provide data about sleep cycles. Such data has, until now, been gathered exclusively by EEG.
The sum total of the Smart Ring’s data collection techniques is apparent in the app’s ability to chart your overall daily health patterns.Tracking is divided into three key areas:
In other pieces, we have covered plenty of apps that help users practice self-compassion and track their progress on a daily basis. When it comes to the Oura Ring, the smart app offers more accurate health data, with less need for oversight from the wearer. The Oura Ring is known to learn quickly, and offers more insightful suggestions as to how to improve one’s performance.
Most immediately, with greater access to their own biometrics, and with intelligent feedback from the app, users can take proactive steps to improve their health, both physical and mental. For example, if your heart rate is too high, and respirations too rapid, it may be time to take a break and practice mindful breathing, anxiety management, and relaxation techniques. You can actually see your measurements come back into the normal zone, just by watching the screen of your phone.
Additionally, Oura claims that the Smart Ring can predict the onset of Covid-19, even before the first symptoms are noticed. By highlighting spikes in temperature and pulse, and changes in sleep habits, the Oura Ring can alert a wearer that getting tested for Covid might be a good idea.
In a 2019 piece of thought leadership, Adam Kershner discussed the implications of decentralized data collection within clinical trials of new medical procedures, drugs and devices. With the rise of personal health tracking devices such as the Oura Smart Ring, clinical trials of drugs and treatments can be more easily carried out. Their data will be more accurate and wide-ranging. With better data comes more rapid advances in medicine.
Conversely, with decentralized data collection, and the use of electronic medical record-keeping, accessible from the Internet, comes the increased risk of misuse of that data.
To Rule Them All...
Of course, after mentioning so many positives about the Oura Ring, one must touch on the more sinister potential for misuse of this data, which is ever present. Anyone who has had the experience of witnessing their phone being “remoted,” watching mail and financial apps open and close, seemingly of their own accord, can imagine what might happen if the Smart Ring’s intensive and accurate biometric data fell into the wrong… fingers. It may not only be Santa Claus who knows when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake. It may be home invaders.
The Bottom Line
The progress of machine evolution is no more dramatically highlighted than by witnessing the introduction of wearable technology into the common market. It wasn’t very long ago that we laughed at the “shoe phone” on the TV show, Get Smart, or scoffed at science fiction books and movies, which featured videophones and smart watches. Now, however, these types of devices are everywhere. Thank goodness for Moore’s Law!
Rapid advances in electronics and coding have enabled us to make strides toward “talking” devices, almost overnight. Bulky computers shrank with each generation and became exponentially more powerful. Introducing the smart phone in the early 21st century, IoT has become more than just hypothetical. The Apple Watch and FitBit were among the first movies in IoT wearable devices. Now, we have the Oura Ring.
How will the future of wearable devices look? Will we see everyone wearing a smart gadget that constantly exchanges data about them with other devices? If you are as curious as I am, we need to continue to stay ahead of the latest trends and be at the forefront of new technologies.
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About the Author
I care about working with leaders that seek to make an equitable and positive impact in the technology and healthcare spaces, and I enjoy educating others about different perspectives when it comes to innovation.
My eclectic style comes from not only a classical education in English from Dartmouth College, but a lifelong love of science fiction, a career as a punk rock musician, and diverse hobbies, such as martial arts and wilderness survival. I currently live in northern Colorado with my wife and our cat and dog—commonly referred to as “the Pack.”