This Ring Can Detect COVID-19

Discreet sleep and fitness tracker is now shown to predict oncoming illness

A sleek, silver ring housing computer board style sensors on the inside band.
A sleek, silver ring housing computer board style sensors on the inside band.
The Oura ring — Balance style

It looks like a wedding ring, but this beauty actually tracks your sleep and activity levels. As a longtime Fitbit user, I’m not sure how I’d adapt to donning such a device on my finger. Then again, if it can detect COVID-19, it might be worth dropping three hundred bucks.

The Oura smart ring is a gorgeous piece of tech. Originally designed to provide a picture of one’s overall health, the titanium ring measures movement, sleep, and other functions.

Now, the NBA is hooking up all its players and staff with one.

How the smart ring works

The inner surface of the Oura ring has three sensors:

  • an infrared sensor for respiration and heart rate
  • a negative temperature coefficient for measuring skin temperature
  • a 3D accelerometer to track movement.

The ring tests the wearer’s resting heart rate and direct skin temperature while sleeping. One of the few wearables that measure skin temperature, the Oura does this at night when our skin temperature is most closely associated with our internal body temperature.

After establishing a personal baseline, we can see fluctuations over time. As the Oura continues to test, we don’t see actual body temperature. Instead, the app displays temperature comparative to the baseline.

A graph showing the ups and downs of data.
A graph showing the ups and downs of data.
How the Oura app presents variations in body temperature

The Oura app presents an overall readiness score, which is what most of its users rely upon.

Users noticed an interesting trend

Users started seeing the Oura app’s health score could indicate oncoming illness. In a CNBC Squawk Box interview, Oura CEO Harpreet Rai said a Finnish user traveling in early March grew concerned after his overall numbers dropped.

“His scores were normally in the 80s or 90s and he noticed his readiness score dropped to 50 and that caused him to get tested. He was positive for coronavirus.”

A study to confirm digital PPE could work

In early April, West Virginia University (WVU) Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI), WVU Medicine, and Oura Health announced a national study designed to accelerate early detection of the COVID-19 virus symptoms and contagiousness. Connecting the smart ring to a COVID-19 monitoring app, they sought to develop a digital approach to personal protective equipment (PPE).

The initial goal was to see if the tools could identify infected frontline healthcare workers before they exhibited symptoms.

According to RNI, the approach measures the onset of increased body temperature, stress, and anxiety. By tracking the mind-body connection, one could forecast and predict the onset of cough, fever, fatigue, and other symptoms of viral infections.

Initially, the group sent Oura rings and the COVID-19 monitoring app to West Virginian physicians and other frontline workers. These were primarily people stationed in ERs, ICUs, urgent care offices, and testing sites.

According to Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair of RNI, the closed-loop system measures the human body’s autonomic nervous system, circadian rhythms, anxiety, fatigue, resilience, and recovery functions.

In early April, the symptoms were predicted about 24 hours before showing. Today, AI-driven devices produce warnings up to three days in advance.

Fitness tracker meets medical device

Oura is not the only company offering wearable body temp readers. Many low-end smartwatches from China boast sensors for temperature, like this moreFit one. However, reading from the wrist is not as accurate as taking consistent measurements from the finger.

The ECG-Guard adheres to the chest. It measures body temp, heart rate, stress, and posture.

Gaugewear is working on an enhanced chest-worn option.

Some sensors can be attached to existing devices. These adhere to watches, bracelets, and other wearables and serve one purpose: reading skin temperature.

Of course, measuring skin temperature rather than taking your internal body temperature is not 100% foolproof. Of all the current devices available, the Oura ring seems to be the most accurate.

With a $299 price tag, the Oura ring ranks among the more expensive activity trackers. The sleek and discreet design, though, makes it more appropriate to wear in professional environments.

Screenshots of the app’s sleep and readiness scores.
Screenshots of the app’s sleep and readiness scores.
User’s rely on Oura’s sleep and readiness scores to determine well-being

The NBA adopts Oura Health technology

With ever-growing concerns about the NBA season and its players, the league hard ordered more than 1,000 Oura rings for its players and staff.

According to a health and safety memo, the NBA plans to provide players with the Oura ring, a pulse oximeter, and a smart thermometer. Those who take the offer agree to have their data studied by the University of Michigan.

The NBA is also researching the possibility of a wearable alarm, so players and staff maintain social distancing.

No replacement for the doc

While the Oura smart ring is no substitute for visiting a doctor, the technology could help asymptomatic recognize oncoming issues earlier. As of now, researchers say the ring can recognize COVID-19 symptoms up to three days before they hit. The accuracy is reportedly 90%.

Oura app results shouldn’t be viewed as a means to determine you don’t have the coronavirus, but rather serve as an alarm that you should get tested.

Written by

Avid writer, marketer & business consultant. // Reward yourself a little every day. 🆆🅾🆁🅺 + 🅻🅸🅵🅴 🅱🅰🅻🅰🅽🅲🅴

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