Smart ring can warn wearers they have Covid before symptoms show, study reveals

‘They can quarantine if they get a text early – it could effectively stop the spread,’ says Oura executive

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 14 December 2020 21:16 GMT
The Oura smart ring contains an array of sensors to track a wearer’s health
The Oura smart ring contains an array of sensors to track a wearer’s health (Oura)
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A smart ring that constantly tracks a wearer’s temperature can detect Covid-19 before outward symptoms show, according to a new study.

Data collected from people wearing the £270 Oura ring accurately identified when a wearer became infected with the coronavirus, even in cases when no infection was suspected.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco and San Diego reported that the smart ring detected subtle symptoms in more than three quarters of participants, who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

“The hope is that people infected with Covid will be able to prepare and isolate sooner, call their doctor sooner, notify any folks they’ve been in contact with sooner, and not spread the virus,” said principal investigator Ashley Mason.

Finnish startup Oura donated 3,400 smart rings for the study, with the researchers focussing on temperature data from 50 of the participants who eventually tested positive.

The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports on Monday, is the first part in a broader observational study that will draw in biometric data from more than 65,000 Oura wearers worldwide who volunteered to participate through the ring’s companion app.

Between 10 and 70 per cent of people who catch Covid-19 are asymptomatic for the first few days after being infected, meaning they do not feel physically unwell.

It is during this time that people are often most infectious, despite not showing any outward signs like a cough or fever. This has allowed the deadly virus to spread at a prolific rate, with more than 70 million confirmed cases around the world.

By detecting these early symptoms before they manifest themselves in a more obvious manner, the makers of the ring claim it could help stop the spread of the virus.

“We’re seeing changes up to three days in advance before the onset of symptoms,” said Oura CFO Mikko Kärkkäinen at a media event in September hosted by Business Finland.

“They can quarantine if they get a text early – it could effectively stop the spread.”

The researchers hope to develop a warning system that will trigger a request for a user to complete a self-collection Covid-19 test when early warning signs show.

Oura partnered with the NBA and UFC earlier this year to help both sporting franchises detect early cases of Covid-19 within the isolation bubbles they have created.

All 65 UFC fighters that were offered a ring accepted one, allowing trainers to also track other metrics like sleep quality, wakefulness, heart and respiratory rates. 

Heavyweight fighter Daniel Cormier revealed in August that data from the ring he was wearing suggested he might have caught Covid-19, despite testing negative a couple of days earlier. When he took the information to his doctor, they retested him and it came back positive.

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