The Oura Ring

The Oura Ring is a tiny device designed to discretely monitor some of your basic health signs. While it looks like a simple metal ring, it’s packed full of microelectronics. The company recently introduced their 3rd generation product, the Oura Ring 3 with more capabilities than ever before. Oura, founded in Finland in 2015, has gotten a lot of attention with tech celebrities such as Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce praising the product.

Within the titanium band are sensors that measure body temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate and heart rate variability, as well as an accelerometer that measures motion and activity. It’s completely waterproof and designed for wearing 24 hrs a day while sleeping, showering, and performing all kinds of activity. It does require charging about once every 5 or 6 days for an hour or so.

The ring is particularly good for monitoring sleep and providing detailed information about your sleep’s composition. It tracks your activities each day, asking you to confirm the type when it detects active motion for an extended period of time. Each morning it tells you about your previous night’s sleep and your level of preparedness for the coming day, using its “Readiness score.”

The Readiness score is made up of eight factors calculated from these measurements, including the previous day’s activity, body temperature, resting heart rate, activity balance, and several more factors.

The accompanying app is required to get access to your data and learn what it all means. The app is well organized, presents the information clearly, and lets you dig down for more details and descriptions. The app is divided into sleep, readiness and activity sections and is more informative than most other health apps or the Apple watch. In my experience, this app provides more context and advice, rather than just giving you a bunch of data.

I hesitated a few months before purchasing it, because I assume I could do much the same with my Apple watch. But after three weeks of use I realized there are some differences, such that both are useful to wear. The watch, even with one of the highly rated sleep apps, also measures sleep in detail, but the ring does a better job in assessing the data and informing me about how prepared I am for the day ahead. The feedback has tended to improve my sleep habits – perhaps subconsciously I’m trying to improve my score. It even tells me a range of time when I should go to bed and when to wake up, based on historical data. It attributes consistency to leading to better preparedness. And because it doesn’t need daily charging like a watch, you’re more likely to be wearing it all of the time, rarely ever taking it off.

The temperature and respiratory monitoring are also used to determine your state of health, noting when the values deviate from your historical trend. But the ring is not an approved medical device, hence the use of a readiness score, rather than attempting to predict the onset of the flu. With that said, the company has also been doing health research with the University of California at San Francisco Hospital, which has published peer-review studies around the ring’s temperature monitoring. That feature, in particular, has created much interest in using temperature spikes to detect the early stages of COVID-19.

[Note July 17 – I got Covid in June that lasted about 10 days, and then got Covid rebound five days after that. Each time Covid began the temperature sensor showed a spike inmy temperature, higher than it ever had – of about 1.5 degrees. Clearly it’s temperature sensor was effective twice in identifying this symptom of Covid.]

The Oura ring costs $299 and is available in three finishes, silver, black and gold. A matte black version is $399. All are made of titanium with an inner surface of clear resin to allow the sensors to peer through. The ring is accompanied by a nicely designed inductive charger. If you’re a Twitter user, search “Oura discount,” and you’ll often find an owner offering to provide one of their discount codes to save $50. (Mine is if you’d like to use.)

The process to purchase the ring requires placing an order, being sent a set of plastic rings to determine your size, then being sent the proper size ring. It took me about 3 weeks from the order to receipt of the ring. It’s recommended you wear it on the first or second finger.

In addition to the cost of the ring, there’s a monthly charge of $5.99/month for access to the app beginning in month seven. The company explains that the app will continually evolve, adding new functionality and insights. It’s likely also related to the company’s need to remain viable and to attract further investment. In November the company raised another $100 million, which they say will go towards more R&D.

by Phil Baker