Could this Smart Ring Detect Early-Onset COVID-19 Symptoms?

The benefits of smart-watches and fitness trackers are well documented. The light-weight wearable tech helps us keep an eye on our activity levels, sleeping patterns and heart rate. But the technology may soon serve a far greater purpose. A new study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is trialling a smart ring called Oura as a potential COVID-19 detector.

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Oura Ring 2

The Oura smart ring already gathers data such as body temperature to measure the wearer’s overall health, however, scientists are suggesting that, along with a daily symptom survey, the Oura could determine if the wearer has early-onset COVID-19. While the validity of the Oura is yet to be confirmed the University will conduct a three-month study involving more than 2,000 health care workers. “The study aims to build an algorithm to help UCSF identify patterns of onset, progression, and recovery, for COVID-19,” Oura said in a statement.

Before we herald the Oura as a full-blown COVID-19 identifier, it bears reminding that Oura rings are not medical devices, and are not intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, cure or diagnose any disease or condition. But that hasn’t stopped support from pouring in. An Oura user in Finland claimed the ring alerted him to his elevated body temperature. Despite feeling no symptoms at all, Petri Hollmén contacted authorities and got tested, revealing that while asymptomatic, he had indeed contracted COVID-19. Hollmén’s claims aren’t fully substantiated, but it has been enough to swell support for the Oura UCSF study.

Oura Ring 2

The initial trial will see doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who are in daily contact with potential COVID-19 patients receive an Oura smart ring. “By letting healthcare workers easily track changes in their body temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate, they may be better equipped to understand early warning signs of infection within the group and to take necessary actions to better coordinate this unprecedented push to fight COVID-19,” Oura said.

Following the medical trial, Oura and the UCSF will open up the testing to the general public, with wearing undertaking daily symptom surveys. “Researchers will use this information as they attempt to identify patterns that could predict onset, progression, and recovery in future cases of COVID-19. If this approach is successful, it could open the door for research into tracking and managing other illnesses and conditions,” Oura said.

Could wearable tech be the new armour in the fight against COVID-19? Only time will tell.

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