How a smart ring may help detect early COVID-19 symptoms

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Wearing a smart watch or fitness tracker helps many of us keep an eye on our activity levels, heart rate and sleep. Now, a new study from the University of California, San Francisco, is using a smart ring called Oura to determine whether data such as body temperature, along with as a daily symptom survey, may be able to detect the early onset of COVID-19.

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The goal of the three-month study is to develop an algorithm that can predict illness symptoms. Potentially, this algorithm could be applied to other wearable devices. “It may be the case that different wearables would benefit from different algorithms, but we don’t know what the primary variables are in the algorithm yet,” says Dr. Ashley Mason, the lead researcher for the study.

Early detection of COVID-19 symptoms means that ring wearers would be able to get treatment and isolate themselves, which is especially important for healthcare workers on the front line that may be in contact with the novel coronavirus.


The Oura ring has a number of different sensors, including infrared LEDs, an accelerometer, gyroscope and three temperature sensors.


The ring is able to track vitals such as heart rate and respiration rate from a finger. What makes it different from many other wearables is that it can also take body temperature readings through the day and night, then average that down to the minute. “If you compare those averages it actually ends up being a passive way, and we believe may be a more informative way, to track changes in your in your health,” says Oura CEO Harpreet Rai.

Oura users around the world are also invited to take part in the study by opting-in then completing daily surveys to document any symptoms such as a cough or fever. Oura is sponsoring the study and providing 2,000 rings to the frontline UCSF health care workers.

For more on the study, watch the video on this page.

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