Smart rings have been in development for years. But only recently have a number of brands emerged that have created smart rings
that look good, feel good and pack useful tech into such a tiny form factor.
Put simply, a smart ring is a ring that’s got some kind of tech built into it, whether that’s an NFC chip or sensors, like an optical heart
rate monitor or accelerometer.
Most of them can also sync up to your smartphone via Bluetooth, enabling you to find out more about the data they’re collecting.
However, just because a device is called a smart ring doesn’t mean it’s necessarily packed with tech. A number of different smart rings
are currently on the market.
Some smart rings track your sleep, activity, pulse rate and more, costing £270 ($352 / £497AUD) and beyond. Others have only an
NFC chip on-board to unlock things and will only set you back £9.99 ($13 / $18AUD).
The subtle design of the Motiv Ring means you can wear it 24/7. (Image Credit: Motiv Ring)
Those that have been interested in wearable tech for some time will know that smart rings aren’t new, far from it. Over the past ten
years, a number of companies and startups have emerged claiming to be creating smart rings that’ll revolutionize the way we work
However, many of those came up against funding issues, design problems and tech challenges. At one point it felt like no companies
would be able to create a smart ring with useful tech inside it that also looked good, felt comfortable and didn’t cost lots.
But over the past few years, a number of brands have proven smart rings aren’t only possible, but they might give smartwatches and
other wrist-bound wearables a run for their money in the future.
Let’s take a look at how smart rings are made, why they’re great and not-so-great, and which models we think you should try if you’re
ready to put a ring on it, so to speak.
How does smart ring tech work?
Rewind to the earlier days of wearable technology and smart rings were considered just as exciting, and potentially life-changing, as
smartwatches. A number of startups claimed to be making the ultimate smart ring, including Fin, Altruis, Smarty Ring, Nod, Mota’s
Smart Ring and many more.
A lot of these startups even secured funding and began creating smart ring prototypes. But fast-forward to the present day and there
are more stories of failure than success. Many of the companies behind these bold ideas ran into a number of issues, including legal
Not all smart rings track what you do – some just want to open a few doors. (Image credit: NFC Ring)
But financial problems and legal challenges aside, it’s not hard to figure out why many smart rings never materialized: they’re difficult
Packing sensors, an NFC chip, Bluetooth capabilities, a battery and more into a small space that also looks and feels great is bound to
lead to technical problems and a lot of compromises.
In recent years tech has advanced to a point where ticking those boxes has proved to be possible. For the purpose of breaking down
the construction of a smart ring, let’s take a look at the Oura Ring.
It consists of four different sensors, an infrared optical pulse measurement to read your pulse, a 3D accelerometer to detect
movement, a gyroscope to detect movement and balance and a body temperature sensor.
It also has a battery on-board and a microcontroller. That tech is fitted between a titanium and diamond-like carbon coating (DLC) on
the outside and a non-allergenic, non-metallic, seamless molding on the inside.
It may look small, but the Oura Ring is packed with sensors, a battery and finished with a titanium and diamond-like carbon coating. (Image credit: Oura Ring)
But not all smart rings are packed full of so much tech. The new OPN Ring from NFC Ring is made from hypoallergenic ceramic and
contains an antenna and NFC chip, which can be used to unlock devices and digital door locks.
As well as a lot of considerations going into the tech inside a smart ring, such a small form factor requires a lot of extra work when it
comes to design.
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to smart rings that are less of a concern with other wearables, the main being
sizing. When you buy a tracker from Fitbit or Garmin there are options to tighten straps, switch them out or buy your own. With a smart
ring, things aren’t so simple.
Not everyone’s fingers are the same size and once you’ve got a smart ring, you can’t adjust it yourself. The only option is to provide
wannabe users with a sizing kit before they buy. This may sound annoying, but the experience we’ve had with both the Motiv and
Oura sizing kits has been simple.
You order a kit, try on a selection of plastic rings in different sizes and then go to the respective website and fill in the details. The key
here is to wear the plastic demo rings for a day at a time because your fingers tend to swell throughout the day. It’s also important to
try the ring on multiple fingers. Some people prefer to wear a smart ring on their middle finger or ring finger, whereas some people find
they can only wear a smart ring on their index finger.
Receiving a sizing kit before you make a purchase does add friction to the buying process. But it’s a necessary evil to make sure you
get the right one, it works over time and you’re selecting it for the right finger.
Why are smart rings good?
It’s difficult to say why smart rings as a whole category are worthwhile because the different rings available right now do such different
Some brands have really got it right when it comes to tracking. Both Motiv and Oura have created slim rings packed with sensors that
don’t feel like pieces of technology but are able to track most of the same metrics as a device like the Fitbit Versa.
Both Motiv and Oura shout about their sleep tracking smarts. They both do a great job and it’s really good to be able to wear a ring to
track sleep. Most other sleep tracking devices need to be worn around your wrist and even the most comfortable of trackers can get
annoying at night.