Researcher says Oura 'smart ring' can accurately predict COVID-19 symptoms days before you feel sick

Sands Corp. invests in 'smart rings' for employees
Posted at 1:08 PM, Jun 30, 2020

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — How do you stop the spread of the novel coronavirus when, on average, it takes a person 5 days to feel any symptoms? And during that incubation period, that person can still spread the virus to others around them.

That is the dilemma facing business owners around the world.

The NBA recently made national headlines when the league announced all of its players will have the option to wear a smart-tech ring when the season resumes in Orlando, Florida, in July.

Oura, the company that makes the "smart ring," claims the rings can detect COVID-19 symptoms days before you feel sick.

It's not just the NBA investing big money in the Oura smart rings.

The Las Vegas Sands Corporation reportedly just bought 1,000 of these rings as part of a pilot program to monitor employees at the Venetian and Palazzo for early onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

13 Action News recently spoke to one of only two researchers currently studying these smart rings to find out whether they can deliver on such a big promise.

"It’s a decision-making tool, in addition to wearing masks and the social space distancing and washing your hands," said Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University.

Oura, the Finnish company responsible for the "smart ring," originally intended to use it to track and improve people's sleep patterns by monitoring health metrics like their heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature.

"Several days before the onset of any symptoms, your sleep patterns are disrupted. That’s very important," said Dr. Rezai.

After months of research, he has concluded these rings can be used to detect COVID-19 symptoms, like fever, up to 3 days before someone ever feels sick.

"Also, we are able to tell you if you’re going to have symptoms of fatigue, headaches, or muscle pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, the constellation of symptoms that are associated with COVID-19," said Dr. Rezai.

Dr. Rezai's research team at West Virginia University has been studying smart technology worn by hundreds of front line health care workers. While the ring alone doesn't diagnose COVID-19, Dr. Rezai says the data it collects, combined with an app and artificial intelligence he's helped develop, allows them to precisely predict the early onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

"We can tell you today with 95%+ confidence what your temperature will be 3 days from now. You will probably be less likely to go out, interact with friends or family, or those over 60 years of age, or those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer or other conditions that predispose you to getting really sick from COVID-19 and you want to stay home," said Dr. Rezai.

But with the ring's benefits come questions about data privacy.

Some NBA players have pushed back on wearing one for fear that the data it collects could be used against them at the negotiating table.

The NBA says the rings are optional and for medical purposes only, but Dr. Rezai says it's a healthy fear to have.

"You need to know what your data will be used for because you own your data. The question is, do you want to give permission for your data to be used by others," said Dr. Rezai.

Las Vegas Sands Corporation has released a statement saying they cannot access or track employees' personal information.

But Dr. Rezai says before you say yes to the ring, you should know what you're signing up for. Even if it is the price to pay to get back some sense of normalcy.

"Individuals need to know, 'Hey, I’m giving my heart rate, my temperature, and other biometrics is being given up for a specific purpose and that purpose needs to be very clearly outlined by employers or whoever is using this technology.' That’s mission critical," said Dr. Rezai.

Right now, you can buy an Oura "smart ring" by itself for about $300, but Dr. Rezai says it still needs to undergo a lot more testing and validating along with the app and the artificial intelligence before making it widely available to the public.

He's hoping that can happen sometime this fall.