While Apple, Fitbit and Xiaomi have ensured that smartwatches and fitness trackers create the most buzz in the wearable tech space, smart jewellery is quietly building up a solid following by offering a more fashionable and discreet alternative for both women and men.
Due to their small size, smart rings in particular are tricky AF to get right. And many startups are running into legal or financial trouble too.
We've trawled the world of wearables to seek out the most interesting smart rings - the good, the bad and the very, very ugly…
This new iPhone-compatible smart ring, Motiv, turned heads earlier this year and it's not hard to see why. It's sleek, just 8mm wide and comes in rose gold or slate grey finishes of titanium. Plus, there are seven sizes to fit both male and female fingers.
Inside it's a fitness tracker that will monitor steps, distance, active minutes and so on as well as heart rate thanks to an optical heart rate monitor. The battery will last five days and it's even waterproof to 50m. Look out for a review soon.
This sleep tracking and analysing smart ring raised a ton of money on Kickstarter and actually shipped to backers. Some users have reported woes with things like connectivity but there's a lot here to like.
The app uses data on how well you've slept and does something useful with it - Oura provides you with a readiness score for the day. Plus, it makes personalised suggestions and can show you trends over time. It comes in three colours and ring sizes 6 - 13. We're testing the Oura Ring at the moment so look out for the review very soon.
Read this: We speak to Oura Ring CEO Petteri Lahtela
From €329, ouraring.com
NFC Ring 2016
The second-gen NFC ring, crowdfunded on Kickstarter, can be used to unlock phones and doors, transfer information and link people.
The ring packs two NFC tag inlays - one for public information and one for more sensitive stuff. The private tag - for things such as your smart door lock and payment information - sits on the inner part of the ring closest to the palm, so that it requires a deliberate gesture to use. The public portion, for stuff you want to give out, like your email address, sits on the top side of your finger.
Waterproof to 50m, the ring comes in a range of subtle designs including ceramic coated in gloss black. So there's something to suit both men and women. And the best news? It never needs charging.
Ringly is widely regarded as the leader in the smart jewellery arena. This is largely due to the fact that the ring looks like an actual piece of jewellery that we'd wear - there are no obvious visual clues marking it out as a gadget.
Wisely, Ringly has kept it simple, with no screen, just subtle notifications from your smartphone, allowing you to choose what comes through - whether that's emails, texts, social updates or reminders from health or parenting apps. Plus you can even choose just to hear from certain people.
The company is also currently working on its new Aries smart bracelets, as well as its affordable GO collection, which offer fitness tracking features too.
From $165, ringly.com
ORII Smart Ring
We've got high hopes for ORII which raised over $300k on Kickstarter earlier this year. Its particular secret agent trick is that it lets you take calls by holding your finger to your ear, something we've seen on smartwatch straps before but which makes even more sense as a smart ring form factor.
It's available in matte black, sandblasted silver, metallic dark grey and armor red finishes and features including getting voice read-outs of text messages and notifications, hearable-style without the earbud permanently in your ear.
Hong Kong startup Origami Labs is looking to ship the ORII in February 2018 and pre-orders are still open.
We've seen a few panic button rings on crowdfund sites lately but Nimb managed to raise a decent $237,000 on a $50,000 target so it seemed like a sure thing. The idea is that it tracks your location and is able to send an alert to friends, families and emergency services when you want to put out a distress signal.
A hidden recording feature can also capture audio which could be helpful and it's available in black and white, for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. After quite a few delays it is now due to start shipping to 1,918 backers at the end of October 2017. One big problem - a lot of backers are unhappy that Nimb has introduced a paid subscription to alert special workers as calls to emergency services can't be automated. There's talk of refunds. We'll keep an eye on this one.
We quite liked the idea behind Loop, a $75 'silent guardian', safety focused smart ring that hit Kickstarter in early May. But alas the project was cancelled by the end of that month. The costume ring hides a panic button sends a text message to a friend or family member with a map of your location. Sure it's oversized and a bit garish but the price was spot on, smart jewellery needs to become more affordable. We'll update this story if Loop reappears.
Kerv, the Kickstarted NFC contactless payment ring safely passed its campaign target last year but the product seems to have run into trouble. Its Kickstarter page still reads: "Kerv - the world's first contactless payment ring is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable."
Available in seven colours, the simple and affordable piece of smart jewellery - for men and women - was designed to allow you to make payments, validate you on public transport and unlock smart locks. There are no alerts or fitness tracking - Kerv is focused on just a few key features - payments and ID.
Initially we thought this could be the device to achieve what the bPay range has so far failed to do - bring wearables into contactless payments in an intuitive and accessible way. But we'll have to check back in with Kerv's legal woes.
This modular smart stone can be worn as a bracelet, pendant or a large but stylish smart ring. It buzzes when your phone gets alerts from priority contacts and messages with special key words in them, letting you get on with the rest of your day without being bothered by news or any other notifications that you don't care about.
Our Altruis smart jewellery review said: "It might essentially have 'just' one function but what it can offer - peace of mind while still staying hooked up to the internet - is arguably much more likely to improve your life than say, ten questionable smartwatch features."
So why is it in the bad column? Because Vinaya, the startup behind Altruis, has
gone into administration. Oh dear. We've contacted Vinaya to find out more information and will update this if and when it bounces back.
Anyone who backed BioRing's Indiegogo campaign was due to get this fitness-tracker-in-a-ring in November 2016. Not only did it promise to measure steps, distance, sleep and heart rate, the BioRing's bioimpedance sensor aimed to track how many calories you've consumed too. That apparently included a macro-nutrient breakdown of your food on top of other extras like keeping tabs on your stress levels. This one is not happening.
From $189, indiegogo.com
The Smarty Ring made some pretty big claims, basically aiming to pack all the technology you'd expect in a smartwatch into a ring. We're annoyed on behalf of backers though as its over two years late. The last update was six months ago.
Backers were promised version 2 of the device back in October 2016. A tiny screen shows notifications from your smartphone (which now scroll) as well as allowing you to make outgoing calls to preset numbers, control music and even trigger the camera. It also functions as a digital watch, charges wirelessly and looks fairly stylish from the pics.
The most simply named smart ring possible got less than favourable reviews on its release – in fact it was dubbed one of the ' worst wearables in history'. We think that's a little unfair - we've seen worse.
Crowdfunded on Kickstarter by makers Logbar, the Ring uses gesture controls to perform numerous useful tasks like controlling your smart home gadgets to some not-so-useful ones, like controlling your smartphone (when it's right in front of you). Manufacturing and testing delays followed by a less-than-perfect product meant that backers weren't happy with the final product but we have to admire the ambition of the makers who have since built a wearable translation device named ili.
Moodmetric pairs with a smartphone app to, according to the makers, give you instant feedback on your mood and emotion levels by measuring your electrodermal activity (EDA). The palm side of your finger is the optimal place for a reading, so if the ring rotates on your finger (as all rings do), you won't get an accurate measurement.
Created by one of Scandinavia's top jewellery designers, the ring looks pretty good though the clearly visible micro USB port on the side does spoilt the aesthetic somewhat.
Imagine one of those jewel-encrusted 'class rings' that university graduates wear in the US. Supersize it. Now add a built-in rape alarm. You've just imagined the Siren.
Twisting the top of the ring 60 degrees to the left will activate an "unbearably loud alarm" designed to deter any would-be attackers. To manually turn off the alarm after (hopefully) thwarting a physical attack, you must carry out a baffling combination of 6.5 rotations of the ring.
While we genuinely applaud the idea behind this invention - to keep ladies safe in potentially dangerous situations - we can't say we're keen on the design or the practicality of having an attacker alarm built into a ring this size.
This bad boy has been around for a few years and was designed to offer a smaller, more convenient alternative to the chest strap-based heart rate monitor. And it's not just a heart rate tracker. No, sir. This retro smart watch also boasts a clock and a stopwatch.
We have a soft spot for the clunky, retro design, but it appears to be entirely impractical. And who wants to exercise while wearing a giant comedy ring? No one, that's who.
This gesture control ring is designed for multiple uses including gaming and controlling your smart home - apparently it works with all LG smart TVs built from 2012 onwards.
The waterproof housing is home to two CPUs and because the software is open source, it's open for developers to come up with applications for all sorts of platforms including iOS, Android and Oculus with suggested uses including virtual reality gaming and the piloting of drones. (The startup seems to have transformed itself into a VR controller company of late).
The technology is impressive, but the plasticky design isn't ideal. There's just no getting around the fact that Nod looks like a cock ring.
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