This ambitious smart ring hopes to one day monitor chronic illnesses
The Movano Ring has some lofty medical ambitions, but it’ll need FDA clearance firstBy Victoria Song@vicmsong Dec 27, 2021, 7:00am EST
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The Oura Ring isn’t the only smart ring on the block anymore. For CES 2022, health tech company Movano is announcing the Movano Ring, a wearable that aims to help people affordably monitor chronic illnesses and better understand their data.
The Movano Ring will measure all the basic metrics, including heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep, respiration, temperature, blood oxygen levels, steps, and calories burned. However, instead of a raw data dump, Movano says it’ll distill how your metrics relate to each other “take a more proactive approach to mitigating the risks of chronic disease.” For example, the Movano app might tell you how your exercise habits impact your sleeping patterns or HRV over time.
This isn’t surprising — more wearable makers are shifting away from steps and calories in favor of simplified scores and insights. The Oura Ring, Whoop, and Fitbit all use scores to contextualize sleep and recovery data but mostly focus on telling you whether to push yourself or take it easy on a given day. They’re also accompanied by graphs and lengthy descriptions that can, at times, be overwhelming. Movano says it wants its insights to be more actionable. So far, the app screenshots that Movano showed The Verge don’t show anything groundbreaking, but the way the data is presented is more digestible than many trackers out there.
There are a few other things that help the Movano Ring stand out. For starters, the device itself isn’t hideous and is impressively slim. The emphasis on a sleeker design was a deliberate choice, says Movano CEO Dr. John Mastrototaro, as the device was specifically designed for women of all ages. That’s notable in two ways. First, wearable tech has historically favored traditionally masculine styles and sizes. Smart rings like the Oura Ring and the now-defunct Motiv Ring have also tended to be on the chunkier side. That’s mainly because it’s hard to miniaturize sensors with current technology, but a side-effect is that they’re less suitable for petite hands. A truly slim and sleek smart ring would be a first. Second, only a handful of wearables companies take a women-first approach. Some have tried addressing the issue, but there’s still a huge gender gap in medical data. (Fun fact: it wasn’t until 1993 that Congress mandated women and minorities be included in clinical trials.)
But the big thing is that while most wearable companies sidestep questions about FDA approval, Movano is frank about its medical ambitions. According to Mastrototaro, while the first Movano Ring won’t have FDA clearances, the goal is to eventually get Class II designation and add medical features like non-invasive glucose monitoring and cuffless blood pressure in a “step-by-step” manner over time. To do that, the company is conducting clinical trials for its radio frequency-enabled tech and algorithms, as well as accuracy studies to gain FDA clearance for heart rate, SpO2, and respiratory rate monitoring. Non-invasive glucose monitoring and cuffless blood pressure are holy grails for wearable tech — and big names, including Apple and Fitbit, have been rumored to be working on these features for smartwatches. Bringing them to a smart ring would be an impressive achievement.
That said, consumer wearables promising medical features often end up in regulatory limbo. The Withings ScanWatch made its debut at CES in January 2020, but it wasn’t until November 2021 that it obtained the FDA clearance necessary to hit the US market. Its Move ECG smartwatch was announced even earlier but still has yet to receive clearance. Omron’s HeartGuide blood pressure smartwatch also took several years to clear. It often means companies end up choosing between making consumer wellness devices that lack medical credibility or niche medical devices that are inaccessible to the average person. However, Mastrototaro says Movano’s got a secret trump card: decades of regulatory experience.
“We’re taking the regulatory side of things very seriously,” Mastrototaro told The Verge. He also pointed to his long history in developing medical devices, including the first continuous glucose monitor, as well as that of his staff. That experience, Mastrototaro says, gives Movano an edge in navigating the FDA’s notoriously opaque clearance process.
The Movano Ring won’t be available until the second half of 2022, and even then, it’ll be a beta version. We also don’t have any concrete details for pricing, though Mastrototaro says the company aims for it to be “one of the most affordable” on the market.
“We’re aiming for both a medical and consumer focus — the intersection of these two fields as opposed to one or the other. We want to have the look, feel, and affordability of a consumer device with the accuracy and reliability of a medical device,” says Mastrototaro. What Mastrototaro is describing is the holy grail of wearable tech. We’ll have to see if the Movano Ring ends up being another CES pipedream, but it’s certainly one of the more ambitious takes on smart rings that we’ve seen in a long time.