How to obtain a constant flow of information from the body without having to bind the person into sensors? CEO Petteri Lahtela and CTO and head of design Kari Kivelä from Oura Health decided to combine style and wellbeing intelligence into a product many of us already wear: a ring.
”Fitting technology into such a small piece was a huge challenge,” says Lahtela. “We got started deeming it possible.”
The idea of a new type of a wearable technology product stemmed from the entrepreneurs’ personal experiences. Having had hectic careers in the technology industry, they wanted to create something that would help people listen to their own body and maintain its balance.
The group started researching what was available in the market. Heart rate monitors and different types of sensors tended to have two similar issues: they are often impractical to use and not very stylish to wear. Lahtela points out that it’s impossible to wear a heart rate band all the time.
”From the very beginning we’ve wanted to create a product that is as convenient as possible to as many people as possible,” adds Kivelä.
The ŌURA ring collects raw data about heart rate and its changes, measures the amount and intensity of physical activity, and analyses the quality of sleep and its different stages. Using algorithms the mini-computer interprets the body’s reactions and their changes, and sends the information to the mobile app. From the app users find information about their readiness level and get advice as to how to improve it.
”The ring listens to the body, and the app then gives guidance in words and visual cues,” Lahtela explains.
The intelligence hides under a beautiful cover
CTO and head of design Kivelä is not only an engineer, but also a jewellery designer. The ring is designed by him and renowned Finnish industrial designer Harri Koskinen.
”The timing has been perfect for us, as for example components have become available just at the right time,” he says. “In comparison to the first sketches the ring is now more compact and stylish.”
In the beginning the most crucial feature was the measuring of heart rate and related parameters. Other sensors joined in later, and now the main aim of the ring is to help improve recovery. As the ring is waterproof and its battery lasts for days, it can be worn all day long. Hence it learns to give personalised advice for each individual.
Many dimensions of human life starting from social interaction have already gone online. Lahtela and Kivelä don’t think the ring is now technologising wellbeing, too.
“Quite the contrary; the ring helps its user understand his or her body even better. With the information we can pay attention to our mental and physical readiness, and try and maintain them at the highest possible level.”
The ring doesn’t claim to know its user’s emotions better than the person.
”The app occasionally asks different types of questions about how the user is actually feeling. Then it combines these feelings with physiology and behaviour,” tells Kivelä.
On the way across the ocean
The ring was launched at a startup fair in San Francisco in early March. For consumers the product will be available in September.
Oura Health is headed to the United States, where wearable technology is of particular interest.
“The market for wearables is growing at a fast pace,” Lahtela predicts. “Healthcare systems will change so that individuals will begin to take more and more responsibility over their personal wellbeing.”
In Finland the company is registered under the name Jouzen, but in international marketing only the ŌURA brand and the name ŌURA will be visible. In addition to the headquarters in Oulu, the company has one person working in Helsinki, one in Japan and one in San Francisco. The now 11-employee team is growing continuously.
The product development takes place in Oulu, and the production itself happens in Haukipudas, 20 kilometres away from the headquarters. The covers and circuit boards are produced in South Korea.
”The ring is a premium product, and for us it’s crucial to be able to guarantee top-notch quality on every level. We don’t cut corners at any stage,” says Lahtela.
Text: Anne Salomäki