© ouraring Electronics Production | October 20, 2015

Ōura – Tiny packs a punch

Finnish Ouraring, a start-up focused on developing technology for the – undeniably growing – IoT & wearable device market. But how can you stick out from the masses; in a market overflowing with bracelets? With a ring and an app.
The company started a pre-order campaign on Kickstarter on August 18th, 2015 and – in less than 24 hours – 100 percent funding was achieved. While that might have been due to a fantastically alluring presentation, it can also be seen as an indicator of public opinions and preferences. Evertiq, had a chat with Tommi Pyykönen, COO at Ouraring, to dig a little deeper.

The wearable health/sports market is booming right now. However, not all companies will succeed. What makes you believe that Ōura will?

"There are indeed hundreds of wearables in the market already (Specout counts 275 with activity tracking features alone) and seemingly a dozen new ones every week. They give you data on how much you have been moving during the day, how long have you been lying in bed, and how restful or restless your sleep has been. Add numerous other measures and calculations based on these. With our holistic 24/7 view, we are taking the extra steps with a radically more accurate analysis of your sleep."

© Ouraring
The company's measurement technology and algorithms enable the user to examine his or her sleep quality – at a level close to sleep laboratory accuracy – and lets the user map out sleep phases (awake, light, deep and REM sleep). But why would you – as an average person – want to know that?

"With the combination with daily activity tracking (which has become somewhat of an industry standard) we can tell you how well you have recovered from mental and physical exertions; both in the short and long term. Furthermore, we are not only taking a leap when it comes to tracking and analysis, we also want to go further ahead when presenting this data."

Tommi explains that the main feature in the app is a stream of actionable personalised recommendations on what the user could choose to do differently regarding activity and sleep. All aimed to improve the user's readiness and capacity to perform.

While user friendliness and usability might have been the initial starting point, bringing something 'en vogue' into a rather dull looking (electronics) wearables market came right on its heels.

The ring kind of sticks out as a health device, mostly we see bracelets and clip-ons on the market. Where did you start in the design process and how did it evolve into the device that we now see?

"Our goal was to create a simple way for people to learn how to be fully charged at the start of every day, feel good and be ready to perform at their best. We looked for a way to get a long-term view on how our body and mind responds to sleep, rest and active life. To be able to assess physiological changes in the body, we had to find a way to collect the data with high accuracy."

"And yet, at the same time we wanted to make a very desirable, comfortable and ergonomic design. Through extensive research and prototyping we found, that the finger is to be preferred for collecting comprehensive physiological data – the Ōura ring was born."

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Finland is not necessarily low-cost when it comes to production. Furthermore, the Finnish electronics industry has seen some major upheaval in the recent past. Why did you choose to partner with Sanmina in Haukipudas?

"The pace at which markets and industries change nowadays is indeed breathtaking. We aim to succeed in that environment by making things simple, being fast and flexible. Not even 10 years ago, the Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia was dominating the global market at will. Yet, the individuals and partners behind that excellence are still very much around."

"We are able to find product development partners and production facilities with experience of sending millions of consumer electronics products out to the world right next door. The Sanmina facility is such a place; barely 15 minutes drive away from our office and that of our product development partners. Everything we may lose in cost when compared to manufacturing in e.g. China, we gain from the speed and efficiency of close-proximity cooperation."

Is it an all 'Made in Finland' product, down to the last component?

"The ring is designed in Finland, and many of its tailor-made components are also made here. However, most standard electronics components we get from abroad. It should be noted, though, that Finland has an excellent network for global sourcing and we have no trouble finding what we need."

"There is no doubt that other companies will come to the same conclusions, and we are proud to lead the way."
When addressing the topic of components, Tommi explained that it is rather advantageous for a company to focus on using standard components. Availability, continuity, price benefits of high production volumes and flexibility does provide security. Especially for start-ups.

“However, our unique product design means that the mechanical parts – encasing the electronics – are custom-designed; one might even say very exclusive in this world. We are especially proud of stretching the limits of high tech ceramics by introducing the Ōura ring in its scratch proof and waterproof beauty.”

The form factor of a ring – compared to a bracelet – limits space and may limit functionality too. How did you choose and will we see more development in this area in the future?

"We actually look at this from a very different angle. It is true that some prefer wearing a bracelet rather than a ring. But what if that bracelet needs to accurately measure your body's responses? You end up having to fix the bracelet so tightly around your wrist that it is a relief to take it off eventually. And even then, the data quality is inferior to that measured on the finger."

"Optical heart rate measurement requires a very solid contact to the skin and we think that – by wearing a ring – this happens naturally, unobtrusively. No wearable can be worn at all times, given the amount of diverse activities we humans do. For those moments can you think of a form factor that would be easier to put on and take off than a ring? There is no doubt that other companies will come to the same conclusions, and we are proud to lead the way."
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