Image source: Fitbit

Patent shows a possible blood-oxygen tracking Fitbit ring

A new filing published by the US Patent and Trademarks Office reveals Fitbit might be interested in branching out from wrist wearables.

The patent that goes under publication number US 2021/1069345 (via TechRadar) was originally filed on December 16th, 2020. However, it was only recently published.

Smart rings are a relatively untapped area. The big wearables brands such as Apple, Garmin and Samsung have chosen to stay away for now. Which leaves a gap that has been filled by a few small startups.

Perhaps the best of the bunch, when it comes to health and fitness, is the Oura ring. But it doesn’t really have much competition. Which might change soon if Fitbit decides to enter this space.


Fitbit patent for a smart ring

The patent describes a ring-shaped wearable device capable of detecting biometrics with a light source and a photodetector. The ring would be able to detect various health information.

The patent filing specifically mentions an SpO2 and a motion sensor, but it leaves the space open for other tech. So in addition to blood oxygen, this could include activity, sleep, heart rate and heart rate variability. It is a little known fact that fingers have easy-to-sense arteries which can be used to gather precise data on your body’s vital signals.

The 19 page filing makes repeated references to blood oxygen tracking. And that wearables such as fitness trackers and smartwatches are generally less reliable when it comes to such measurements. The problem is that such devices do not sit flush against the skin, and that is required for precise SpO2 readings.

Another problem is that such devices use reflected light. That is not as accurate as passing a light through your skin and blood vessels where a photodetector is sitting to capture readings. This is what you typically get with clinical pulse oximeters. The Fitbit smart ring would work similar to medical devices, by measuring light transmitted through the finger with a photodetector on the other side.

Fitbit may be working on a oxygen saturation detecting ring

The patent also detals “power saving measures to extend battery life”. You certainly don’t want to be charging such a thing every other day.


How likely are we to see a Fitbit smart ring?

It is difficult to say whether we will see a intelligent ring from Fitbit. It would certainly make sense. Wearables and sensors are getting smaller with each passing year so a company that wants to stay relevant must adopt. Havings said that, companies often file patents without following them up with a real-world product.

But this is not the first such patent filed by the San Francisco outfit. We wrote a few months ago about a very similar concept from Fitbit. That one detailed a device would emit light at a red wavelength of 660 nm and an infrared wavelength of 940 nm. Software algorithms would work out the difference in absorption of the light to calculate blood oxygen and possible Sleep Apnea.

Essential reading: The best smart rings 2021 – health tracking from the finger

All of this is a strong indicator that Fitbit is seriously looking at a health tracking ring. Up to now its entire range works from the wrist. The notable exception are devices such as the Inspire line which can be attached to clothes. With Google expertise and money behind it, this might be the perfect to branch out and tracking health and fitness from your finger might just be the next thing.

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