Why the smart ring may yet usurp the smartwatch – it’s all about business uses

The future of technology is all about the smartwatch. Within half a decade the smartphone, so dominant at the moment, could very well be relegated to the dustbin of history and pretty much everything you use it for will be replicated on a wrist-based device.

That’s the theory, anyhow, and it’s clear that several of the big manufacturers have already bought into it. There is, however, a rival to to the smartwatch: the smart ring. After all, why wear something as bulky as a wristwatch if you can access many of its features in a ring? Wouldn’t that be much more convenient?

The smart ring has been bubbling under for a year or so, with the first prototypes finally finding their way to market in the last few months. Easily the highest profile of these is Ring, which raised almost a million dollars on Kickstarter, but there’s also Ringly, the Mota Ring and most recently Indian company Fintech unveiled the Fin.

While some of the rings display notifications from a Bluetooth-harnessed mobile, their pivotal role is largely giving the owner control of external devices through gestures – think of them as a remote control that’s literally at your fingertips.

It is of course far too early to work out how successful smart rings are likely to become. There’s a huge amount of potential for them, especially in the business world. As Samsung and several other brands have highlighted, it might not be consumers that drive the adoption of wearables – rather it could be the business world which adopts them first. Think people in situations where accessing a device could be tricky – surgeons, people up ladders, salespeople who are constantly driving.

The one huge hurdle to adoption of any new tech on wrists, fingers or anywhere on the body is their looks. Smartwatches have only really begun to significantly penetrate the mainstream because they’ve got more stylish as well as more useful.

The biggest criticism of most of the rings that have been produced so far is that they’re bulky and not really jewellery. They’re utilitarian rather than stylish. Buyers who are excited by stylish smartwatches might balk at wearing something more industrial-looking on their fingers.

This may change as they evolve, become slimmer and more attractive. However, in the business world looks count for very little (if your boss says you need one, you don’t really have too much say about how it looks!) and make no mistake: for smart rings it will be how successfully they deliver commercial applications that will make or break them.

So, I think a lot of the cynicism about smart rings at the moment might be misplaced. This is a wearable format that could become huge as it gets smaller.

Ashley Snell