Big guns join the smart ring market

Smartwatches from the likes of Apple, Motorola and Samsung may be among the hottest consumer electronics items, but if recent patents from high-profile makers are anything to go by, wearables could be about to get a lot smaller. 2016 could be the year of the smart ring.

In October, Apple filed a patent for a ring that works as a controller for external devices, specifically the iPhone.

Users tap the interface on the ring’s fascia, which also doubles as a screen, to highlight notifications from their mobile, activate Siri, control music players and more.

It isn’t just Apple though. The blog Patently Apple recently discovered that Microsoft has also been working on a smart ring controller. It works with surface sounds and action gestures to operate devices, in this instance another Microsoft wearable, presumably a smartwatch.

There is, however, already a smart ring on sale that does much of what both these rings are purporting to offer.

Neyya, a Silicon Valley-based company, recently unveiled its smart ring (pictured), which is now on sale in Selfridges in the UK and Bloomingdales and Target in the USA.

Retailing from £129 in the UK, the ring enables the user to control both iOS and Android phones, as well as applications like PowerPoint and Keynote on PCs and Macs.

It can also control a slew of other devices, including the GoPro Hero camera, Philips Hue lighting and the Roku smart TV system. To operate Neyya, users simply tap the surface of the ring.

It follows to market New York-based Ringly, which has produced a more female-focused piece of jewellery. Its major feature is notifications – it glows and vibrates when a text or email is received.

The ring went on sale in the USA earlier this year and retails for £130. There have also many other smart rings, many of which have never evolved beyond ideas on crowd-funding sites.

Neyya’s president Sonia Hunt thinks that there is a lot of space in the smart ring market as consumers get used to the idea of controlling devices by tapping their fingers.

She says: “Microsoft potentially joining the smart-ring race is exciting and makes for yet another huge validation for Neyya. Being smart, simple and small was always Neyya’s goal and it’s wonderful to see companies like Microsoft and Apple confirm our design.”

It will, however, be fascinating to see how successful smart ring controllers are and how the existing players respond to the challenges of the consumer electronics giants.