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NBA to use ‘smart rings,’ big data to fight coronavirus in Disney bubble

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The NBA is going to put a ring on it.

A vital component of the league’s 100-page restart plan — which was approved by the Players Association — focused on keeping players and staff of the 22 teams healthy within the bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. That includes safety protocols, social distancing, extensive required testing and wearable technology, the most peculiar of which is a lightweight, titanium “smart ring.”

All players and essential staff members will be given the option to wear a diagnostic ring designed by Finland-based tech company, Oura, that resembles a plain wedding band. The ring, which retails for between $299 to $399, contains sensors that track vital statistics like heart rate, respiration rate and body temperature. The data collected from the ring is fed into an algorithm that the venture capital-backed company boasts can predict the onset of coronavirus symptoms up to three days in advance with over 90-percent accuracy (study conducted by Oura Health in conjunction with West Virginia Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute).

The ring’s data will be analyzed by the University of Michigan to create an illness risk index. Participants will have access to their own data, which will not become visible unless that player or staff member’s illness probability score breaches a certain level.

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The rings are water-resistant (up to 100 meters), and can last up to seven days on one charge.

The league will also harvest data on residents’ temperatures, blood oxygen saturation levels, locations and pairwise proximity using other smart technology. Everyone will be given smart thermometers and pulse oximeters, as well as Disney MagicBands and proximity alarms.

Disney MagicBands currently act as admission passes to the parks, payment tender and hotel room keys, and the league plans to leverage this location data for contact tracing. Players will be required to wear these at all times when not on the court.

The proximity alarms will be used to “help promote adherence to social distancing rules,” which all staff will be required to wear on their credentials. The alarm will sound when two people are within six feet of each other for longer than five seconds. Certain acceptable pairs will be excluded, and will not be a requirement for players.

Residents will not be allowed to opt out of daily health monitoring and “will be prohibited from engaging in group activities until the monitoring is accomplished and/or may be required to leave the campus permanently.”

Some have expressed concerns about the use of the v data, which the league plans to delete within four weeks of the conclusion of the season.

“It will entail enormous sacrifice for everyone involved,” commissioner Adam Silver said this week. “Listen, It’s not an ideal situation trying to find our new normal in the middle of a pandemic… I can understand how some players feel it’s not for them.”

Training camps are set to begin on July 9, with games commencing on July 30.

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