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Could smart gun technology make us safer?

Lucas Mearian | Dec. 21, 2012
In the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, smart gun technology prevents a bad guy from using Bond's own Walther PPK to shoot him. Far fetched? Not at all.

NJIT's grip recognition is only one smart gun technology among many available. Others include fingerprint recognition though infrared fingerprint readers and the use of RFID radio chips.

While several technologies can be used to recognize fingerprints, such as infrared, optical scanning and pressure sensors that can determine the grooves of a person's fingerprints, Sebastian argues they're too kludgy to use, and not always reliable.

"At best, we found that they were 75% reliable, and that's under laboratory conditions," he said. "And there are all kinds of ways they can be confused and not work: Dry fingers on capacitor systems cause problems; leaving behind the residue of your finger print can cause problems; cold hands; gloves, no gloves. There are a lot of reasons just as a technology that it is flawed.

"Then you get into where do you put it on the gun, so that your finger falls in a natural way. It's very find one place that fits for all."

RFID technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology has developed RFID smart gun technology for a company called TriggerSmart, an Irish firm that has been granted patents for its weapons' safety devices in the U.S. and 47 other countries. The technology, developed at the school's County Westmeath, Ireland campus, has yet to be integrated by any gun manufacturers.

"They've done a lot of work in the U.S. with trying to get gun manufacturers [interested], but to be honest there's quite a bit of resistance from the gun industry in the U.S. to the technology," said Joe Dowling, general manager at Georgia Tech Ireland.

"They see it as another level of control that they don't want to implement," he continued. "TriggerSmart has been saying, 'Hey, it's not that we don't want you to have a gun, it's just another optional safety feature you may want.' "

Computerworld attempted to contact gun makers Smith & Wesson and Mossberg & Sons, both of which have had smart gun development efforts in the past. Smith & Wesson officials did not return requests for comment. Mossberg declined to comment on the issue.

In 1999, Mossberg subsidiary Advanced Ordnance and electronics design contractor KinTech Manufacturing developed a smart technology using RFID chips that was marketed by iGun Technology Corp.. Officials at iGun Technology could not be reached for comment.

TriggerSmart's technology also works with RFID chips through an RFID tag carried by or implanted in the hand of an authorized gun user. The tag sends a high frequency radio signal to a small motor that unlocks the gun's safety mechanism. Unless the RFID tag is within one centimeter of the gun's handle, the weapon's safety will remain in the locked position and it cannot be unlocked until the radio signal is received. A small rechargeable battery that can hold up to a week's worth of power, enables the internal motor.


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