Posting in Design
Radio frequency identification is the latest technology being applied to so-called "smart gun" technology. Can it beat out biometrics and other approaches?
TriggerSmart, a startup that has patented a system that relies on an RFID reader embedded in the handle of a firearm to authenticate its owner, is the brainchild of gun enthusiast Patrick O'Shaughnessy. A news item he'd read, about a police officer who had his gun stolen from him and used against him, inspired the concept. He and his partner Robert McNamara, after finding that biometric technology had too many shortcomings, decided RFID technology was up to the task and decided to have a go at designing a prototype and filing for a patent. There was just one small problem: getting a gun.
"We could not get our hands on a gun in Ireland," McNamara, in his thick brogue, explained to me.
Eventually, the pair legally cleared that hurdle and ended up creating a prototype with the help of researchers at Georgia Tech Ireland, which works with the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta to commercialize technologies developed in Ireland.
In the two years they've been working on the project, says McNamara, they've been able to develop a prototype and have secured their intellectual property in the United States, their initial target market for the gun technology, and have also patents filed and pending in 58 other countries including many throughout Europe, as well as Russia, China and Israel.
Here's how it works: a passive (batteryless) RFID tag is embedded in either a ring or a bracelet worn by the gun owner. Encoded to the tag is a unique number that an RFID reader embedded in the handle of the gun is programmed to recognize. As soon as the reader detects the tag, a microcontroller sends a message to a solenoid that is linked to the gun's safety, making it possible to pull the trigger. "All that works in less than a quarter of a second," says McNamara. "So as soon as you are ready to shoot, the gun is ready to shoot."
But if the reader does not detect the RFID tag, it will not allow the gun's safety to disengage. This way, if a gun were wrestled away from its owner, the safety would re-engage (the reader could only detect the tag at very close range, so the user would need to be holding the gun for the safety to open). And if, say, a child were to discover the gun, or a thief were to steal it, he or she could not disengage the safety.
The type of RFID that TriggerSmart uses, 13.56 MHz, is the same technology on which many RFID-based identification cards are based. It's also the technology used in the RFID-secured passports, issued by the United States and many other countries.
"We know it will work," says McNamara of the RFID-controlled safety. But the next step -- embedding the RFID reader and antenna into a shock-proof casing that can be sealed into a gun handle and put through rigorous testing with live rounds -- is the most important one.
"Our idea, like putting seat belts in cars, is a safety thing. You need to prove the reliability," he says.
How long it will take TriggerSmart to prove that reliability is anyone's guess. Certainly, the idea of a smart gun isn't a new one -- other attempts have included biometric readers that authenticate the gun owner based on fingerprints, or his or her heartbeat. But the advantage that RFID has over those technologies is its immediate responsiveness. Gun owners want to know they can pick up their guns and use them, without delay, in the event of an emergency.
"If I had $500,000 at my disposal now, I’d have a reliable smart gun ready within the year, but realisticially speaking, I think you’re looking at three to five years. There are some states that have already introduced legislation with regard to smart guns. A New Jersey law states that once smart guns become available, all gun stores will need to sell only smart guns. Other states have smart gun laws ready to go through [their legislative systems]. So we are trying to get some political support in those states, particiular in New Jersey," says McNamara.
Mar 1, 2012
and wiring and circuitry, it looks like another possible point of failure just waiting to occur. I would expect the finished product to be more polished and durable, but still... The last thing I want in an emergency is to have to wonder if the gun is going to fire or having to keep a tag on my person at all times. As for it being optional, the article clearly states that New Jersey has a law making them the only guns for sale once this becomes reality with other states having similar legislation ready. Might as well put RFID on cars, knives, hamburgers or anything else that can be a danger. So yes, this can be another way for an over-reaching government to regulate and interfere in our lives.
The next step is to change the munitions type and make it impossible for the the public to obtain. Completely phase out powder based munitions and make them no longer available. I very highly doubt kids or gangs would have the ability to make powder based rounds (if they don't blow themselves up while attempting to make them if they did figure it out) like current munitions made with gun powder.
I don't want a so-called smart gun. If my family is attacked in a home invasion, I want any one of us to be able to use our defensive weapons without restriction. If this was going to be optional, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but they are already trying to make it mandatory. I don't have little kids at home, and if my grandkids visit I lock everything up. Forcing someone like me to have to use this technology when for my purposes it is a negative is another example of big government interfering in our lives.
Seriously, how many crimes involving firearms would this solve every year? One? Two? Maybe ten at the most? I predict this could be a boondoggle that will be even less successful than Canada's disastrous long-gun registration scheme. This could even cause needless death, if the smart gun is in the hands of a LEO and the officer forgot his dongle, his gun will be useless, of course the bad guy will never have a gun with this technology, advantage - bad guy, disadvantage - law enforcement officer or law abiding citizen. As a responsible US gun owner, I do not want US gun rights policy determined by people that can't even get their hands on a gun in their own country without the intervention of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Also, implementing this technology would require a massive, expensive, intrusive government program that will likely be as unsuccessful as other prohibitions, like The Volstead Act, The War on Drugs(tm), the war on poverty. Is there really such a conceit that this technology would be anything other than expensive and ineffectual?
It would greatly strengthen the acceptability of this approach if multiple dongles could be keyed to a firearm. For one scenario, we have several pistols around the house -- any one of which might need to be used by myself, my wife, or my daughter. One dongle - one gun approaches would push us towards always carrying a personal firearm even within the home. For the record, I would accept mandatory "smart" gun technology only when the same technology is added to every automobile in America. Cars are much more dangerous that guns, and are stolen even more frequently.
yes I agree that it would be optional. also you can program the technology to recognize more than one person and even a group such as a family.
The article does not claim that Smart guns are about solving crimes. You are answering a question that has not been asked. I accept that there will always be criminals and criminal use of guns however over 90% of gun deaths are caused by legally held firearms. Smart guns would help prevent some of the 800+ deaths annually caused by accidental discharge of guns. 70% of these arr children 18 and under. The trained officer is no more lightly to forget his dongle as he should not forget to load his gun or his equipment such as his uniform, keys, gun, patrol car, taser etc. Smart guns must be tested and prove reliable if they are to become available for sale on the market. .I disagree that RFID smart gun technology will be ineffectual or expensive. I suspect that you are not familiar with RFID technology or you would not make such a statement. RFID technology is highly reliable, inexpensive and works in real time. Wild comparisons to the war on poverty and drugs or a need for a massive Government program are exaggerated are unfounded. Smart guns when proven and tested to be reliable should be offered as a childproof safety option in the home where a gun will be harmless in the hands of a child or an intruder.
Group, family, and partner recognition is simple to do. Multiple RFID tags can be provided. Similar to having spare keys for your house or car.
"90% of gun deaths are caused by legally held firearms" "70% of these arr children 18 and under" Please do not quote statistics that are completely false. The "70%" you quote includes gang bangers and drug related (buying or selling) deaths. Remove the illegal and criminal possession and the number drops to less than 1%. 13 times more "children" die every day in automobiles than with guns. If you are talking about accidental deaths due to firearms this is the correct information for the population in the US: Five times more likely to burn to death Five times more likely to drown 17 times more likely to be poisoned 17 times more likely to fall And 68 times more likely to die in an automobile accident Fact: 94.4% of gun murders are gang related. Fact: Less than 1% of firearms will ever be used in the commission of a crime. Fact: Two-thirds of the people who die each year from gunfire are criminals being shot by other criminals. Regarding your absurd statement that "90% of gun deaths are caused by legally held firearm"; please read the original source for that claim. The correct numbers are much closer to less than 20% and that includes those who were defending themselves legally. Criminals interviewed in prison indicated they obtained their guns: Purchased from a retail store 8.3% Purchased at a pawn shop 3.8% Purchased at a flea market 1.0% Purchased at a gun show 0.7% Obtained from friends or family 39.6% (illegal) Obtained on the street/illegal source 39.2% (illegal) Before you dismiss me as a ignorant gun supporter I would like you to know how I came to this information. First, I was a liberal anti-gun person for over 40 years and in 1998 read something from Handgun Control Inc that did not make sense so I looked up the source study. That particular study actually concluded the opposite of what HCI claimed. Basically they lied. I spent the next year or so reading all of the source material HCI had referenced and found that in not a single case did they report the complete truth or use a legitimate study. I then continued my research and found that the FBI statistics, CDC stats (in most cases) and the NRA stats were quoting correctly the source material. One HCI statement that is an example is that "you are 35 times more likely to be shot if you have a gun in your home". That is true...sort of. It is true IF you are a felon illegally in possession of a gun, a drug dealer or drug user, or are shot during the commission of a felony. It does not apply to honest citizens. An example of true but not when applied to the general public which is what HCI did. So again, before you spout statistics please do your own research. It may change your view about guns when you see who is lying and who is telling the truth.