Passwords and electronic PINs help consumers protect their identities, but the arms industry is taking personal security to the next level. It's leveraging biometrics to help save lives.
Smart-gun technology was initially developed to deal with the problem of criminals wresting firearms away from police officers. In 2011, 4 percent of U.S. police officers killed on duty were shot by their own guns, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; in 2010, that death rate was nearly 13 percent.
Given this issue, organizations around the world have invested in projects to perfect a personalized gun- without a final product to show for it. But recent gun violence, including several high-profile mass shootings, has renewed interest in- and funding for- these projects.
By enabling its firearm with magnetic tag identification, iGun Technology Corporation has developed a personalized gun that can be fired only by its owner or other designated individuals.
"We're basically squeezing a laptop into a gun and having it function," says Jonathan Mossberg, CEO of the Daytona Beach, Florida, USA-based company.
The iGun joins a growing arsenal of firearm projects aimed at lessening accidental shootings through technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, fingerprint scans or grip patterns.
Smart-gun electronics must be diminutive but robust, Mr. Mossberg says. "You can't imagine the shock that happens inside the gun - like dropping a laptop off a threestory building every two seconds." The iGun's mechanism fits on a ring, and early prototypes were too big to be practical, he says. But the version currently in development will be the size of a typical wedding band.
Shrinking the RFID's circuit board to make it gun-ready was the longest phase of development on the childproof TriggerSmart, says Robert McNamara, cofounder of the eponymous Limerick, Irelandbased company.
But hurdles abound beyond the mere mechanics: "One of the greatest challenges is the lack of support in the gun industry," says Mr. McNamara.
Robert J. Spitzer, PhD, a professor of political science at State University of New York College at Cortland and the author of four books on gun policy, agrees. "The gun industry has no interest in making smart guns," he told The …