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Possible Smart Gun – a Fingerprint Scanner for Firearms

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The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation has been seeking to develop user authentication for innovative firearms. Starting in 2013, the foundation put forth $1 Million with fifteen $10,000 initial R&D grants toward individuals who can innovate the best technology to “improve firearms safety”. Additional funding is provided for further application to a firearm as well as final development.

Enter Kai Kloepfer, a 17 year old high school student from Boulder, CO. He was the first person to receive a $50,000 grant. It helped him develop a fingerprint scanner that must be utilized to employ a firearm.

Smart Tech Touch Pad

Mr. Kloepfer will be utilizing the funding to transfer the scanner's current use on a plastic model of a Beretta PX4 Storm to an actual live firearm. The scanner is promised to offer 99.99% accuracy for fingerprint recognition, including partial print reads. They advise it can be programmed for an unlimited number of users. A 3D printer is one acquisition made utilizing the funding from the grant to build parts for his prototype.

Kloepfer sums up his “modern approach” to firearms safety by saying,

 “It’s going to be my generation – the ones who have grown up with digital technology and electronic integration – that will lead the way in the development and adoption of smart gun technology. This type of technology has previously only existed in science fiction movies. But young people are open to exploring our options as consumers and as innovators. I have real hope that we can apply biometric technology to firearms in order to reduce accidental deaths and injuries, and to prevent tragedies.”

Smart Tech Gun

Companies like Tracking Point have introduced modern technology to improve accuracy through their Precision Guided Firearms, so it is not a stretch to consider that some method of improving safety could be integrated into current firearms platforms. It's certainly not the first time user specific biometrics have been considered as a recognizable prerequisite to operation (which of course doesn't mean it would work reliably). Clearly this concept opens up a number of potential problems, particularly given the self defense implications of firearms use. Right up front few people would want to be caught up in the .01% of times it doesn't work.

That said, in theory it could be another tier of weapon safety in the home or on the job.

Armatix has already seen the barriers to entry put forth by the firearms community who are leery of their Smart System technology. The Armatix Sysem requires a specified watch to be worn by the shooter in order for the Armatix iP1 Pistol to be fired (RFID activation). Firearms dealers have been blackballed by some within the community for the mere mention of their intention to sell such “Smart Guns” and even some pro-gun advocates have been excoriated via social media and in forums for suggesting a genuinely workable “smart gun” idea is a Good Thing. This could be an understandable reaction; it could be an overreaction. In the event, none of it will matter until the technology has been perfected and then rigorously tested under difficult conditions.

Smart Tech Gun Top

Proponents see that technology is allowing the development of fingerprint access as never used before. Others would argue that a smart gun in the home, regardless of its limitations, is better than no gun in the home and that as option to a selection of firearms available for purchase it should be welcomed. A few say it's the inevitable way of the future. Touch screens and fingerprint scanners on mobile devices are increasingly ubiquitous. The Smart Tech Challenges Foundation points out that Apple Inc. Touch ID is now capable of 360-degree readability, which will allow the use of multiple fingerprints for user identification Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley tech investor and founding donor of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation is one such advocate. He notes in a Washington Post Interview,

“We need the iPhone of guns. The entrepreneur who does this right could be the Mark Zuckerberg of guns.”

Kai Kloepfer is himself an activist for gun safety, a stance resulting from the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, which took place an hour away from his home. Kloepfer previously developed a similar technology to the fingerprint scanner being developed with his Smart Tech Challenges Foundation grant, which won him the Grand Award at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair at just 16 years of age with just $3,000 in funding. The final step of the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation funding includes a $100,000 to further refine a prototype of the technology presented on a fully operational firearm. Mr. Kloepfer spoke at the TEDx Mile High: Convergence event in Denver, Colorado last month. You can view in the video below to gain a full understanding of his motivation for developing a fingerprint scanner for firearms activation and the capabilities of his technology.

Smart Tech Full Auto

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