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Smart Gun Technology: What Does It Mean?

Smart Gun Technology: What Does It Mean?
By J. A. Young
Published June 9th, 2014

Though still in prototype stage, smart guns are being developed and their use is likely to revolutionize the gun industry. Researchers are working on an "identilock" device that requires biometric authentication a la James Bond. However, the technically savvy device isn't the stuff of international spies. Once its development is complete and it hits stores, it will only cost gun owners about $300.
It is hoped that this smart technology will prevent anyone unauthorized from using the weapon which attaches to the weapon's trigger. The device is designed to read fingerprints using security scanners. These scanners have been used in other arenas and the hope is that they will be reliable for use in firearms as well.
Currently, from the moment a fingerprint is detected by the sensor it takes about a second for authentication. Until then, the trigger can't be activated. Some assert that a second can be too long in a life or death situation. Developers are, therefore, working to shorten the authentication time. The device won't necessarily find success unless gun owners believe they will have immediate access to their firing capability. If designers can find a way to short authentication time, it could lead to few gun accidents.
There are various companies working on gun safety innovations. The smart gun technology will likely be available in multiple products by multiple brands in time. Many of these innovations come as a result as White House directives in the wake of US gun tragedies. Biometric authentication is only one safety measure rising to the forefront of new gun technology.
Aside from the time it takes for the sensor to recognize and authenticate a fingerprint in this smart gun technology, it also has to overcome failures to recognize fingerprints. Sometimes the technology gets it wrong and this is another obstacle it must overcome before it makes it to market. If the sensors fail to authenticate too often, they can't be relied upon. Homeowners who rely on their weapons for home defense, for instance, aren't likely to purchase the technology.
Surveys taken of civilian gun owners suggest that people aren't largely interested in this new technology yet. Fewer than fifteen percent of those surveyed reported they would be interested to purchase a smart gun. Many believe that the technology is too unreliable. Manufacturers of wildlife are also not enthused about this technology. Some fear that it may eventually be a mandatory feature for gun manufacture.
For the technology to be viable, it must be accepted by gun consumers. It will be up to developers to prove that their new smart gun technology works within a critical amount of time and works reliably. Until that happens, there may be quite a bit of work left to do. Many state legislatures are interested in the technology, however, and monitoring its progress.
One thing is clear--these smart guns are not a distant future. Their development is well underway and likely to impact the gun industry in the near future. Along with other gun safety measures, this technology is aimed at reducing accidents and it does have to potential to do so.