60-Second Tech

Contest Takes Aim at Smart Guns

Competitions like the Firearms Challenge could give guns that use radio-frequency tags, biometrics and other tech a push into the mainstream. Larry Greenemeier reports

Competitions, contests and challenges have become a potent way to inspire and fund innovation. The X PRIZE alone is shelling out tens of millions of dollars to incentivize scientists and engineers to develop new medical technologies, study the oceans and explore the moon.
Now one of the more unlikely competitions out there seeks to make firearms safer.
What’s called the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation last month launched its Firearms Challenge. The goal: find technology that reliably authorizes approved use—and blocks the unauthorized use—of guns and ammunition.
So-called smartguns have been in the works for years but haven’t gotten much traction.
The German company Armatix makes an intelligent pistol that requires the shooter to wear a special radio-frequency-ID-equipped wristwatch to activate the weapon. Ireland’s TriggerSmart likewise makes a gun unlocked by radio waves, as long as the shooter wears a special ring. Other companies rely on fingerprints and other biometrics or even sensors and smartphone apps to unlock their weapons.
Questions about the reliability of such high-tech weapons—and, of course, politics—have kept them from catching on the U.S. But efforts to improve firearm safety, including via smartguns, are worth a shot.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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