Smart gun using facial recognition and fingerprint available for pre-order in the U.S.

The question of gun security and keeping guns out of the wrong hands is internationally relevant for the homeland security of every country. It is however especially topical in the United States, where mass school shootings have been increasing over the last few decades. 

It is no surprise then that the latest smart gun technology is coming out of the United States. Earlier this year, Colorado-based Biofire Tech announced they were taking orders for a smart gun enabled by facial-recognition technology. Biofire’s smart gun can also be enabled by a fingerprint reader, one of several smart gun features designed to avoid accidental shootings and keep the gun from falling into the wrong hands. 

The first consumer-ready versions of the 9mm handgun could be shipped to customers who pre-ordered as soon as the fourth quarter of this year, with the standard $1,499 model potentially available by the second quarter of 2024, according to Biofire.

This will make Biofire’s gun the first commercially available smart gun in the U.S. since the Armatix briefly went on sale there in 2014. At least two other American companies, LodeStar Works and Free State Firearms, are also trying to get a smart gun to market.

The idea of a smart gun that can only be activated by an authorised user is not a new one, but up until now the reality of the technology had not quite caught up with the idea. Armatix IP1 was a German smart gun that worked by synchronising with the W1 Active RFID watch to form a smart system in which both parts communicated through RFID (radio frequency identification). There were a number of criticisms of the Armatix IP1, including that the synchronisation with the watch took too long. In 2017, a German hacker famously unlocked an Armatix IP1 using $15 magnets he bought from Amazon. Armatix went bankrupt shortly after, as the company was unable to rebuild trust with consumers and enthusiasts continued to voice concerns. 

A prototype of Biofire’s gun failed to fire twice when being demonstrated for Reuters in April. Company founder and Chief Executive Kai Kloepfer said the software and electronics have been fully tested, and the failure was related to the mechanical gun which was made from pre-production and prototype parts. At other times during the demonstration the weapon fired successfully and the facial-recognition technology appeared to function.

Many gun enthusiasts are sceptical of smart gun technology, concerned that it will fail when the weapon is needed for self-defence at a moment’s notice. They claim that the risk of malfunction could be harmful in self-defence situations when a split-second can make all the difference.

Kloepfer refutes these criticisms: “I’ve not just built a product, but an entire company around: How do we build an extremely reliable product that will always unlock for you anytime that you pick it up, and will never unlock when your kid finds it?”

Kloepfer, who has been working on the gun since he was 15-years-old, believes the mission is an urgent one, and his company has managed to raise $45m in venture capital backing towards the smart gun. The three main advantages cited for the smart gun are the following:

Preventing unintentional shootings by children

Every year, hundreds of children in the United States find their parents’ or other adults’ guns and shoot themselves or someone else. Smart gun technology could prevent these tragedies by not allowing a gun to fire when it is not held by the authorised owner.  

Preventing gun theft

According to the 2020 analysis by the Center for American Progress, from 2012 to 2017, 1.8 million guns were stolen from individuals across the United States, and an additional 53,900 guns were stolen from gun dealers. In many instances, stolen firearms are later used in crimes including murders and assaults. There would be no point in stealing a smart gun if it could not be used by anyone other than the owner.

Reducing teen suicide

Teen suicide in the United States has been on the rise since 2007. According to data from the CDC, in 2020, 721 young people from ages 10 to 17 years old died by firearm suicide, an increase of 10 percent from 2019. Smart guns could prevent teens from using firearms against themselves and help reduce teen suicide.

Top image: Biofire

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *