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Do iGuns promote safe weapon use?

11 Jan 2013  | Barbara Jorgensen

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EDN Asia's Disruptive Engineering features your nominations of enabling technologies and applications that you believe could change the way we work or play, or something that you think will affect most electronics projects in 2013. Today's article was taken from EBN.

Even though it was a bit off topic, David Benjamin's blog Need a Reminder? Prohibition Doesn't Work! has generated a lot of discussion. The topic is guns, and there actually is a high-tech angle to this debate: smart guns.

A New York Times report says technology could play a role in gun control:

Technology exists, or could exist, that would make guns safer. The idea of a safe gun might seem to be the ultimate oxymoron: guns are designed to kill. But something missing from the gun-control debate that has followed the killing of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., is the role of technology in preventing or at least limiting gun deaths.

Biometrics and grip pattern detection can sense the registered owner of a gun and allow only that person to fire it. For example, the iGun, made by Mossberg Group, cannot be fired unless its owner is wearing a ring with a chip that activates the gun.

This is the same kind of technology used for security systems and other identification-sensitive applications. It's also big bucks for the high-tech market. According to research published in November by, the biometric technologies market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 18.7 per cent to $13.89 billion by 2017.

The NYT reports that gun manufacturers are not interested in adapting the technology, because of certain sales practices. Private gun sales do not require background checks, and linking an ID to a specific weapon would discourage the secondary market.

However, the applications for biometric technology remain vast. Government, banking and finance, travel and immigration, defence, consumer electronics, home security, commercial security, and healthcare are some of the targeted markers. Government applications alone include voting, personal ID, licensing, building access, border access control, immigration, and detection of explosives at airports.

The idea is still a little too Orwellian for me. What do you think?

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