Omer Kiyani knows what its like to get shot in the mouth. When he was a teenager, he says, he survived just that.
Now, he is bringing his own new brand of gun safety to market. It's called “Identilock” and it's a system that completely covers the trigger of a gun, unlocking it only to a set of authorized fingerprints. Recognizing a gun owner's prints in about a second, the clamshell lock falls off the trigger, and the gun is ready for use.
Kiyani says with his new portable lock, he's not out to change the world, he just wants to make sure that when it comes to personal firearms “the right person gets in every time, and the wrong person never does.”
At CES, the annual technology industry show, in Las Vegas last week, there were no guns allowed on the show floor. But Kiyani's lock, which works with hi-tech fingerprinting software, was there anyway.
While the tech is a rather bulky add-on, the plus is that it can be used to lock almost any handgun. Kiyani hopes that means it won't draw the same kinds of criticisms smart guns have, which have been shut down numerous times over regulation fears. The Identilock is more like a mobile gun safe than a smartgun, he argues.
Armed with a $100,000 grant from the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, Kiyani started developing the tech about three years ago. The initial funding was followed by a round of venture capital investing that took the product into manufacturing. Kiyani says investors for the Detroit-based startup include an ex-CEO of Chrysler. As the tech comes to market this summer, Kiyani says he's actively pursuing a second round of venture funding.
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The finished Identilock fingerprint scanner is about twice the size of a smartphone thumb scanner, and made to store up to nine prints from both right and left-handed owners. Kiyani, an electrical engineer who worked in airbag safety for a decade, says that was the hardest part of making the lock: building it with super-sensitive, accurate fingerprint technology.
But what happens when an owner's finger is wet, muddy or bloody? Those are questions that haven't been fully worked out yet. The lock, which keeps a charge for six months, recharges via a USB port, but can also be opened with a manual key override. The lock is pre-selling online now for $319, set to start shipping in summer 2016.
What's the holdup for smart gun tech? Watch:
President Obama pushed forward with his own executive action on guns earlier this month, aimed at reducing gun violence by ramping up background checks and regulating internet gun sales. But Kiyani says his new lock is not really cure for gun violence. “It's an unauthorized use prevention device,” he says, simply aimed at keeping kids safe around the house, and keeping control of a gun in the hands of its owner, not a thief.
But the President is also looking to the tech industry for fresh answers like Kiyani's. In a New York Times op-ed last week, Obama wrote “ If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should also make sure she can’t pull the trigger of a gun.”
As for Kiyani, he's keeping politics out of it. A card-carrying National Rifle Association member, he says his new tech appeals to both sides of the gun debate. Next week, he'll be heading to Las Vegas for the Shot Show, the world's largest firearms trade show, to market his new product to gun shops.