He was 16 years old, riding in a car with a group of friends, when someone started firing a gun outside the car. Kiyani — who never identified the shooter and has trouble remembering the incident — was shot in the mouth. After several surgeries, his physical problems faded away, but the shooting left an indelible impression on his psyche.
Gun control has been a contentious issue for decades, but these days, things are about as divisive as they can get. As a recent Pew Research survey shows, the American public is almost completely split on the issue, with 50 percent of Americans saying gun control is more important than gun rights, and 48 percent saying the opposite. The debate is playing out in political arenas around the country. Just weeks after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $50 million to gun control initiatives, Georgia governor Nathan Deal signed the so-called “guns everywhere” law, which allows Georgia residents to carry guns in churches, schools, and even parts of airports.
Introducing any type of innovation into an industry so ripe with controversy and partisan politics has traditionally been a nearly insurmountable task. A company called Armatix — one of the brightest lights in the gun safety arena — recently developed a smart gun that authorizes the user by connecting to a radio frequency-enabled stopwatch, but as The New York Times points out, the company has found it nearly impossible to overcome gun rights lobbyists, who say technology like that could cause the gun to malfunction.
Nonetheless, Kiyani believes even gun rights activists will be more amenable to the Identilock, and he’s not entirely crazy for thinking so.
From Air Bags to GunsAn engineer by training, Kiyani spent years working as a software developer building next-generation airbag systems. He worked on calibrating the systems to minimize the chance of injury in the event of an accident, and eventually, he realized he could apply the same basic concepts to guns. “The idea of an airbag is so simple. You inflate it and can save a life,” he says. “I made the connection. I have something in my house that’s very dangerous. There’s got to be a simple way to protect it.”
Initially, Kiyani considered technology that would require installing electronic locking equipment into the guns themselves. But as an engineer, he also understood the inherent complications of designing electronics that could withstand tremendous shock and high temperatures. “Think of the average electronic lock on a door,” Kiyani explains. “Now imagine every time it’s opened, it gets 30 some blows with a huge hammer.” To develop that type of expertise — and to ensure it would work without fail — would have taken Kiyani time and money he didn’t have, not to mention how insanely difficult it would be to convince gun manufacturers to work with him. So he built something that anyone could add to a gun.
His creation is different in three ways: it’s optional, it’s detachable, and it’s quick. Unlike biometric gun safes and other locking mechanisms, Kiyani says, the Identilock makes it as easy to access a firearm as it is to unlock an iPhone. He pitched hundreds of gun owners a variety of ideas over the course of his research, but it was the biometric lock they inevitably latched onto. “That was the key motivator for moving forward,” Kiyani remembers. “As I kept talking to people, not only did the idea get refined, but it was clear people wanted it.”
Today, the Identilock is designed using entirely off-the-shelf components that have been proven effective in other industries. The biometric sensor, for example, has been used in other security applications and is approved by the FBI. Cobbling the sensor together from existing technologies was both a cost-saving endeavor and a strategic way to prove the product’s effectiveness more quickly. “If I were to go out and get one black eye, that would be it,” Kiyani says. “The goal was to take something that has already been validated, not have to reinvent the wheel.”
Beyond the Prototype
The product is still very much in its prototype phase, and Kiyani expects the technology may change as the Identilock goes through a pilot program with local law enforcement loosely slated for later this year. And yet, even the prototype has earned Kiyani notice from some leaders in the field. The Smart Tech Foundation, for one, invited him to take part in the announcement of its Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge. Backed by the likes of famed angel investor Ron Conway and serial entrepreneur Jim Pitkow, the challenge is offering up $1 million in prize and development money to people working on technology to make guns safer. The Identilock is currently one of about 200 applicants in the running.
“I think they’ve provided a really simple approach that anyone could use, regardless of whether or not they’re familiar with technology,” says Pitkow, who believes that because the Identilock is a gun accessory, and not part of the gun, Kiyani can avoid the challenges that have derailed similar technology. “The technologies that don’t require existing manufacturers’ participation will have a lot less friction getting to market.”
Kiyani knows he’s bound to face opposition in the firearm marketplace, but he’s hoping that his light-handed approach will win the Identilock support from gun rights, as well as gun control, activists. “The ultimate win,” he says, “would be when the manufacturers choose to package a gun with this. That would be the ultimate success.”
Source: wired.com BY ISSIE LAPOWSKY