Smartgun system calls for police backup in dire situations

The bedlam in Ferguson, Missouri has dominated national headlines and dredged up a number of sensitive issues — most of which we won’t discuss here. But a Silicon Valley firm called Yardarm Technologies is developing smart gun technology that could avert a repeat of this catastrophe.

Previous smartguns have focused on personalization options that restrict the weapon to authorized users or require a companion bracelet or other trinket to operate it. And these concepts could still inspire new hardware designs.

But Yardarm Technologies is taking a slightly different approach — a tracking module within the gun would send out an alert whenever the weapon is unholstered or fired.

smart gun unit image

The .9 mm pistol would contain a chip that communicated with the officer’s smart phone to send a “yellow” alert when the gun is drawn and a “red” alert when fired. This wouldn’t directly prevent another Ferguson-like incident, but it’s worth noting that Officer Wilson’s call for backup failed because his radio was set to the wrong channel. This would automate the entire process so, at the very least, there’d be another witness. Best case, backup arrives to help defuse the situation peacefully.

“When an officer uses their weapon in the field, they are not always able to call immediately on the radio and we cut that response time down to seconds,” said Jim Schaff of Yardarm Technologies.

Santa Cruz Sheriff Phil Wowak — whose department is testing the new system — noted that it “will give us the ability to know the exact time the officer drew his weapon, the time between the drawing of the weapon and the firing of the weapon, and then the exact time between each individual shot.”

Even if automated backup doesn’t arrive, the smartgun system will record key facts of the incident to help reduce the ambiguity (and nasty after-effects).

Given the national focus on Ferguson, this system — or one like it — could find its way into local precincts sooner rather than later.

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