Biofire aims to reduce tragic accidents with a firearm that only its owner can use – TechCrunch

The last thing we need in this world is more guns. But we get them whether we like it or not, so wouldn’t it be nice if these weapons had security mechanisms like our phones, making them impossible for anyone but their owners to use? That’s what Biofire is building, and it’s raised $17 million to finalize and market its secure biometric firearm.

Founder Kai Kloepfer said he started exploring the idea after the Aurora mass shootings in 2012.

“I started thinking, what could I do to have an impact on this? How can I apply my product creation skills to what seems like a public health challenge? The problem of children and adolescents who find firearms, accidents and suicides – that’s where I’ve really seen technology and a product-based physical solution have an impact,” he said.

Let’s be clear on something first. A weapon that only the shooter can use could hardly have prevented most mass shootings. Gun ownership is also closely linked to suicide, increasing the risk in almost every way. Guns themselves are fundamentally at the heart of gun violence, but it must also be recognized that there has been little progress on safety and restrictions in recent years despite countless shootings and constant debate over the question.

Of course, locks already exist: trigger locks, gun safes and things like that. But as Kloepfer pointed out, “all of this requires human action to secure the weapon again – and sometimes that’s not feasible.” These can be situations where the weapon is taken from a person, or the much more likely occurrence of simply forgetting or neglecting to lock it.

“So we thought of something very simple. You pick it up, it unlocks, it stays unlocked for as long as you hold it, and when you put it back down, it locks again in a split second,” he said.

The team was assembled from a variety of industries where reliability is key, such as aerospace and military. Then they set about building a gun with a “true grassroots approach.” We really went back to the drawing board,” as he put it.

Indeed, while there is of course deep expertise in building reliable firearms, none have ever integrated biometrics and smart capabilities so deeply. There are conversion kits and of course biometric trigger locks, but at the end of the day this is a regular gun with a fancy lock. The point here is to build the locking mechanism at the most basic level.

Kloepfer was careful to add that it is not a “smart gun” in the sense of many other “smart” objects like refrigerators and televisions, which have all sorts of unnecessary digital additions and opportunities fail or be hacked. So, although the gun has modern electronics built in, they all serve the locking mechanism and the user will ideally never have to think about it.

Biofire CEO Kai Kloepfer fires one of the company’s weapons at a shooting range. Picture credits: Biofire

“Obviously it’s an electronic device, so it has an internal battery,” he said. “But we’ve designed the system in such a way that the vast majority of customers, probably 99%, will never have to think about the battery — charging it, discharging it. And user privacy is top priority – the gun has no RF communication of any kind. It’s a complete, hardened system with a hardened interface port.

No doubt that last aspect is as much a concession to gun owners, who would balk at the idea of ​​a weapon that can be disabled wirelessly, as it is to a security team that understands that such protocols only increase the attack surface of true security. – critical device.

Images of the gun show a fingerprint sensor on the left side of the grip, where the user would place their thumb (looks like lefties are out of luck just yet). When I asked for more details on security and authentication methods, Kloepfer said the company was still finalizing them and declined to comment beyond generalities.

“The engineering work to do this is not trivial, but we are happy with where we are. We cannot share the numbers as we are in the middle of testing. You can’t shorten that,” he said, noting that the company was entering a private beta program with owners, military and law enforcement and cybersecurity experts before launching the device. “Biofire’s goal is to do this thing perfectly – we’re not looking to build a defense company. This is the problem, and we don’t want to release a product until we hit all of those milestones. This allows us to engage in a quantitative rather than qualitative dialogue with our customers.

CG rendering of a Biofire pistol lying on a table.

Picture credits: Biofire

Frankly, the reluctance to discuss critical systems at this point is a bit concerning. It’s hard to imagine that more measures could be added at this point, as the firearm is clearly at a sufficiently advanced stage to be supplied to test partners. But I’ve been told multiple times that the company won’t share any more details about the mechanics or how they work.

This is something of a red flag, of course, but there is also the confidence of investors to consider, who have clearly seen enough to invest $17 million in completing the system. It is possible but unlikely that a truly “beta” system, or one that falls short of its goal of instantaneous and reliable locking and locking, will attract this level of funding. (Investor confidence isn’t enough or necessary to quash anyone’s skepticism, of course, and they’re not infrequently fooled – I just didn’t get that meaning here.)

Nonetheless, the ambition to go after torpid and culpable gunmakers in the name of safety is, to say the least, worthy of consideration. As we have seen in other less controversial areas, it often takes a small disruptive force to shake inherited industries out of their preconceptions of what is possible and desirable. If Biofire proves what it claims to have built, there will be good reason to wonder why other gun makers have failed or not bothered to try over the past few decades.

Innovation and technology may still have a role to play in the area of ​​gun violence, not as a panacea, but simply as one of many layers of control and security that ensure guns are used. legally and personally.

The list of investors who agree is quite long, it seems – Biofire has found “bipartisan support” from more than 50 VCs, family offices and various high net worth individuals, including Ron Conway and Gavin de Becker. Although the only one to join the board is Lt. Gen. Guy C. Swan (retired), who reiterated in a press release that the company won’t launch the product until it’s ready. .

About Byron G. Fazio

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