Monday, May 12, 2014

Engadget Looks at Smartguns

You can read Engadget's take on smart guns here. They point to the three biggest problems, including reliability concerns, dependency on battery life, and legal disincentives for their adoption (i.e. NJ laws).

They even quote the Violence Policy Center, in a rare moment of clarity, claiming that smart guns don't do much to improve safety - calling them a "seductive hoax".

Last week we looked at why you shouldn't trust fingerprint readers on any device, let along your weapon. But who wants to plug their pistol in every night? I think my cell phone is a hassle to keep charged. Let me expand on the problems with batteries:

  • They fail hard over time, losing their ability to hold a charge. They must be replaceable, adding more complexity to fit and finish of the weapon - more parts to break, more parts to lose.
  • Batteries generally suck in freezing temperatures, let alone subzero temps.
  • The electronics must be weather-sealed and able to take a beating, adding another level of complexity for quality assurance testing, field reliability, etc.
  • unique form factors require custom batteries, and custom batteries get very hard to find, if not irreplaceable (see first point)
All of the problems above come with little value-add on offer. I read a comment about failures in Nest thermostats today that said, "Just because you put an LCD screen on a shovel doesn't mean you'll dig ditches any faster". Until the technology of guns evolves radically from its centuries-old fundamentals, the complexity and hassle of adding electronics doesn't seem like a winning idea. 

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