Gun technology developed in Athlone reaches White House attention

An Athlone company is behind the development of smart technology for guns which has caught the attention of White House officials.

‘Triggersmart’, developed by Athlone-based company Georgia Tech, is designed to ensure that only a gun’s registered owner is able to fire it.

The technology is the result of an idea developed by Limerick entrepreneurs Pat O’Shaughnessy and Robert McNamara, who were paired up with Georgia Tech through Enterprise Ireland. General manager of Georgia Tech in Athlone, Joe Dowling, explained that Georgia Tech has been working on developing the technology for the past two years.

“We looked at fingerprint and palm recognition, or grip recognition which measures the pressure points of a hand, but all of these take a while to register the user - it could be several seconds. But we were looking for a more immediate solution. So we went for RFID - radio-frequency identification - technology, which recognises the user in 0.2 seconds,” he explained.

The RFID reader in the handle of the gun reacts to a tag either in a bracelet or ring, or even embedded under the skin, and is similar to the technology used to microchip animals.

“To fit the reader into the handle of a gun we had to design one of the smallest RFID readers in the world, 1cm by 1cm,” he added.

Mr Dowling said the product has garnered huge attention since the recent school shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School and the ensuing gun control debate in the US.

“We are trying to pitch it as a gun safety feature. Part of Georgia Tech is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and representatives of Georgia Tech were asked to come and meet Attorney General Eric Holder in the White House. President Obama in a speech recently mentioned smart gun technology, and this was a reference to what they are talking to us about,” he added.

The majority of research and product development for the Triggersmart technology has been carried out in Athlone by two Georgia Tech staff.

“It’s been an interesting project and different from other projects we’ve been involved in. I would like to see the major gun manufacturers implement this as an optional safety feature in their products,” said Mr Dowling.


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