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Over the last 20 years, technologists have been working hard to create solutions to the challenges of gun safety. Their efforts have kept pace with the technological developments of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, sensor technology, wearables and IoT.
Yet their implementation has been slow, if not stalled to a halt. I wanted to look at the pain points in this trajectory and how and when it could move forward. I also spoke to one person who believes the blockchain could solve some of the back-end structural challenge: Kevin Barnes, founder of the Blocksafe Foundation, who is also a 20-year US Army veteran as well as architect and coder.
But first, let’s delve into guns before we explore the inclusion of the blockchain. In April this year, President Obama made funding for smart gun research part of his end-of-term efforts. The smart gun promises a technological fix for gun violence by keeping firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them — thieves, children, and anyone else who isn’t the authorized user.
A smart gun is a firearm that includes a safety feature or features that allow it to fire only when activated by an authorized user. These safety features can prevent misuse, accidental shootings, gun thefts, use of the weapon against the owner, and self-harm. Smart guns distinguish between authorized users and unauthorized users in several different ways, including the use of RFID chips or other proximity tokens, fingerprint recognition, wearable devices, or mechanical locks.
The strange history of smart guns
For those of us born outside of America, it’s hard to imagine the notion that smart gun development has been thwarted by politics and political lobbying and an underlying concern that their introduction would lead to stricter gun control. But it’s the strange reality. In 1999, gunmaker Smith & Wesson promised the Clinton White House to develop smart guns that can be fired only by the adults who own them as part of a deal to fend off liability litigation.
The gun lobby organized a boycott against Smith & Wesson, perceiving smart guns and other concessions in the deal as part of the gun control agenda. Factories closed, employees were laid off, and for some time, big U.S. gunmakers avoided smart guns. The boycott stemmed from fear that smart guns would soon be the only guns people were allowed to buy, infringing on individual’s rights bear arms of their choosing.
Gunmakers Colt received a $500,000 grant from the Justice Department in 1997 to complete development of a handgun that would work with RFID via a wristband. Smith and Wesson received more than $3 million in Justice Department grants between 2000 and 2004 to develop smart guns for law enforcement. The prototypes were completed but no one was using them and Smith & Wesson had to layoff 15 percent of its staff due to boycotts.
In 2014, when Engage Armament of Washington shared their intentions to sell the German Armatix iP1 .22-caliber handgun, which electronically limits the ability to fire the weapon, the shop received thousands of complaints and threats of violence and death, forcing them to reconsider their decision.
The Armatix gun is implanted with an electronic chip that allows it to be fired only if the shooter is wearing a watch that communicates with it through a radio signal. If the gun is moved more than ten inches from the watch, it will not fire.
In New Jersey, lawmakers passed a 2002 law requiring that guns be “smart” once they have been available on the market for three years. That three-year countdown has never been started in part because of pressure from gun rights activists on manufacturers not to develop the technology.
This week California congressman Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, submitted the Modernizing Firearms Technology Act to Congress. The bill would require gun retailers to display at least one personalized firearm and make it available for buyers who are not prohibited by law from possessing a handgun. If licensees don’t, they would incur a $1,000 annual fine.
Solving gun safety challenges with the blockchain
“Law enforcement use has been limited because of a lack of proper infrastructure for adequate adoption of smart gun tech,” Barnes said. “They have video recording and some try to use sound sensors to listen for firearm discharge in the city. But without a non-hackable decentralized infrastructure, IoT devices like smart devices on guns have too many security risks. Blocksafe is aiming to solve this major hurdle.”
A blockchain-based system provides the ability to enable, disable, track and secure firearms without any centralized control or reporting according to Barnes. Blocksafe is primarily a software-based project, providing the infrastructure to support the smart-device hardware that manufacturers and 3D print projects use to enhance the safety and defense capabilities of firearms. It’s a peer to peer network that uses a combination of lisk, BitTorrent and Telehash.
In basic terms, when a gun fires, the Blocksafe “shotspot” technology senses and logs details on the Blocksafe ledger. Notifications simultaneously go to emergency personnel. Multiple “shotspots” work together to detect, locate and respond to gun discharges.
When setting up a smart device initially, Bluetooth authentication is setup via the Blocksafe app by the owner and all authorized users are added by the device owner and stored on the local ledger. Authentication method could vary upon the device and manufacturer. A gun’s round count and authentication attempt parameters are stored in real time along with other data that the device owner chooses to be recorded such as date, time, and location using encryption onto the local ledger of the device.
When the device has internet access the ledger is synced to the network and the device owner receives notifications such as push, sms, or email as configured by the owner’s chosen device settings. The data is encrypted via a data key on the network. So, only those who have the data kept from the device owner will be able to view the actual device activity.
“The network’s purpose is to support the smart device’s features on the network such as logging activity and remote management that only the device owner can do,” Barnes explained. “For example, a smart lock can be used on the gun and can alert the owner of unauthorized discharges using the Blocksafe app. This will help the device owner control the use and location of the firearm.”
How to lock and not load
The technology will include locks that mount on the gun. Barnes said they are developing custom prototypes of smart devices, but their bigger focus is on developing and maintaining the Blocksafe network and infrastructure. Blocksafe will provide SDK, API and support for other manufacturers to use the Blocksafe network.
“The stakes are too high for a hackable, controllable third-party solution,” Barnes said. “We believe that an anonymous, secure and decentralized infrastructure must be in place to reduce gang activity, locate stolen firearms, and prevent guns from being used against owners. These advanced features can save lives and our right of self-defense.
At time of interview, Barnes was in discussion with the Smart Tech Foundation to look at collaborative opportunities. Whilst it seems unlikely that smart guns will ever replace traditional guns outright unless the legislature can be stronger than the lobbyists, the reality is that they could significantly advance gun safety into the future.
The post Can a blockchain-IoT hybrid finally give us smart guns? appeared first on ReadWrite.
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Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS) has today announced a new traffic management system named NextTraffic, built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud. CTS will utilize the cloud platform to analyze huge volumes of traffic data and provide governments with data on peak times, congestion, and potential accidents before they happen.
CTS is most commonly known for its fare collection systems, which includes London’s Oyster card and New York’s MetroCard, among others. NextTraffic is separate from this collection service, instead using road sensors, roadside cameras, and connected cars as the bulk of its data collection.
Microsoft’s Azure cloud will supposedly allow CTS to analyze much more data in a shorter time period, leading to powerful solutions to congestion. NextTraffic will be able to change traffic light changes, adjust speed limits, and potentially divert traffic to new routes.
“This collaboration allows us to utilize the full power of Microsoft technology to improve our solutions today and develop future-proof, scalable solutions for tomorrow,” said Boris Karsch, vice president of strategy at Cubic Transportation Systems. “This strategic relationship will be beneficial for both companies as we build on CTS’ expertise in payment and information systems for public transportation and traffic management and Microsoft’s world-leading enterprise solutions.”
Real-time data in transport a relatively new concept
CTS is a leader in transport systems, but the ability to change traffic systems in real-time is a relatively new idea. IBM, Siemens, and other enterprise tech companies are building their own systems, but CTS has a few decades of experience building traffic systems as leverage, which might sway some smart cities to opt for their solution.
“Smart city transportation solutions have the potential to improve traffic patterns, reduce congestion, contribute to economic growth and revolutionize city planning, all while improving the quality of transportation around the city,” said Toni Townes-Whitley, corporate vice president of worldwide public sector for Microsoft. “We’re excited to work with Cubic, a domain expert in its field, to develop new transportation solutions for our customers.”
The post CTS’ next-gen traffic platform want to give cities the heads-up appeared first on ReadWrite.
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Recently I’ve seen several interesting conversations about ad blocking, and I wanted to remind people about a great offering called Google Contributor. With Google Contributor, you contribute a certain amount of money each month. That subscription means that you see fewer ads on the web, and you support the sites that you visit with your money.
You get to decide how much to contribute (I do $10/month, but for example you can do $2/month if you prefer). The more you contribute, the fewer ads you see. The handwave-y explanation that when you go to a website, your monthly subscription actually bids on your behalf in ad auctions. So you end up buying the ad yourself rather than someone else. This is cool for several reasons:
1. You support the sites you visit without expending any energy.
2. You see fewer ads.
3. (And this is the cool part) you get to decide what to show in that ad space instead of ads.
That’s right: you can pick a custom URL to show to yourself instead of ads. It’s like buying space on a billboard and showing nature scenes instead of ads. Personally, I like to show a dynamically generated Mondrian-like pattern:
But here’s the part I love: when you sign in, click the gear icon and then “Advanced settings,” and at the bottom of the page you can provide any custom URL you want (it does have to serve over https). You could replace ads with pictures of kittens, or your family. Or make ads your todo list, or a reminder to get back to work. Think outside the box, like Paul Ford. It’s the open web–you can have all kinds of fun with your HTML.
Here are some common misconceptions about Google Contributor:
Q: I thought Google Contributor only worked with ten websites or so?
A: No, it works with millions of websites. Contributor launched with a small set of websites initially, but if a website runs Google ads like AdSense or DoubleClick for Publishers, it’s likely to be compatible with Contributor.
Q: Isn’t there a waitlist to join? Or I need an invite or something?
A: Not anymore! You can sign up immediately and support tons of websites with one monthly payment.
Q: Can I see which websites I’m supporting?
A: Yes! You get a report that looks like this:
(Adding a few more questions)
Q: Why don’t you support Google Apps accounts? I thought it only worked with Gmail accounts?
A: This is very fresh news, but I believe Google Apps accounts are now supported. Try it out!
Q: Why doesn’t Contributor support country X or currency Y?
A: It’s safe to assume that the Contributor team has heard that feedback. I’m happy to pass that feedback on as well. That can be a complicated issue though.
If you like the web and use it as much as I do, why not support some of your favorite websites while reducing the number of ads you see? Give Google Contributor a try now.
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5 SEO Cheats That Will Give You Results by the End of the Week
A properly targeted SEO outreach campaign has the ability to make or break a marketing campaign. But before we jump into a discussion of the best SEO cheats to get results, let's get clear on exactly what results we're trying to achieve. By clearly …
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