Team from NYU Tandon wins $1M prize in Brooklyn BP’s Smart Gun Competition
‘It’s not going to make it slower, it’s not going to make it faster, it’s only going to make it safer’
Autonomous Ballistics, a team from New York University Tandon School of Engineering, took home the $1 million prize in a Smart Gun Design Competition funded by Borough President Eric Adams.
And the winning team’s design is not a gun — but a smart holster.
At a ceremony on Monday at Borough Hall, a panel of judges announced that the smart holster was the most promising proposal to prevent unauthorized users from firing a gun, a thorny issue with political and social ramifications in a society sick of gun violence, yet where gun ownership is the rule in many parts of the country.
An audit by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 3,174 guns were lost or stolen from gun shops in New York State in 2013, and 4,017 lost or stolen in 2014.
BP Adams, a former cop who owns multiple guns, said the competition was intended to raise knowledge about the issue and figure out how to balance the rights of individuals possessing guns with the need for public safety.
“I am so proud of these incredibly innovative young people, who have channeled our collective pain from senseless gun violence into a purposeful mission of designing technology that can save lives,” Adams said.
The winning team, made up of NYU grad Sy Cohen, Ph D candidate Ashwin Raj Kumar and mentor Professor Anthony Clarke described how the holster works. (Team members Jonathan Ng and Eddilene Cordero were not present.)
The smart holster uses fingerprint ID, RFID and voice identification to keep out everyone but the legal owner (and up to 200 other users), Cohen and Raj Kumar said. A small fingerprint reader is embedded into the wall of the holster. The beauty of their design is that you “don’t have to change your gun at all. It’s just a holster similar to the one you have except this is maneuvered so that it’s almost inherent that you put your finger [on the fingerprint reader] when you pull it out,” Cohen said.
“The holster can be tailored for every gun available in the market,” Raj Kumar told the Brooklyn Eagle. “So that makes it easily feasible for all the guns that everyone is using.”
Battery life depends on how many times the gun is drawn from the holster, from three-and-a-half days if not drawn at all to a half day if drawn six times a day, Raj Kumar said.
Answering concerns that the design might slow down the shooter in the case of an emergency, Cohen said this technology “is not going to make it slower, it’s not going to make it faster, it’s only going to make it safer.” And just in case, there’s a mechanical override in case of an electronic malfunction.
What is the team going to do with their million dollars?
“We have a long list of things we have coordinated to spend on,” Cohen said.
“We have some strategic partnerships,” Raj Kumar said. “So we are going to connect with them on how this product can be brought from a prototype to a finished product that will be easily affordable.”
Autonomous Ballistics competed against four other teams, from New York City College of Technology and Pratt Institute and one made up of their fellow students at NYU Tandon.
These include Energy Environmental Simulation (EES) Lab from New York City College of Technology, Intelligent Defense Systems (IDS) from Pratt Institute, Pew Pew from New York City College of Technology and Smartfire Technology from NYU Tandon.
The concepts were evaluated based on their adaptability into the market, feasibility, flexibility, potential impact on public safety and potential for other uses. So far no word has come in on the design from gun manufacturers on the idea.
The competition was held in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the Smart Tech Challenge Foundation.
Jurists included Borough President Adams, MOCJ’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence Executive Director Eric Cumberbatch, NYAGV Executive Director Rebecca Fischer, Strategic Operational Solutions, Inc. test engineer Jonathan Hayes, and Smart Tech Challenge Foundation President Margot Hirsch.
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