Gun violence continues to be a hot topic. Gang violence in neighborhoods, terrorist attacks in cities, accidental gun discharge among kids, mass attacks at schools and businesses — these and other forms of gun activities are leading to calls for reform throughout the world.
Through the use of smart technology, the startup Blocksafe seeks to deliver a blockchain-centric solution for gun ownership and their safe use. Its core premise is predicated on a key issue tied to firearms, namely the danger they pose when they migrate into the hands of non-owners.
With the support of the Blocksafe Foundation, an organization evangelizing smart-gun technology and gun-ownership freedoms, an innovative device and decentralized network is advancing in its development. Its mission is to create a safer world through weapons tracking and accountability, preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands and being utilized by unauthorized gun users.
Citizens, law enforcement agencies and armed security firms will have 24/7 real-time access to the secure and anonymous Blocksafe network, thereby allowing them the ability to self-monitor their supported firearms devices. Owners can receive notifications if shots are fired by an unauthorized user of their guns. Moreover, they have the ability to locate and disable a stolen weapon, all through the Blocksafe app or web portal.
It should be noted, however, that Blocksafe cannot identify the actual shooter who is utilizing the firearm. Rather it’s more of a tracking mechanism for both individual owners as well as gun store owners, giving them peace of mind as to where their firearms are at all times.
By way of example, an adult at work might remember that his gun is possibly accessible to his kids at home. Blocksafe can help him track where the gun actually is and even remotely disable it. Again, the goal is to offer some semblance of control to the owner in the event that the firearm ends up in the hands of an unauthorized user, which often results in a gun tragedy.
Another illustrative use case: A gun owner whose house is robbed while she is away can remotely disable the stolen firearm, rendering it unable to be resold or used later in a crime.
Pulling the Trigger on Innovation
Kevin Barnes, founder and chairman of Blocksafe, is an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran, blockchain developer and passionate advocate of gun ownership. He is also a tech coder of 20 years.
Raised among liberty-minded gun lovers, he was taught to embrace the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms first and foremost. As he listened to and read about politicians pushing smart-gun efforts in the media, he feared a loss of life or liberty due to risks inherited by a centralized smart-gun infrastructure. These concerns led him to launch Blocksafe.
In this interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Barnes discusses the evolution of Blocksafe and his greatest hopes around the future of gun safety worldwide.
Can you describe the moment when the Blocksafe idea first struck you?
Being an avid gun lover, I was at a range teaching my wife to shoot various firearms and she began thinking about what to do if she was overpowered by a thug while she was armed. At that moment the concept of “Blocksafe” was born.
In layman's terms, what is Blocksafe?
I tend to think of Blocksafe as a light version of particle.io for enhanced firearm technology. It is a full-stack IoT device network that gives innovators what they need to enable users to securely manage their devices and data. Blocksafe can also facilitate an innovator’s use case in IoT development, expediting their roadmap to the market with security and anonymity for the user and sensor data being the major area of focus.
Blocksafe enables innovators to develop a myriad of solutions to solve the problems associated with firearms — such as malware and ransomware risks — that were not possible before without compromise.
How does this benefit the gun industry?
Decentralized applications (DApps) can be developed in a way that greatly benefits companies in the gun industry. For example, a third-party device is created by a manufacturer. They could install a custom-built DApp onto it, so the manufacturer can easily track its inventory and distribution.
What about the economics of your solution?
Economically, revenue can be generated from the upsale of enhanced add-on devices to firearms. With the cost of the IoT infrastructure greatly reduced, innovators can focus on improving their product to meet market demands, especially those from a newer generation who are always connected. Innovators can also better meet government and commercial needs for these enhancing devices.
What sorts of other use cases are being bantered about?
Here are a few that might align with the Blocksafe model.
Litigation: enhancing the authenticity of a camera video allowed in court proceedings.
Product Theft: a gunstore can recoup their firearms if stolen.
Insurance: armoured trucks and security companies in general can better monitor and manage the firearm usage of their employees.
Training: Instructors can use analytics to study shooting skills to better train students, thereby reducing the likelihood of accidents.
What are Blocksafe trigger tokens and how will they work?
Triggers are the appropriately named “tokens” that power every event from smart devices to the Blocksafe network. The token is an Counterparty asset (which may become ERC223 later) that will be introduced during demonstrations at CoinAgenda in Las Vegas later this year.
What else are you currently introducing?
Soon we will be demonstrating with the TrackingPoint M400 to our smart-gun network. There are many sensors, a smart trigger and a smart scope on the firearm that make it a great candidate to use in demonstration.
We will also be introducing another DApp use case made for mobile phones and tablets called “Gunshot Spot.” It’s a free gunfire-mapping app and token wallet that sends notifications of gunfire and its proximity. Users will have the option to anonymously share the data to the app community, which will be used to populate gunfire mapping within the app using Blocksafe. Think of it as SpotCrime for gunfire.
What steps have you taken to garner support from the gun industry?
We have provided a pilot signup page for our network’s web portal. We are also in talks with many firearm and accessory manufacturers, some of which we met at the recent NRA show in Atlanta. A quarter of them expressed positive interest in Blocksafe as they recognize that nothing is stopping the progression of defense tech and the launch of Blocksafe. One exhibitor summed it up in one sentence: “Blocksafe’s use case is that it enables use cases development for enhanced firearm solutions that were never possible before.”
We’ve also received a lot of support from organizations that support the firearm industry such as Smart Tech Foundation, which we plan to join in their effort to support startup innovators entering the enhanced firearm space.
What is your response to libertarians and others concerned about gun privacy and anonymity?
What I say to them is that enhanced firearm tech is going to continue to develop no matter what. When I was following the smart-gun mandates from President Obama and his administration, all I could picture was my wife, kids and future grandkids with a weapon that some third party could share control of.
As a programmer of 20 years and a Bitcoin enthusiast, I realized the only solution was to bring to market a network that would prevent that nightmare. At the same time, we can use the blockchain to save lives by enhancing the very tool that has been protecting our freedom in such a way that the device owner keeps full control of the device features and data.
As is the belief of many libertarians, I have the liberty to choose how to defend myself and my family. It is our human right. Whether it is using a 25-year-old revolver or a TrackingPoint AR, we all have the liberty to choose our firearm of choice.
But how do you think these arguments will sit with the government?
We spend millions to politically protect our legal rights to defend ourselves. We must also focus on making sure the technology is not used against us — as, without an alternative, the chances of technical tyranny is a threat too great to chance — regardless of the laws.
Plus, I think it is cool not being able to be shot with my own weapon.
What is your long-term, grand vision for Blocksafe?
Simply to continue to help grow the enhanced-firearm space including expanding the consortium globally. We will try to incubate startups and launch Smart Gun News to showcase the innovators and aggregate news in the space. We also endeavor to work with nations to adopt blockchain tech and their smart city efforts in general. Ultimately, as I see it, it’s about promoting a safer and more peaceful world full of liberty.