19-Year-Old MIT Student Aims to Save Lives with Fingerprint Sensor on Firearms

January 30, 2017 by Donald Krambeck

Biometric security and the concept of the smart gun.

At just age 15, Kai Kloepfer had the idea of a "smart gun" option for safer gun control. Now 19, he's working with MIT to He is trying to solve the gun violence problem we face daily and thinks his smart gun might be the proper solution.

What Is a Smart Gun?

Kai Kloepfer found a rather alarming statistic from the Children's Defense Fund claiming that, every 30 minutes in the United States on average, a child dies or is injured by a firearm.

This was a compelling problem to him so be began research into how he could make a difference. At the time, he was looking for a topic to work on for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair; what better project to work on than a smart gun that can also help solve a nation-wide problem?

For the past three years, Kloepfer has been dedicating his time to develop his smart gun concept that helped him win a $50,000 grant from SmartTech Challenges Foundation. 

Kloepfer's prototype (shown below) has a built-in fingerprint sensor that can detect whether a user is authorized to operate the smart gun. This fingerprint sensor utilizes technologies from biometric security measures, which might be the solution to solving the United States' gun violence problem.

Biometrics authentication is typically used in computer science as a safe measure to provide proper identification and gain access to restricted areas or objects. Some other ways that identification can be measured through biometrics is by analyzing palm veins or prints, facial recognition, DNA, hand geometry, iris recognition, and retina scans.


Kloepfer's 3D printed prototype. Image courtesy of Kai Kloepfer


While this prototype cannot shoot, it can demonstrate the fingerprint sensor allowing authorized users to operate the smart gun. When a new user is added to the list of authorized users, their fingerprint is converted into a mathematical hash which represents that image.

Kloepfer says that these hashes are secured by storing them using military-grade encryption with a key unique to that firearm. Once this image is stored, there is no way to regenerate the image from the hash that is stored on the gun, adding an extra layer of security. The hashes stored onto the smart gun are also stored with a key that is distinctive to that particular firearm. What this means is that the owner—and only the owner—is the only person that has access to the list of authorized operators.

Tech-Savvy Gun Safety Add-Ons

IdentiLock is a company based out of Detroit, MI that is also working towards solving the same problem as Kloepfer. Their selling point is that they believe that safety should not compromise readiness and readiness should not compromise safety.

Identilock is a lock that completely covers the trigger and prevents access to the trigger until activated by fingerprint; this provides for immediate access to a firearm if a threat is present.

While Identilock doesn't consider itself as a smart gun, it uses biometrics in its trigger locking system. Through this method of security, the firearm owner does not have to alter, modify or tamper with firearm mechanics. 


IdentiLock on a Glock. Image courtesy of IdentiLock


Like Kloepfer's smart gun, IdentiLock uses a TOUCHKEY sensor that quickly reads your fingerprint and automatically unlocks and allows access to the firearm. The battery inside the device is a rechargeable lithium-ion that provides up to six months of active standby and can be recharged by micro-USB. Now you might be wondering, what happens if the battery dies when I need the gun? Well, as you see in the image above, IdentiLock included a fail-safe key that is unique to each product. 

  • mutthunaveen February 01, 2017

    Very good technology Govt will give licence with this security feature for the people who buy arms legally. But illegal arms manufacturers will not apply or use this tech. so, befinit of this technology is limited. !!! Nothing is better than something !!!

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  • Kevin Nugent February 01, 2017

    At the gun range your fingertips collect gun powder residue and gun oil, once that contacts the fingerprint sensors I believe it will render them useless, also the jarring of any High Caliber bullet will shake loose all electrical circuitry don’t see it working.

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  • gophert February 04, 2017

    Other technologies are already available.  They will not be mandated any time soon - NRA has too much pull, for now.  They already defeated a similar device from being “required”.

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