This story is interesting for two big reasons, only one of which relates to smart guns
Perth-based Azonto Petroleum has reportedly purchased Israeli startup Clipfort for $28.1 million. Clipfort is developing fingerprint-activated firearm magazines to ensure personal security for weapons. It is just the latest example of Australian mining and resource companies diversifying their portfolios with Israeli technology.
Little is known about Clipfort and their website is rather barren. Located in Kfar Saba, Israel, they were founded in 2013 by CEO Daniel Biran, CDO Omer Kotzer, CFO Tsachi Cohen, and Eyal Artsiely. They raised $1.2 million in a round, apparently led by OurCrowd, back in September 2014.
The company’s flagship product is the GoSafe ID Mag, which uses a sensor to identify the fingertips of the person grabbing the weapon. When someone not registered with the hardware tries to fire, the gun remains locked.
As firearm industry observers would have probably guessed, Clipfort’s main focus has been the U.S. market, where private gun ownership is not merely prevalent but an embedded part of culture in many parts of the country.
Assuming the deal is completed, the merged company will start trading on the ASX by July and the board of directors will include Clipfort founder Daniel Biran and an assortment of new directors nominated by each of the two companies.
Australian miners continue to diversify
The deal brings up trends in two major and seemingly unrelated industries: natural resources and firearms.
It’s also further evidence of Australian resource companies diversifying their portfolios. In light of the global drop in energy and mineral prices, two areas in which Australia has generated significant wealth over the years, companies in those fields have begun to pivot towards the startup and technology sectors in hopes that it will lead them to greener and more sustainable pastures.
Several deals have been made between Australian companies and Israeli startups in the last month alone. Melbourne-based Consolidated Gems acquired VR company Byondata in March, Perth-based Victory Mines bought out Milestone Sports, and fellow Perth company Drake Resources acquired Genome Technologies, not to mention respective reverse takeovers by Radar Iron and Erin Resources of Weebit-Nano and MGC pharmaceuticals.
Israeli companies hold a special appeal for many in the international market that are looking for investments that will allow them to grow their money and internal products more effectively.
Gun innovation is not as simple as you would think
While Biran and co. deserve credit for taking an innovative approach to gun safety, his design runs up against a number of brick walls.
The first issue that springs to mind is the reliability of touch ID mechanisms. For anyone who has ever tried to use the home button to open their iPhone after doing the dishes will know, sensors are well, sensitive to the right conditions in order to read the biometric data needed to unlock the device.
So while Clipfort claims to have a very impressive track record of their solution working in testing, I can’t help but think about how real world situations would play out if the user has sweaty hands.
This whole conversation becomes completely irrelevant if gloves are involved, as could often be the case for law enforcement officers, lengthening the unlocking process and losing valuable reaction time.
In the past when major gun manufacturers like Colt tried to get into the smart gun game, they faced significant pushback from all sides in the gun debate. Gun control advocates said that their identifier technology projected a false sense of safety that would make stronger regulation tougher to pass. On the other side, it was argued that these types of safety measures would quickly become industry standards, making them mandatory for all gun makers and felt forced to that community.
Perhaps most importantly was the rejection from law enforcement, who felt that their safety was threatened by a device that simply was not reliable enough for them to take on the streets.
One thing that I did like about Clipfort’s approach is that once the magazine is loaded, unauthorized users are unable to remove the clip. I would like to know how many fingerprint signatures the mechanism is capable of storing. Can I use prints from both hands? What about if I want my wife to be able to use my weapon?
Technology may yet have a strong role to play in making guns in society just a bit safer, but we’re not there yet. For this technology to be relevant, as well as a viable product for the market, the generally suspicious gun using crowd will have to trust it to hold up when it counts.
Gedalyah Reback contributed to this report.