The Trace

This Portable Sensor Will Watch Over Your Guns While You’re Away

Simtek, a new security-technology company based in Mountain View, California, recently launched a funding campaign for a compact security sensor called Duo that it says might just be able to reduce accidental child shootings.

The sensor is a portable device that can fit inside safes or dresser drawers. It works by monitoring ambient light and infrared heat in its range. If, for example, someone opens a gun cabinet and lifts a rifle next to a sensor, Duo will send a text to the owner within 15 seconds.

A gun owner who receives a text message might not be able to act in time to prevent a tragedy, but the owner would know if someone is dangerously close to his or her firearm. Experts say one of the best ways to protect a gun from theft, or from a curious child, is to lock it securely away.

Brady Simpson, Simtek’s founder and CEO, said he designed the Duo to complement existing options for storing weapons, not to replace them. His goal, he said, was to work with the existing behaviors of gun owners and add another layer of security that monitors a firearm without restricting access.

“This product isn’t going to stop anyone from doing anything,” Simpson said, “but at least you’ll know about it, and you can address it.”

Simpson said the company met its funding goal of $15,000 within 48 hours of announcing the device.

Research has found that nearly 40 percent of parents wrongly believe their kids don’t know where the family stores its guns. And as The Trace has previously reported, curious children are likely to play with a gun if they find it, putting them at risk for serious injury or death.

In the event a firearm is stolen, the Duo could help police create a timeline of the crime by recording when and where the gun was taken. Hundreds of thousands of weapons are stolen from gun owners each year, The Trace has reported. Some are taken even if they are stored in safes.

Initially, the Duo was conceived to be a smart safe that would send texts to gun owners, but Simpson quickly found that gun owners either already had safes that they liked, or they weren’t interested in using safes at all. So he refined the concept to its current form, built a prototype, and founded Simtek.

The company tested the product with 100 gun owners and three police departments in the Bay Area and found applications for the device beyond safe gun storage. Police departments wanted additional sensors to watch over their evidence rooms, and civilians could use the device to watch over any valuable item, not just guns.

The portable sensor has already garnered praise. It won the 2017 Hong Kong Design Awards and has received favorable reviews from preliminary product testers.

Simtek’s Duo won’t make guns themselves any safer, but that’s not Simpson’s intention.

“What I really hope this can do is create some awareness and help people understand what is going on with their guns,” Simpson said. “Guns are a big part of our culture and the Second Amendment is not going away.”