Categories
Environment Media Science Technology

Experiences of an Online Conference

adobe

Online Conference

Last month I attended a conference with a difference, The INSS annual meeting was held in 5 different cities at the same time, as well as online, in an attempt to cut down on travel for participants. I attended the London site and was one of only 2 people to fly to the event. This is remarkable considering that last year we all met in North Carolina and dozens of people flew internal and trans continental legs.

The physical Conference was held at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, Oregon State university, Arizona State University, Michigan State University and University College London.

Very much an experiment, the practicalities of conducting a conference over several different time zones posed some issues, with early starts for those on the US West Coast and late finishes for those in Europe. The technology worked incredibly well, with very few glitches over the days’ events. Participants were able to ask questions, follow seminars in any of the sites they chose, and interact with the poster and key note presenters using online media.

The event was run out of North Carolina, and the web management was all taken care of from that site. I must say that I was rather skeptical at the beginning, having lived with Skype developments over the years, but how wrong could I be?

Communication Technology

The communication was taken care of using Adobe Connect, so anyone could participate through their own computer or by visiting any of the sites. We in London lost the last 5 minutes of a discussion after one of the lectures, but for the rest it all worked perfectly.

Now as someone who travels to a lot of these kinds of things I can only marvel at the progress made. Each site shared some seminars and papers, but all had different agendas. The London agenda included a day of field trips, as well as as a panel during which presenters discussed their experiences of building the Engineering Exchange, a university lead action group whose aim is to bridge the gap between communities and planners preparing urban regeneration projects. Read the abstract here.

We also toured some of the capital’s largest redevelopment projects, including a visit to Crossrail, a huge rail link and urban regeneration project that cuts through central London. A guided tour of the Elephant and Castle redevelopment area with the interest group “Social Life” followed, a context of urban regeneration that has caused many locals to question both existing and future plans in that area.

The context was also helped by the involvement of a member of a local interest group that aims to support people whose houses are under threat, and promote the idea of refitting houses to maintain communities, rather than rehousing and rebuilding. There is a lot more to think about in urban regeneration that you might imagine.

The Network

The closing panel was hosted in Charlotte and entitled Social Sustainability Initiatives in Planning and engineering Organization. Full details of all the participating site agendas can be found on the INSS website.

The network is open to all interested in participating, so keep an eye on the website for further information. We volunteer our time, we learn a lot, we try to raise social sustainability issues, and we always have a bit of a social at every event. I must say that the multi-site format was a worthy experiment that worked extremely well, and I think could offer a model for future events. Is the era of the online conference coming to life? Looks like it to me.

Categories
Apps Fun Technology

Maps or I Pads?

airlines-110705

A few months ago I bought a so called smart phone just so that I could use it as a satellite navigation tool. I never wanted to do it, but now I live in a new country (again) and I really couldn’t do without it.

All went well, I got it together, I could use it offline so I didn’t spend all my money on data, but then….

It stopped working. It will still give me a route plan, with a blue line to follow, but the arrow stays at home, so I don’t know how far I am down the blue line.

Now, I still carry maps in the car with me of course, because I know as well as anyone does that you cannot rely on technology. It will always let you down at the very moment that you need it most. That is what it is designed for.

So I get the maps out and all is good. I am not glorifying the world of map reading though. My dad traveled the country with a suitcase full of AtoZ’s, individual city maps. You need a fair collection at $5 each just to cover the UK, and he had to stop the car to read them.

No need to stop the car now though, when the system works of course.

So it heartens me to read that American Airlines had to ground a load of their multi billion dollar fleet this week because one of their Apps stopped working. Yes we love to be paperless, saves on trees (and fuel if you are flying that paper round the world), but look what happens when something small goes wrong.

I like the story though, they had to drive back to the terminal and connect the I pad to the airport Wi-Fi and download something. Maybe that burnt more fuel and cost more runway time fees than the money saved by carrying a suitcase full of paper around.

When I was a kid each diary had a map of the world, a map of the UK and a London Underground map in the back pages. Now there is a serious piece of technology! You get it out, get your Swiss Army Knife with a built in compass to hand and you can navigate your way round the world without any problems.

Ask yourself a question, how many of the numbers in your phone do you actually know? I don’t even know my wife’s number, I lose the phone and I am like a lost child. But I can still remember the numbers that I used to dial 30 years ago of my school friend’s parents. My brain has lost the capacity to remember phone numbers, ambulance drivers and pilots have lost the capacity to read maps, and pretty soon we will collectively lose the capability to write with a pen and paper.

It alarms me that an airline relies on an I pad and an App, and without it the world of aviation (and the commerce that relies on it) falls apart. It also amuses me though.

How much money would it save the company in fuel if all American Airlines pilots went on a fitness regime and lost half a kilo? Maybe they could ditch the badges and wear lighter weight uniforms instead, I am sure there are more reliable means.

Categories
Gadgets Media Technology

Smart Canes for the Blind

smartcane

Last week I wrote about Martina Caironi and prosthetic limbs. Today I want to sort of continue the theme by looking at technological aids for the blind or visually impaired. Many readers will have smartphones in their hands and smartmeters in their homes, but I would like to introduce you all to the world of smart-canes.

A cane offers a lot of information to a blind user, but it tends to concentrate on the floor or at best below knee level. Users can avoid objects that are attached to the floor, but overhanging tree branches and other free standing objects are much more difficult to detect. I would like to take a look at two possible solutions, one produced in India and relatively low cost, and the other produced in the UK and relatively high cost.

The Smartcane is the Indian solution, see the photo above. It costs about $50 US, and its designers say it is innovative and user centric. It detects obstacles using sonic waves and the presence of obstacles is conveyed through intuitive vibratory patterns. It is powered using a rechargeable Li–ion battery, and is seperate from the cane, so the user attaches the technology to their existing cane.

The Specs (as taken from the website):

Adjustable detection range: User can switch between long (3 metre) and short (1.8 metre) range mode depending on the usage scenarios such as outdoor, indoor or crowded places.
Ergonomic grip for comfortable holding and cane tapping: Can be held by different gripping styles, allowing users to use their natural cane holding and mobility techniques.
High detection sensitivity: The sensors can detect a 3 centimetre wide pipe from 3 metres distance, ensuring reliable detection of objects in the detection range.
Four intuitive and distinctive vibration patterns indicating obstacle distance.
Vibrations are uniformly produced on the entire grip: Non-localized vibration feedback allows user to conveniently grip the device.
Does not interfere with the auditory environment surrounding the user Vibrations allow discreet continuous use without making the user conscious or creating annoyance to others
Adjustable sensor orientation: Allows people of different heights and with different cane holding styles to direct the sensors appropriately.
In-built rechargeable battery with a long battery back-up: Removing of batteries for charging is not required.
Fully accessible user interface: Simple and distinguishable beeps to convey the battery charge status, low battery warning and charging status.
Failure detection of key components: Users informed immediately on failure of sensors and/ or vibrator through special alarm signals.
Detects fast approaching objects in the detection range: Especially helpful in detection of reversing vehicles.
Easy attachment / detachment from a white cane: Allows for compatible white cane replacement by the user himself.
Multiple colour options: Available in two non- flashy and elegant colours
Robust design: Can withstand accidental fall
Splash proof: Prevents damage during light rain
Conforms to international quality standards

Sounds like a deal to me!
In the UK users can order the above or splash out on another product called Ultracane. The Ultracane works in a similar way to the Smartcane, but it is a single piece of equipment. You order the cane by length. It boasts more or less the same technical specs as the above, but the batteries are interchangeable (so it does not look as if they are rechargeable in situ), it has a strap to aid in holding it, it is foldable and has a replaceable tip. It works over 4 mtrs in front (further than the Smartcane) and 1.6 mtrs in an upward direction. It also has a twin range, choice of tip, is shower-proof, and is available in any colour you like as long as it’s white.

UltraCane
UltraCane

It costs somewhere in the region of $900 in the UK, has a 12 month guarantee and there is a service centre in case of accidents.

I am sure that much of the difference in price is due to development expenses, the Ultracane was very much on its own when it was developed, and has been on the market for several years. The website hosts many happy testimonials. I am pleased to see the development in India though, as it may give many in the developing world access to the kinds of aids that we in Europe have. Ultracane has also developed the Ultrabike, giving the partially sighted the chance to take to the bike paths in safety.

Check out the websites linked above for more information.

Categories
Business Media News Technology

Marketing High Quality Digital Music, PONO

I have never managed to get into digital music for several reasons. I don’t like wearing headphones, I get paranoid as I hear people calling my name in the background, and I think that they distract people’s attention. This is really noticeable while I am riding my bike on the pavement with the kids. People who are walking while listening to headphones are less aware of their surroundings, they tend to zig zag while they are walking and they cannot hear you coming.

This report in Businessweek addressed the problem a few years ago, although it has many methodological issues, and this article on the Treehugger website offers similar data while raising some good questions about the intentions and interpretations.

In Kenya they seem to be taking the problem seriously and in fact it will soon be a traffic offense to cross roads in Mombasa while wearing headphones or on the phone if legislation proposed by the Mombasa County Assembly is approved.
So no headphones means I don’t have one of those miniature storage devices to listen to. But I have never really got into digital downloads either. The problem there is quality. I like vinyl, take a look at the photo below of my record player.

My Sharp Record Player
My Sharp Record Player

This is a beautiful machine, 1983, plays both sides of the record, sumptuous quality, style personified and even comes in a portable version (mine also runs on batteries but the speakers don’t attach as the portable versions do).

So I have never had a system to play digital music that is half as good as this, although recently I have got closer with the Studio Pro 4 speakers that I found by the side of the street here in Cambridge (see this post for details). But even taking that into account, the sound is just not the same.

I have a vinyl and CD copy of the Beach Boys 20 Golden Greats, and playing the two together the difference in enormous. The digital version is sharper and the sounds are purer, but that was not what the boys had in mind when they were recording it. On MP3 the differences are even more noticeable. But convenience rules nowadays, and streaming of low quality music reigns.

Now Niel Young is with me on this, as are Sting and various other musicians. Niel wants to offer high quality music reproduction to people like me, and is preparing to launch his new baby Pono.

The player looks a bit like a regular MP3 player, but the files are much bigger so not as easily stored or downloaded, but the quality is much higher (say those who are marketing it). You can find some statistics in the article above. The data would suggest a vast improvement in quality, but as ever the proof of the pudding as they say.

And there is a cost issue. The player will cost about $400, and an album maybe $25. This is obviously marketed at people who have some disposable income and are looking for quality, probably musicians in their 40’s just like me.

We might wonder how big the market is, but if we note that the project raised about $2.5 million on Kickstart in a few days, maybe there is enough money and enough people around to make it a success.

So the question is for the technology community, will you (or more importantly I)  buy it?

Categories
Computers Gadgets Games Media Smartphones Technology

Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology

Last month the Northwestern University in the USA published a national survey entitled Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology. The report is available for free download through the Parenting CC Portal , but here I would like to take a quick look at some of the findings and questions raised and see if we can provoke some debate.

Multiple Screen Viewing
Multiple Screen Viewing

The study explores how parents are incorporating new digital technologies (iPads, smartphones) as well as older media platforms (TV, video games, and computers) into their family lives and parenting practices, and it gives an idea of how parents use and view this technology.

We should point out that this is a US based survey.

The 10 key finding could be seen as the following:

1 While new media technologies have become widespread, a majority of parents do not think they have made parenting any easier.

2 Parents use media and technology as a tool for managing daily life, but books, toys, and other activities are used more often.

3 Parents still turn to family and friends for parenting advice far more often than to new media sources like websites, blogs, and social networks.

4 Parents do not report having many family conflicts or concerns about their children’s media use.

5 There is still a big gap between higher- and lower- income families in terms of access to new mobile devices.

6 Parents are less likely to turn to media or technology as an educational tool for their children than to other activities.

7 Parents assess video games more negatively than television, computers, and mobile devices.

8 For each type of technology included in the survey, a majority of parents believe these devices have a negative impact on children’s physical activity, the most substantial negative outcome attributed to technology in this study.

9 Many parents report using media technology with their children, but this “joint media engagement” drops off markedly for children who are six or older.

10 Parents are creating vastly different types of media environments for their children to grow up in, and, not surprisingly, the choices they make are strongly related to their own media use.

Some other interesting points arise, such as that 40% of families are described as media heavy and spend more than 11 hours a day in front of the screen. Half of all families surveyed have 3 TV’s or more in the house. 40% of 6 to 8 year olds have a TV in their bedroom. 70% of parents state that having mobile devices has not made parenting easier with 40% stating that they have a negative social skills effect upon the children.

The conclusions are in some ways surprising though as the authors demonstrate evidence that parents are still more likely to resort to traditional means of entertainment as rewards and punishment, and they are convinced enough about the educational possibilities offered by so called new media to not worry too much about their negative effects.

An interesting read if you have half an hour, but comments and debate about the summary above would also be educational.

Categories
Business News Technology

Global Information Technology report 2013

The World Economic Forum recently released its Global Information Technology Report 2013, and in this post I would like to have a quick look at it.

It is a long document, so I will just try to take a few highlights to give an idea of the findings.

The report has a Network Readiness Index that aims to measure how prepared countries are to adopt and make the most of new technology. Factors such as investment in broadband and other telecommunications fields obviously enter, but so does the quality of the education system and regulatory powers.

Finland leads the world in embracing technology, followed by Singapore and Sweden. The UK is in 7th place, the USA in 9th and my present home Italy is well down at number 50.

World Economic Forum

The Nordic countries and the so-called Asian Tigers – Singapore, Taiwan (China), South Korea and Hong Kong SAR – dominate this year’s index thanks to their business-friendly approach, highly skilled populations and investments in infrastructure, among other strengths. Finland, which arguably has one of the best educational systems in the world, stands out as a digital innovation hub.

Southern Europe shows a massive lag in fact with the North, and this is a major problem.

The positioning is not only important for so called ‘techies’, but really important for the economy as a whole, and here in Italy (and in Southern Europe on the whole) we are in serious need of economic improvement.

Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa also suffer from a serious lag despite infrastructure improvements, an expansion of coverage and a push into e-government. Weaknesses in the political and regulatory environment, the existence of large segments of the population with a low skills base and poor development of the innovation system are all factors hindering Latin America’s technological potential. In sub-Saharan Africa, costly access to technology, a low skills base and unfavourable business conditions are among the chief obstacles.

The report demonstrates that economic growth and technological readiness are tightly linked.

Top 10 countries for Network Rediness 2013/2012
A look at the top 10

An analysis by Booz & Company has found that ICT could help lift millions out of poverty.

Digitization has boosted world economic output by US$ 193 billion over the past two years and created 6 million jobs during that period, according to the study. Using a Digitization Index that ranks countries on a scale from zero to 100, Booz & Company found that an increase of 10% in a country’s digitization score fuels a 0.75% growth in its GDP per capita. That same 10% boost in digitization leads to a 1.02% drop in a state’s unemployment rate.

If emerging markets could double the Digitization Index score for their poorest citizens over the next 10 years, the result would be a global US$ 4.4 trillion gain in nominal GDP, according to the study. It would generate an extra US$ 930 billion in the cumulative household income for the poorest, and 64 million new jobs for today’s socially and economically most marginal groups. This would enable 580 million people to climb above the poverty line.

So investment is this area is extremely important, but in many places falling profits due to economic downturn (as is the case in Southern Europe and to some extent the USA) mean that less money is available, and this effects future growth scenarios.

Interestingly 3G growth is more important than general mobile telecommunication growth, we really do live in an information society that is based on Internet connectivity.

Medical care is also another area where benefits are net and easy to measure.

Southern Europe is in a particularly precarious position due to lack of investment capability. Rwanda on the other hand is following many other African countries in investing in expanding its fibre optic network and hopes to become a banking and finance hub, moving to being a knowledge based economy and away from agrarian in the next 7 years.

Colombia, Uruguay and Panama have become champions of e-government and connectivity. In Colombia, Internet connections have tripled to 6.2 million in the last 2.5 years. In Uruguay, small and medium-sized tech enterprises helped lift technology exports from US$ 50 million in 2000 to US$ 225 million in 2010.

Here in Italy there is little investment and a distinct lack in centralized planning, so we will soon be slipping below these countries on the scale and continue to suffer the related threats on economic development that this situation provokes.

The report is free to download here. It is as I said long and detailed, but the rankings are in chapter 1 if you just want to see where your own country sits.

Categories
Environment How To Guides

How to be a little greener

We all leave a footprint on the world, just by being alive we contribute to environmental degradation. No matter what you do, you can’t eliminate your effect (offset it maybe) on the world, but you can minimise it.

In this article I am going to look at some very simple things you can do to reduce the impact you have on the planet, making you a greener individual.

Water Usage

The amount of water we use has a big impact on the environment, as well as other people. Last April I posted an article which asked you to question your usage of water. I have included a brief summary of the article

Of all the water on earth, just 0.007% is drinkable, and whilst our usage of water and the number of people on earth are both rapidly growing, water supplies aren’t. Drought is a real issue in many areas of the world and one in nine people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

Rainwater storage tank
Wall mounted water butts are becoming more popular – a great way to collect and store rainwater.

Excessive use (and arguably wastage) of water via things like regular use of hose pipes and using water hungry appliances (like washing machines) when they have spare capacity, can easily be reduced, and can significantly decrease our water usage.

In the comments, there was some great feedback. Jonny suggested using a water butt to collect rainwater to water your garden, saying “it is really shocking to think that many people use drinking water to keep the lawn green“. Shane told us how he plays 5 minute songs when having a shower, so he know when it’s time to get out, and Jean noted how he tries to fix leaks as soon as he finds them, as they are a massive waste of water – and money!

Buy Local

Another step you can take which will reduce your carbon footprint is choosing local. In 2009, I wrote an article on the technology behind food, discussing the journey food takes, and the impact it has on the planet, getting it to our table. Although the figures might have slightly changed, the concept behind the article is still the same: buying local produce significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

Local doesn’t even have to mean that close. Ideally, within 20 miles of the shop you buy is the best sort of ‘local’, however even food that has been grown within 200 miles is much better than food that has been flown across the globe.

Local food not only promotes energy conservation, but it also supports local farmers. Farm shops are a really good place you can get local food, why not check out BigBarn, a site designed to help you find where you can get locally produced food.

Farmers shop
Farm shops are a great place to source local food.

Reuse, Repair and Recycle Technology

It is important to use technology to its full potential, and to keep using it until it is no longer viable. Once something stops working, or is no longer able to fulfil your needs, whenever possible, repair or upgrade it. If your PC is starting to run a little sluggish, try to speed it up again (maybe visit my speed up your computer article) add some more RAM, upgrade the graphics card, and consider increasing the storage capacity.

As Jonny wrote last year, electronic waste is a real problem, computer components can be hard to recycle, and are often toxic. Therefore it is important to try to reduce electronic waste, and when it does occur, ensure it is disposed or/recycled properly.

If you have reused and repaired a device as much as possible, the next step is recycling. Recycling electronic waste is a growing industry, computer recycling and schemes which enable you to recycle mobile phones, so your technology is either properly recycled, or repaired and reused, either resold locally, or distributed to developing countries are becoming ever more common. Many firms (like the one I link to above) are even paying you for your old technology – reduce your ecological footprint, and get paid, what more could you ask for!

Save Energy

There seems to be a growing resistance to nuclear power, fossil fuels are running out and this matched with the lack of investment in renewables, is leading us to a global energy crisis. Every individual can make a difference, by reducing their consumption.

Electrical energyTurning off devices instead of leaving them on standby, switching to energy bulbs, and insulate your home and relatively simple and cheap ways to save energy, which we have probably all heard many times. Steps which involve using smarter technologies, such as getting Remote Heating Control installed and choosing smarter energy using devices are also good ways to save power, and are now also becoming more common.

In Summary

Four of the best ways you can reduce your environment impact are to: be more frugal with water; try and buy local produce; maintain technology for as long as possible, and then recycle it; and reducing your energy usage.

Feel free to critique any of my points, and by all means, suggest your own ideas below.

Categories
Business Technology

See you in court! The biggest tech lawsuits in history

An infographic on technology court cases

Infographic from first4lawyers.

Tech is a very competitive sector of the global economy, with the biggest firms constantly trying to out-muscle each other in order to be top of the technology tree. The likes of Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have tried to pull out all the stops to make sure their latest gadget or console is the most popular with consumers, but when making a wrong turn, they occasionally find themselves in court!

As this infographic by the guys at first4lawyers reveals, when tech giants are summoned to the court for being on the wrong side of each other or the authorities, they can end up paying a huge amount in damages. The most recent of all these cases involved an epic courtroom battle between Apple and Samsung over patent infringement.

Court short

The Korean firm were asked to pay Apple over $1bn, a fee which they have tried to bring down in order to minimise the impact on company profits. Other cases listed here involve firms trying to improve profitability at the expense of the consumer and smaller rivals, something that Microsoft in particular have been accused of.

To stay out of court in the future, the biggest tech firms should try to play fair, while also taking into account the needs of the consumer. The amount of money fined is substantial, so the incentive to stick to the rules is there!

Categories
Gadgets How To Guides Technology

Looking after your gadgets

Gamers, office workers and tech fans who lead a busy lifestyle might not rate tidying up their technology as their highest priority. However, there comes a point where all the wires and cables become so intertwined that they become almost impossible to prise apart. This is where keeping all your tech in check could prove useful.

It doesn’t have to involve hour after hour of moving your devices around or untangling cables. With a combination of hi-tech and low-tech solutions, you can make your tech at home or in the office look a lot cleaner and easy to find, use and transport when you need to access it.

Cable management

Messy cablesFor gamers in particular, this is essential. The problem of cables becoming tangled is common for many console owners. The best thing to do to avoid this problem is to use a series of cable ties. They’re cheap, easy to use and help to keep numerous cables bound together behind the back of your TV screen.

At the same time, you’ll want to make sure that all your gadgets are well-ventilated. Keeping the holes in your computer, consoles, TV and other devices clear from obstructions like wires or cables will ensure that they’re less likely to overheat. This should extend their life and help keep them running fast.

All-in-one charging

Many of us own quite a few gadgets, many of which have mains chargers. In some cases, e-readers, smartphones and tablets can be powered up using the same charger, but to save space and energy when two or more of them need recharging, a multiple docking station could be helpful.

They’re relatively good, but they’re not too expensive, plus they can work well in the office as well as at home. If you own a range of Apple products, you’ll surely want one in order to reduce the stress of trying to find the right charger for each device. It could also become an important addition to any office desk, especially if you need access to all your gadgets at all times.

Smart labelling

Labelling your technology is a simple but effective idea, especially in the workplace. If, for example, you work in a large office, you’ll want to be able to find your computer/laptop straight away. Putting a label on it could save you time in trying to find it, especially if you feel like you’ve mislaid it somewhere after a meeting.

Asset labelling is useful too. It can be used to track your tech if it goes missing or gets stolen. As seareach.plc.uk point out, it’s useful for devices other than computers as well. It could be used to keep track of printers, scanners, tablet PCs, photocopiers, monitors or even items of furniture such as tables, chairs and sofas.

Categories
News Technology

The Future for Smartguns

Smart phones are a way of life, but have you heard about smartguns? Here in the USA a debate is raging about the introduction of this type of technology, while in Germany it has already passed into law. But firstly, what is a smartgun and what type of technology does it involve?

The idea is that only the rightful owner of the weapon can fire it. There are different mechanisms on the market for ensuring this and I would like to introduce a few here.

Trigger Smart is an Irish company. They have a system that uses radio waves. The weapon has a receiver placed in the handle and the owner is given a tiny HF transponder (something similar to the device found in your car keys) that can be worn in a ring or a bracelet. The gun will only fire when the correct ID number is received from the ring or bracelet.

The manufacturers argue that this makes the gun safer, as it cannot be fired by the kids while you are out or by an intruder or attacker that takes the gun off you in a fight. In the event of a shooting the police can also jam the frequencies and make the gun useless. In some cases a chip can even be placed under the owner’s skin.

Way back in 1975 a magnetic version of the same idea was invented, and is generally believed to work very reliably, although it is not widely used. Another system uses biometrics, identifying the owner through their grip and characteristics of their hands, but even the developers argue that the system is only 90% effective.

One problem with biometrics is that the gun needs time to process all of this input, but a US Austrian company called Biomac have a system that uses optical sensors to measure data from below the skin. They hope to design a system that will be accurate and work within half a second of picking up the gun.

Smartguns
Possible smartgun biometrics?

The gun lobby argue however that these security systems make the gun potentially more dangerous as any intruder may be able to block the radio systems, the batteries or other electronic parts may fail, parents who like to shoot with their children would have to buy them a dedicated weapon, and what if the owner is not in the house and another family member needs to defend themselves using the gun?

Even pro gun control groups are not convinced as it might even make gun ownership seem safer, leading to more sales, so it are very difficult to find in the USA.

The extent to which the gun lobby influences politics here is difficult to appreciate from outside the country. There is an attempt at the moment to make it illegal to buy a gun for someone who has been declined permission to own one. At the moment if I buy a beer for someone under 21 or give watered down wine to my son (as we did in Italy) I risk going to prison, but if I buy a gun for my friend who has been declined a license on psychological grounds I do not. There is no guarantee that it will pass though, as any form of gun control is fought tooth and nail and with the advantage of high financial backing.

It is not a completely dark picture though. The state of New Jersey actually passed a law to say that smartgun technology must be fitted to new weapons as soon as it has been developed enough and shown to be reliable. In Germany a law was passed in 2009 that goes even further, in that the technology will have to be fitted to all weapons old and new once it is available and proven. Unfortunately proven etc might take many years.

What none of the above really does is to address one of the biggest problems of gun ownership here in the USA, suicide. There is a massive increase in suicide rates in states where gun ownership is high. Suicide rates using other means remain constant, but a gun is a no return tool. Extremely efficient and easy to manage, success is almost guaranteed, and none of the technology that is currently under development can address this problem.

This Harvard University link explains the relationship, but it is enough to say that suicide rates are double in states where gun ownership is high, although non firearm suicide rates are about the same. To give an idea there were almost 20 000 firearm suicides in 2009 out of 36 000 total deaths, while there were only 11 000 murders.

The debate will rage for many years to come, but what part will smartgun technology play?