Omer Kiyani’s hands still shake when he remembers the day that changed the course of his life.
He was 16 years old, riding in a car with a group of friends, when someone started firing a gun outside the car. Kiyani — who never identified the shooter and has trouble remembering the incident — was shot in the mouth. After several surgeries, his physical problems faded away, but the shooting left an indelible impression on his psyche.”
” Yes, he believes in making guns safer, but he’s not your typical safety advocate. He’s a gun owner himself, and he wants to control firearms in the most practical of ways. That’s why he founded Sentinl, a Detroit-based startup that’s designing a biometric gun lock called Identilock. Attaching to a gun’s trigger, it unlocks only when the owner applies a fingerprint. Now that he’s a father, Kiyani says, he’s even more motivated to keep guns out of the wrong hands and prevent his kids from having to go through the trauma he experienced. “I understand what can happen when you’re on the wrong side of a firearm,” he explains.
His creation is different in three ways: it’s optional, it’s detachable, and it’s quick. Unlike biometric gun safes and other locking mechanisms, Kiyani says, the Identilock makes it as easy to access a firearm as it is to unlock an iPhone. He pitched hundreds of gun owners a variety of ideas over the course of his research, but it was the biometric lock they inevitably latched onto. “That was the key motivator for moving forward,” Kiyani remembers. “As I kept talking to people, not only did the idea get refined, but it was clear people wanted it.”
Today, the Identilock is designed using entirely off-the-shelf components that have been proven effective in other industries. The biometric sensor, for example, has been used in other security applications and is approved by the FBI. Cobbling the sensor together from existing technologies was both a cost-saving endeavor and a strategic way to prove the product’s effectiveness more quickly. “If I were to go out and get one black eye, that would be it,” Kiyani says. “The goal was to take something that has already been validated, not have to reinvent the wheel.” “