Identilock founder develops a revolutionary product to help prevent gun-related tragedies
By Matthew Totsky
Stirred by a series of mass killings by gunmen in civilian settings and accidental shootings in traditional households, the ownership and control of guns has become a hotly contested political issue in the United States. Gun-control advocates point to the fact that countries with stricter gun laws — including Japan, Australia and Norway — have lower incidences of gun violence. On the other hand, gun rights proponents argue that gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment and more gun control laws would infringe upon the right to bear arms.
The search for answers that will satisfy both sides of the argument has led to innovative and resourceful entrepreneurs coming up with solutions to help prevent further gun-related tragedies. Omer Kiyani is one such resourceful businessman, and he lives and works right here in metro Detroit.
“The concept behind Identilock is simple: It is designed to prevent unauthorized access to a gun until the owners — and only the owners — need to use it."
– Omer Kiyani
The birth of an idea
The shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on December 14, 2012, was the deadliest example of gun violence at a school on American soil and the third-deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in the country’s history. Twenty-year-old gunman Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 students and six staff members before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.
“The Sandy Hook incident shook us all and I wanted to do something,” Kiyani says. “I had an interesting idea for a long time, but this tragic event pushed me to take the plunge.”
Kiyani’s idea was Identilock, a firearm safety device that attaches to and completely covers access to a gun’s trigger, making it different than any other trigger lock on the market. It can be locked and unlocked with a fingerprint, via a biometric scanner that stores up to three fingerprints per device.
“The concept behind Identilock is simple,” Kiyani says. “It is designed to prevent unauthorized access to a gun until the owners – and only the owners – need to use it. Thisproduct does not alter, modify or tamper with firearm mechanics at all. It’s not a magic solution that solves everything. Instead, we are focused more on incidents like accidental gun discharge in homes and maybe teen suicide.”
How it works
Identilock is lightweight and portable, measuring approximately the size of a wallet and weighing less than 12 ounces. It’s also easy to use and engineered to securely fit a variety of gun makes and models. Each adapter accepts a family of firearms so users have the freedom to easily switch the device to different guns in their collection. It’s also compatible with any USB Type-C charging outlet. A single charge can last up to six months in standby mode.
The trigger is released when the owner places his or her finger on the touch pad. Once they do, the fingerprint is authorized within 300 milliseconds — literally the blink of an eye, making Identilock the industry’s fastest and most reliable fingerprint technology.
“With just a touch of the device’s button, its sensor quickly reads the fingerprint and automatically unlocks the gun,” Kiyani says. “Our technology can store multiple fingerprints in 360 degrees of orientation. It then creates a mathematical representation of the fingerprint and compares this to enrolled fingerprint data to identify a match and unlock your gun.”
“I do believe in gun ownership,” says Kiyani, himself a victim of gun violence as a teenager. “And owning a firearm is a responsibility. Everyone should secure their firearm to help protect against unauthorized use and a fingerprint is one of the best keys in the world.”
Kiyani understands that the gun industry is a landmine of politics. “I’m aware of it, but my engineering training didn’t train me for all of that,” he says. “I am just an engineer who is making it easier for responsible owners to store their firearm. Our product allows gun owners to keep their families safe from the very guns that were bought to protect them. Overall, gun owners have been very receptive to Identilock because they see it as a viable solution to solve a problem without any concerns.”
Made in the Motor City
Kiyani was born in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and immigrated to the United States to study engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. After graduating in 2005, he worked at a nuclear power plant on the outskirts of Chicago.
“It was a good job, but there was nothing new as far as innovation in the plant,” he says. “The place was 40 years old and my job was to just keep things running smoothly. I wanted something more challenging and innovative.”
Kiyani later got an offer from an automotive supplier in Michigan to work on the next generation of air bag systems. “I moved to Germany for a few years and that’s where I learned my core engineering skills,” he says. “It was exactly the type of challenge I was looking for and it got my juices flowing.”
During the following decade, the idea for Identilock stayed on Kiyani’s mind. Eventually, in 2015, he left his engineering job to launch his own company, Sentinl, in Detroit.
“I wanted to leverage the latest technology with the engineering, craftsmanship and heritage of Detroit,” he says. “I was inspired by the challenge of working in the shadows of the automotive giants.
“People here understand my product and the market for it,” he says. “There has been a huge push for software startups in Detroit which is great, but there are other solutions that sometimes get overlooked.”
Kiyani feels there is a need to refocus on the products that the Metro Detroit area is good at, instead of trying to copy what is happening in places like Silicon Valley.
“There is talent here to replicate what Silicon Valley does, but we are built on sustainability,” he says. “There is a focus here on software startups, but our products like automobiles are hybrids of software and hardware, so we need more focused funding for that. There is a huge talent pool and resources here that could change the world in so many positive ways. This hardware skill set is not easy to come by, but we have it here. The fact that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opened its first office outside of Washington, D.C., right here in the Detroit area says a lot about what is going on here.
“The bottom line is that I’m glad to be here in Detroit,” Kiyani says. “Our product leverages the strengths of the area and puts them in a package. There is nowhere else on the planet with better designers, engineers and manufacturers that can design, test, build and manufacture Identilock. I firmly believe that.”