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When I worked as an EMT in Fairfax, the radios we were issued had a big orange button on the top that we were never supposed to press. Unless we really needed it. That button was our lifeline — each radio was assigned to a specific person in a specific unit, and along with the GPS in the rig was the “bat-signal” to send every available police officer and fire & rescue unit to our location ASAP. I only needed to press it once in my career there, and I was thankful that it not only worked as advertised but also that it didn’t require me to do any thinking on my part in the heat of the moment. A new device from a company named Yardarm is seeking to do the same thing, but with guns . . .

The concept is that a small computerized system is slotted into the wasted space in the heel of a GLOCK handgun (or similar firearm). That system connects via Bluetooth to the officer’s phone, and not only provides up-to-the-minute location data back to the precinct for tracking purposes but also alerts the rest of the police department when something goes terribly wrong. As soon as the officer draws their gun, it can fire off an alert to send backup. It can also record how many rounds have been fired and provide that information in real time. From the company’s website:

The company’s Yardarm Sensor, the world’s first wireless sensor for firearms, introduces an entirely new level of miniaturization and power optimization for wireless telephony and advanced machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities. The Yardarm Sensor connects firearms to the Yardarm Cloud and delivers telemetry that allows for real-time geo-location and event awareness that can then be delivered to any end-point via the Cloud. The Yardarm solution gives law enforcement, private security, and the military the capability to track and monitor their organization’s firearms in real-time, connecting them to computer aided dispatch (CAD) centers, real-time crime centers (RTCC), or edge devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops. By instantly alerting commanders and command centers of critical events in the field, Yardarm allows organizations to respond and support officers in the field faster than ever before, greatly enhancing efficiency and officer safety.

The Yardarm Sensor connects to the Yardarm Cloud via GSM and provides a set of powerful data streams that can be imported into the industry’s leading CAD and RTCC software solutions via standard APIs. These sensor readings, all available in real-time, include:

Geo-Location – Event based location awareness and history for real-time alerts and post crime scene review and analysis
Holster/Unholster – When an officer unholsters his weapon, dispatch can be immediately notified and officers in the field can see when and where a colleague may require assistance
Discharge – There is no more critical event in the field than an officer discharging their weapon. Alerts are immediately sent to dispatch and can be sent to a commander directly via mobile alerts
Direction of Fire/Aim – Track and record the direction of aim, providing real-time tactical value for commanders and providing crime scene investigators valuable data for prosecution
Yardarm + Glock 22

Yardarm has developed the most sophisticated approach to wireless gun safety available in the market. The Yardarm solution is built on internally developed machine-to-machine (“M2M”) technologies and applications, intellectual property and patent-pending processes.

The device is cool, but it’s a double edged sword.

For the intended purpose, it’s awesome.

In this post-Ferguson world of increased wariness of police, the idea that no officer can draw their gun without the department being notified is definitely a benefit. Along with body mounted recording devices like the Taser Axon Flux, it can provide more accountability for the people we entrust to uphold the law. The ACLU predictably has their knickers in a twist about tracking people while they’re on the job and spying on what they do, but when New York City taxi drivers are more closely tracked than people charged with using deadly force to enforce the law there might be some room for improvement.

It’s also brilliant as an emergency warning system, allowing officers to deal with the imminent threat in front of them instead of trying to communicate over the radio and call for backup all at the same time. It simplifies the officer’s life in a time when they really need to focus on the tasks at hand (staying alive and stopping the threat), which will no doubt improve survivability.

However, there are also some potential issues for gun owners down the line.

While this isn’t a “smart gun” in the sense that we’ve seen before, it’s definitely smart-er. This product and others like it could seem like a Godsend to politicians, who imagine a world where every firearm can be instantly tracked and every gun owner monitored. We could very well see legislation proposed requiring gun owners to fit their firearms with this kind of technology, and even eventually the same kind of remote “kill switch” requirement currently demanded of smart phones. For a group of people who have a very strong independent streak and don’t like a whole lot of government interference, that could be a major issue.

It’s true that there are circumstances in which this might be a good idea for gun owners as well as police departments (being able to track stolen firearms and recover them), but the potential for overreach is very real. If a police department is given access to that same data feed, it could lead to all kinds of privacy issues for gun owners. Especially when you start walking down the garden path a little bit and consider preemptive alarms.

What if we could set off an alarm whenever a gun came within so many feet of a school? How about if a gun was detected at an airport? These are ideas that may seem great on the surface, but will no doubt lead to headaches when the GPS sensor isn’t reporting accurate data. Arresting someone because their gun claimed they were on school grounds when they were actually safe at home sounds like a legal nightmare for the gun owner.

Then you get to the criminal element. No one’s personal data is ever private on the internet, from nude pictures to credit card numbers. There’s always a way to get at it and when that way is found for the Yardarm, the flood gates are open. If the Journal News’ map of New York street addresses with firearms permits wasn’t bad enough, criminals could pinpoint every gun owner’s house and even possibly track them down on the street to ambush them for their firearm.

I’m not convinced that this is all doom and gloom — there’s some real potential for benefits to both police officers and gun owners here. But there’s also some real potential for abuse by the government, demanding that every firearm and firearm owner be tracked at all times. That’s an Orwellian future that I’d like to try and avoid. In the meantime the devices are going into small scale tests with two police departments (one in California and one in Texas), so we’ll see how well they hold up in the real world.

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  1. How would they unholster in the lavatory? it’d probably make a few faces red if someone safety-stowed while dropping trou, only to have their entire shift bust in.

    • Why would they unholster in the john? sounds like a ND waiting to happen. How do they unholster to clean it? That would be my concern. There has to be a bypass system for non threat unholstering.

      • There have been recorded NDs and misplaced firearms because of this very thing. One memorable tale I heard was an officer hung his revolver on the coat hook, when he tried to retrieve the weapon he pushed the trigger letting a shot off into the ceiling of the courthouse and the recoil combined with his attempt to grip it caused the rest of the cylinder to unload via bump fire. As for bypasses allowing the officers to bypass this in the field seems to undermine the public confidence aspect of this device, a gps bypass allowing the precinct to be considered “safe” May or May not allow for lax responses should an officer need to draw in anger while at home base. IMO an RFID station in the changing room department range and other locations that allow the gun to be scanned and considered in a safe place is most likely.

        • Wow. Way to make it way more complicated. Why not just make it so if you unholster, the alarm goes off in 3 seconds. To “deactivate” re-holster, and the unholster again. Good to go until you re-holster and reset.
          Not that any of this matter, because it won’t happen…

    • How about multiple states of alert? I can think of a few likely scenarios where an officer may draw while not immediately firing and not be able to call for backup.

    • Don’t mount it in the gun, make it affixed to a lapel or shirt. ( like Star Trek insignia) on the left chest. Tap it for help. (just like the elderly assist pendants)

    • “NIGTAWY” = No [one] (don’t ask me I didn’t make it up) Is Going to Argue With You.

      Silence does not indicate consent. The firing squad gives you a moment of silence before giving you an eternity of it.

  2. If used for police accountability tracking, the data needs to be mirrored to a third party system NOT in control of the local PD. The system has to be tamper proof from agents of “the thin blue line”

    On the other issue, if you put an electronic device in the hands of a person (by mandating its use in all guns), that device is going to show up in a recurring guest role at Defcon conferences showing all the ways to hack it.

    Imagine the fun, when you hack someone else’s module and show it being drawn and fired to the tracking server. It will be a whole new conduit for SWATing

    • If used for police accountability tracking, the device had better be heat-, shock-, water- and radiation-proof, and locked into the weapon with Kryptonite or something similar to prevent its being “temporarily inoperative.” It’s a proven fact that a GI can break a stainless steel cube, a cop can also when they REALLY want to.

      Of course, you can always bypass your device by turning off your cell phone. DUH!

      Captain Obvious signing off.

  3. So, in the hands of a private citizen like myself, the police would send officers every time I unholster my gun, which is several time the course of a normal day, and a few hundred when I am on the range? Multiplied by 100 million gun owners? Yeah, I can see that working out real well.

    Considering how often police unholster a day (just as a precaution), I don’t see that working out well for them either.

    • Yup. Police unholster and reholster a lot. Going in and out of booking is a huge one. Not saying it’s a bad idea but I hope they built in a switch that will log the action but not activate the “oh crap” alarm.

  4. I think the idea is that there will be another feature for “calling all units”. It will ALSO do all the other things provided. Dispatch will be given a GPS location when the firearm is unholstered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a code red situation. The idea is great for police, but it won’t be in any of my guns.

  5. Everything aside, I pay for my cell phone, not my agency. If they want to use this technology, they can provide me with a phone at the tax payers expense. As long as I pay the bill, it will not happen. I do not expect the tax payers will want to provide me and every other officer with a cell phone.

    • THIS

      Departments are already trying to push this sorta stuff too much already. And before anyone thinks it’s just officers being petulant, something like this means your phone can and WILL be seized for evidence- along with everything on it.

      No way would I allow that on my phone. Just have it work with the radio somehow…

      • You couldn’t have a big enough battery on your phone to last all day with that thing giving constant data updates all the time.

        For that reason alone, its a non starter.

        • This right here is why all these kinds of tracking technologies are doomed to failure until battery technology makes the next great leap forward.

          GPS and Bluetooth are both power-hungry battery killers. Leave ’em both on all the time, and most phones won’t make it to lunchtime, much less all day.

          As long as a system like this is dependent on an external cell phone, it’s also a total non-starter as a mandated technology for the gun grabbers to jump onto. You can just turn the phone off and disable the whole stupid scheme. As to fitting GPS receivers and cell radios in guns, go have a look at your handguns and see if you can find a place where you could cram something slightly smaller than a cell phone in there without completely redesigning the weapon.

      • I don’t know of many “larger” departments, especially in metro areas (including in MD), that issue smart phones to their regular patrol officers. If they do, fine. But I think you’re mistaking the issuance of phones to detectives and other specialty units to the general patrol division.

    • I don’t see a whole lot of gloom and doom possibility here. It will work in a glock, or similar gun, and would be able to be adapted for rifles since they usually have plenty of room, but small concealed carry weapons would be difficult to adapt it to. Ergo, if it became a mandated item, they’d basically have to ban any firearms it could be fitted into.

  6. This will be pushed for the civilian market under the guise of safety. It will be used for gun control.

    Taking my tinfoil hat off now.

    • Oh it will be pushed, by someone at least. The same types who pushed for mandatory auto locking car doors to keep them from opening during an accident. The simple fact that car door locks don’t lock doors wasn’t enough to dissuade them. It’s almost as if they were more concerned with control than safety.

  7. Hmm, my initial impression is “that’s pretty cool!” But then I am a former Network Engineer and I’m easily awwed by cool tech. My next thought was the “1984” scenario. If ever required on MY gun (GLOCKFanBoy) it would be easy to defeat low tech, high tech or somewhere in the middle. Which then begs the eventual question: Does any PD really have the bandwidth to go after all the gun holstering/unholstering/accidently forgot to disable prior to gun range time/etc.

    I see fun in the future!!

  8. Neato!

    Yeah, it’s neat tech. I think it would have a great use in law enforcement. Until you get someone that still runs a dumbphone (they’re out there…). Or until they turn off they’re bluetooth (I typically have my bluetooth off when I’m not in my car). As for levels of alert, I imagine there are ‘fences’ that can be setup by the agency, giving a safety zone (a’la Drew, above), not to mention timers (two seconds out of holster sends a general alert. Five seconds send a bigger alert. Fired weapon sends a sh!tst0rm of officers to your side.). Not to mention one HELL of a SWATting event. I hope that one gets recorded…

    • I gotta say this would be awesome for training. Tutoring a LE or military team to clear a room/building or perhaps handle an active shooter scenario etc. now has a tool that could be amazing. It also has the potential to really protect and promote good law enforcement.

      On the other side can’t you just see the legal regimes that could spring up. Not just registration, but registration with a data plan you have to pay every month per gun priced per caliber per shot. Help us all.

  9. Maybe if they dumbed it down so it only rings up your coords and calls for help if you push a button it wouldn’t be so invasive that way.

  10. How do they know I even have a gun that would require a retro-fit to include this tech (at whatever point in the future they try)? Because I no longer have any firearms, they were lost in a tragic boating accident last weekend.

    • As with all precrime laws it can only really be used post crime. If one of your “lost guns” is used in a defensive shooting you are got. The shoot may be good but there is that other thing to punish you for. And even better if it’s a bad shoot! That’s another 5-10 on top of your 25 to life!

    • The California Legislature passed a bill, SB808 (thankfully vetoed) that mandated the registration and serialization of all existing “ghost guns,” pistols and rifles alike, a law that would also have had the effect of requiring the registration of all handguns in the State that were sold prior to the enactment of the registration law. Like Connecticut’s AW registration law, it really is only enforceable if there is an arrest and an “illegal” firearm is seized. I have to assume that any such law and system will meet the same fate as the Canadian system, that cost vast sums more than projected and was ineffective in fighting crime.

  11. As a police officer, I think it would be a good idea. My only issue would be that I spend quite a bit of time shooting my department weapon.

    I think allot of agencies will get on board without thinking it all the way through. Hacking and false alarms are going to be the death of it though.

  12. It’s a good idea- for police (or anyone else who wants one)

    It’s sure to be poorly implemented and I can think of lots of problems already.

    It’s downright scary if the gun grabbers look at this, as they will, and push for it as a “responsible solution for gun violence.”

  13. I can see it now! ” Look at the screen! Officer Mahoney just unholstered his gun! Probably a dog, might weigh more than 5 lbs., He might need back up! Send a SWAT team over to 6th and Maple right away!”

  14. First thought was Judge Dredd..
    I do wonder about undercover cops, loosing signal, phone died,
    An what about there squad guns? The shotgun, or rifles?
    Know a cop that had to buy his own bug would they need to equipped it as well?
    I say give them a panic button like the elderly wear when they fallen an can’t get up…

    • Most police officers have one or more such buttons.

      The idea here is that sometimes you won’t have time to push it if you are too busy returning fire. If someone starts shooting an officer is trained to move and fight. Their sidearm would be the most likely weapon to use although I suppose you could put them on patrol rifles as well.

      This sort of device could also increase accountability (hmm, is there a reason your firearm thinks you shot it yesterday but it wasn’t reported?).

  15. If they have a choice, criminals would rather rob unarmed people of their cell phones than tangle with armed people to steal their guns. I think the technology is a trojan horse that offers little benefit for private owners. But by all means do the cops, security guards, and everyone else who is armed for their job. Let them feel what it’s like to be tracked by others.

  16. “As soon as the officer draws their gun, it can fire off an alert to send backup.”

    “Holster/Unholster – When an officer unholsters his weapon, dispatch can be immediately notified and officers in the field can see when and where a colleague may require assistance.”

    Clearly this load of asinine crap was written by and this system designed by someone who has never served in law enforcement and has no clue how often (each shift) it may be necessary to draw your weapon. There is no law that limits when an officer may draw their weapon in preparation for potential, imminent use of force, or threat of use of force. Actual use of force, must be deemed to have been “reasonable”, after the fact.

  17. This thing talks to the outside world by paring with your cell phone via bluetooth and and no doubt using the phone’s gps as well. Bluetooth is VERY short range (typically 10s of feet) This means that it is pretty useless for tracking lost/stolen/civilian owned guns. Even if they someday mandated this thing be installed in all guns it wouldn’t track squat if you don’t pair it to your phone.

  18. We don’t have a national gun registry – that would be illegal.

    But we do have a 12 digit grid to all your firearms. You know – in case we have to drop a JDAM on them.

    For national security.

  19. It seems to me that this technology could be “hacked” by determined bad guys. They would not even have to get through the security protocols. All they would have to do is get a device that would detect the unique signal used on these guns. With smartphone technology, they might even be able to display the signals on a map. It would be the next generation of police scanner for crooks.

  20. Wow…finally a reason not to buy a Glock (for now at least)….they would have to make multiple versions to fit each firearm….not many firearms have a “G-Spot” (Glock Spot) in the grip….they would need to make a custom model for every handgun (and/or long-gun)…not a lot of room in a 1911 unless they make custom replacement grips with this embedded in it, let alone a pocket revolver….maybe in time, they’ll shrink it enough, but for now, the universe is safe….unless you own a Glock, that is.

  21. Let’s just stick with body cameras/mics for police officers. They will provide more evidence than geo-locational information, and if someone really wanted to they could certainly program the camera/mic to pick up emergency indicators and send an alert for backup.


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