TechKnow contributor Lindsay Moran, a former CIA operative and analyst delves into the technology of "smart guns."

Moran speaks to Belinda Padilla of the German company Armatix, which manufactures the iP1 pistol. This gun uses recognition technology enabling only an authorised user to fire it.

"The goal is to make it harder to use the gun against you," explains Padilla, saying that it cannot solve all problems, but can ideally address safety issues, and can, for instance, prevent children from accidentally firing a handgun. 

Lindsay Moran trials the Aramatix iP1 Pistol, which uses special owner recognition technology [Al Jazeera]

Last year, the medical journal Pediatrics published a study that found, according to the most recent data available from 2009, over 7,000 children and teenagers were hospitalised - about 20 per day - because of firearm injuries, and an additional over 3,000 die each year before making it to hospital. 2,149 shootings were unintentional - that is about five children accidentally being injured or killed by firearms every single day.

The iP1 comes with a watch that is synced to the firearm and the two communicate via radio frequency.

But just how safe is this technology, especially when it is linked to something as deadly as a loaded weapon?

Aramatix's pistol has received heavy public opposition from the NRA and gun rights activists in the US, and Moran discusses how the backlash stems from concern over legislation. 

"There's a law on the books in New Jersey now that says that once this technology becomes available in the US within three years every gun sold in New Jersey has to be a smart gun," she explains.

Moran and our TechKnow contributors Kyle Hill, Shini Somara and Phil Torres debate the issues and controversy of a "smart gun" and how a "safer" gun has little place in countries without relaxed gun laws.

Early earthquake warnings

Kyle Hill, a science writer with a background in engineering, heads to the California Institute of Technology's (Caltech) Seismological Laboratory to speak to Thomas Heaton, a professor of geophysics who has been studying quakes since the 1970s. 

One of the things people don't like about earthquakes is when it starts you really have no idea how big the shaking's going to get.

Thomas Heaton, a professor of geophysics at California Institute of Technology's Seismological Laboratory

Hill learns more about California's early earthquake warning system, which is the only such network in the US and still under development.

We look at some of the other earthquake detection systems around the world such as the extensive one in Japan with nearly 1,000 seismic sensors that monitor movements in the earth.

California's, by comparison, is made up of 500 sensors, and Mexico has had a detection system in place after the devastating 1985 earthquake that killed 9,000 people. 

TeckKnow contributor Kyle Hill speaks to geophysics professor Thomas Heaton about Caltech's efforts to develop an early earthquake detection system - the first in the US [Al Jazeera]

Heaton explains how warning technology relies on detecting the "P" or primary wave, which precedes, by about 30 seconds, the "S" or sheer wave, which causes the shaking.

Detecting motion and getting that warning out can allow crucial seconds to stop trains safely, planes from landing, and getting hospitals to switch into emergency mode. 

As Kurt Kainsinger who manages emergency preparedness and earthquake safety at UCLA's Ronald Reagan medical centre says, "you may have a patient that is open, on the table, undergoing surgical procedure; there is a good chance that somebody's going to be right in the middle of a very delicate procedure when an earthquake occurs. If we have advanced warning, if we have five seconds, ten seconds, 30 seconds warning there's a lot of things that we can do."

TechKnow also looks at a Wifi-based project in vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology, or V2V, to prevent collisions. Unlike driverless cars, V2V is predicated on the driver being in full control, but their cars issuing advisories and warnings to avoid a crash.

Source: Al Jazeera