A New $1 Million Prize Competition Aims To Fight Gun Violence With Tech

Mass shootings have become unfortunately common in American life, so a few Silicon Valley investors are launching a $1 million competition to see if technology can reduce firearm violence. With the help of early Facebook investor Ron Conway, the Smart Tech Foundation is soliciting ideas on everything from biometric locks to crime-predicting algorithms.

“We looked at this and said there’s been a systemic failure in the level of innovation and capitalization in this area,” Smart Tech director and serial entrepreneur Jim Pitkow told Fast Company. He announced the program at Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored conference in San Francisco yesterday.

This isn’t the first time Silicon Valley (and Conway) have incentivized their tech brethren to stop gun violence. Three months after Adam Lanza killed 20 children at Sandy Hook elementary, (the Conway supported) Sandy Hook Promise launched a program to expedite investment in violence-reducing technologies.

For example, ShotSpotter outfits local law enforcement with an alert systems that can triangulate violence based on the audio-signal of a gunshot (the technology still has some bugs to get worked out).

Smart Tech split from the Sandy Hook Promise initiative for logistical reasons. “The Smart Tech Foundation is an offshoot of the Sandy Hook Promise,” Pitkow writes to me in an email. “This enables the Foundation to focus exclusively on this particular flavor of innovation. There are also legal liability and donor aspects that make it easier to do under a separate focused entity.”

I’m a big fan of these kinds of initiatives: Silicon Valley can make an impact on all sorts of issues, not just the typical tech issues. You can learn more about Smart Tech’s prize at SmartTechFoundation.org or email the org at info[at]stfdn[dot]com.