Claimed Weapon Detector Raises Privacy, Legal and Safety Concerns

USA – -( “Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it,” a product review at the consumer electronics website concludes. EU Editor Ben Lovejoy was talking about SWORD, a smartphone case that “claims to detect weapons and explosives from 40 feet.”

Executive Editor Roger Cheng of CNET explains:

The company has created a case that goes around either an iPhone 8 Plus or Pixel 2 XL and uses the phone's audio sound waves as a sort of sonar to detect whether someone is carrying a gun, knife or explosive device. The case includes an array of 18 antennas that can create an image profile based on the radio frequency waves… The app can detect whether the person is carrying something dangerous by tapping into its database of weapons and explosive devices.

“SWORD also offers a facial recognition system utilizing the phone's camera,” he adds. “Once in the system, a SWORD user can pull out the phone and scan the room for any unwanted individuals.”

Per USA Today, the company insists “Since it is using radio waves, there is no radiation like you would have with an X-ray machine” and claims its case is “FCC approved.”

That's pretty creepy in a “Total Recall” kind of way. (Royal Holdings/ YouTube)

Perhaps, perhaps not. But other dangers come to mind. The whole point of carrying concealed is to preserve privacy as part of an overall defensive posture. Anti-gunners could use the device to harass and even SWAT a gun owner. Criminals could use it to identify who they would need to take out by surprise first. Police could use it to bypass Fourth Amendment search and seizure proscriptions. The company claims Homeland Security is intrigued.

There’s another danger, discouraging people from being armed:

As the United States continues to deal with mass shootings at schools, Oberholzer hopes the device will help people become more proactive when it comes to security. Current proposals to arm teachers or give students clear backpacks are “reactive solutions; the guy is already inside of the school building and already has a weapon,” Oberholzer said.

Actually, if he’s already inside with a weapon, finding out about it without being able to defend against and stop a predator with mass murder on his mind will also be reactive.  And not in a good way if all you can do is throw your phone at him.

I read about this product in various media reviews and from the Royal Holdings website (I actually learned about it from a reader tip for an article on A thought I can’t shake is “Is this for real or are we all being punked?”  I agree with the writer who said he’ll believe it when he sees it.

Reports I’ve seen say we can expect a demo this month. If Royal Holdings delivers, it’ll open up a whole new area of privacy and other potential liabilities that need to be identified, explored and addressed.

The company operates under the slogan “Uniting the good.” Millions of gun owners are good.  Will this unite or divide?

What do you think?

About David Codrea:David Codrea
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.
In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

  • 29 thoughts on “Claimed Weapon Detector Raises Privacy, Legal and Safety Concerns

    1. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I don’t expect this will rise to the level of batman’s cellphone Sonar mapping invasion from “the dark knight”. I suspect it will struggle to differentiate between a gun and cellphone in someone’s pocket.
      The most significant hurdle for people trying to abuse this technology will be what to do if they believe they’ve detected a weapon. Your phone says I have a gun? so what? I’ll use my phone to call the police and tell them there’s a crazy person scanning my crotch with his phone, and demanding to look in my pants.

    2. Since nobody has mentioned it yet, this reminds me of the “devices” which the Wynn Hotels were going to install so that “weapons” could not be brought into their buildings without permission. I thought that was wishful thinking, or just plain BS, back then and still do.

    3. Lots of great comments and baseline analysis. One factor I haven’t seen mentioned is the sheer stupidity and wreckless when the promo actually proposed having users “scan” suspicious bags for weapons. The absolute last thing you want to do around a potential explosive device is shoot a bunch of radio waves or other EM radiation at or around it. Also, if these ever hit the street near me I am definitely going to build and distribute countermeasures for anyone who wants one.

    4. This is probably wording that was used to apply for a patent. But there was also a patent awarded for time travel. Neither device has a working model (since they are both impossible).

      *disclaimer: I am an RF engineer with 30+ years experience in digital imaging, and self-certified to call “bullshit” when I read it.

    5. even if this is all hype, eventually someone will come up with one. just as with guns, though, once enough people have them, the playing field will be equal even if worse overall.

    6. The CNET quote first says it uses “audio sound waves”, then in the next sentence it says it uses “the radio frequency waves” for imaging. Considering the difference between AUDIO sound and RF, it seems the CNET executive editor who wrote it either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is perpetuating a hoax.

      (If it’s radiating “AUDIO sound waves” as sonar, that means people will be able to hear this gizmo screeching at them.)

    7. Two things.

      First, this bit:
      “Since it is using radio waves, there is no radiation like you would have with an X-ray machine”

      well whatever does this eedjit think “radio waves” are but electromagnetic radiation? By definition that’s what they ARE. X-rays are simply electromagnetic radio waves of a different frequency. Same stuff. How DUMB does this twit think we are?


      Easy enough to jam or overload….. provide false patterns with other stuff….. strange metal shapes near your carry piece to confuse the critter. Maybe a metal screen attached to your holster to “enhance” the shape of your weapon. Make it think you’ve got a big phone or small tablet instead of your handgun.

      Further, I’ll bet this thing is not FCC compliant, either. And the exposure to rediation to the operator will be huge.

    8. If the unit is continuously emitting RF radiation, then long carrying of this device against the body may result in radiation damage to human tissue or could cause cancer.

    9. Purest BS.

      If it’s FCC approved for consumer use, the effective radiated power (-41 dBm) is far too low to work as radar at 60 meters as described. It might work at near contact range as an option to a metal detecting wand.

      But likely only in detecting a mass of metal. I have serious doubts about the AI pattern recognition claims that it can identify firearms of differing sizes and shapes, in different profiles (from the side, front, back, top bottom).

      Explosives? Ain’t gonna happen as described.

      And the US model would operate at 3-10 GHz, giving it a base resolution of 3-10 centimeters; i.e.- the smallest object it could make out is a little more than an inch, essentially its vision is very fuzzy/blurred. A fixed (stationary) transceiver could improve on that with array scanning and signal processing, but I doubt — again — that they can pull it off in a thousand dollar instrument held in an unstable hand. At a 1 inch resolution, try recognizing a .75″ wide gun from the top.

      1. @Carl “Bear” Bussjaeger — it has 18 antennas, so even based on your (unverified) assumption the resolution could be as low as .06 inches, more than enough to pick out a weapon.

        1. Please note: “could improve on that with array scanning and signal processing”

          OK, I did some more research. This is based on the Vayyar VYYR2401 Sensor Chip. It’s pretty impressive, and does the array scanning and DSP mentioned. BUT…

          Nowhere on the Vayyar data is it claimed that this can recognize objects like a handgun at 60 meters. The examples they give for distance imaging are people and cars. The detail imaging (they show a worker scanning for pipes and wiring through a wall) are at near contact range.

          Tech specs on the SWORD say it TRANSMITS -41dBm (0.00007 mW, 0.00000007 W). You send that 60 meters, and then receive the reflected energy another 60 meters… and I don’t believe it can do it. 60 meters is BS. I stick to my “near contact range” statement.

          When they add in explosives detection, the BS meter pegs. The VYYR2401 can detect dielectric materials. It can tell if soil is dry. Vayyar says it can be set up to measure milk fat content; presumably by setting a reflectance value by on the dielectric of a known milk fat level, and looking for variation. In theory, one might build a similar reflectance database for known explosives, but you’d have to know how to compensate for any intervening materials: cotton, nylon, dry clothing, damp clothing, metallized clothing (and won’t that wreak havoc on weapons detection). If it works at all, there will be a lot of false positives AND negatives.

          But I’ll tell exactly what these guys seem to be doing: Reselling’s own Vayya Walabot Creator thru-wall sensor (retails $$149.99). The SWORD circuit board picture is visually identical to the Walabot, right down to the antennas.

          And that’s interesting, because according to Vayyar’s Walabot tech data, the Starter and Creator models only do object detection, NOT imaging. The Developer ($599.99) does imaging. And according to the spec sheet, “Walabot is capable of short-range imaging into dielectric
          environments, such as drywall and concrete.”

          No mention of object recognition at 60 meters.

          If you want a SWORD, save your money and buy a Walabot direct.

    10. Hm… it would have to transmit the sound waves then assemble them in such a way as to give usable information. If the case is such an antenna, yes, it could be possible. However, it would be easily defeated. Have an app that listens for sound waves in the band or bands most usable for this application then when detected, blast out louder garbage to overwhelm the reception. If everyone has the app, this gadget is useless.

    11. Jam it. If they are emitting in an unlicensed spectrum and in a form and fashion that is not subject to regulation (e.g. power limits, etc) then building am effective jammer is a trivial exercise and ought to be rather popular — and is also perfectly legal.

    12. Another question. If they ar transmitting radio waves, are they in possible violation of FCC part 15 regulations as they might be transmitting in someone elses spectrum or, causing unlawful interference to another licensed service? Chinese manufacturers are noted for doing this.

    13. As soon as the first thug is arrested for “ stop and frisk by scanning “ the ACLU and the SPLC will be all over it, unless it’s Conservative of course.

    14. As an General class(soon to be Extra class)Amateur Radio Operator, my question would be. What frequencies does this thing emit, how much power and does it comply wirh the FCCs Maximum Power Exposure limits? Its very dangerous to be bouncing rf waves around people without knowing these perimeters! Inquiring minds need to know!

    15. That’s kind of disturbing with the implications of 4th Amendment violations, but it was bound to happen with all the technological advances taking place. But you can fight technology with technology. There will probably be some type of clothing created than can ward off this invasiveness by either reflecting or absorbing the radio waves used to generate the images.

    16. OK…..This brings back a memory of the 1960s radical Abby Hoffman who arranged a fake press conference to inform the media and press that the “hippies” had developed a chemical spray they dubbed “LACE”. It was to be used against the police and authority figures and was obviously a take-off on “MACE” then being used to control unruly groups of hippies and radicals. “LACE” was supposed to be a SUPER APHRODISIAC — that when sprayed on unsuspecting humans would immediately rip their clothes off and begin copulating like animals — regardless of where they were or who was watching. When the press conference was assembled there were two very willing and able stooges planted in the front row. The press was skeptical. To demonstrate the power of LACE they sprayed this stuff (probably water) on the well dressed stooges on the front row and as planned, ripped off their clothes and got after it like there was no tomorrow.

    17. Clearly the beta version of technology to come – just not yet. But I’d be pretty surprised if it truly is FCC approved. I’m also more than a little skeptical that this would emerge in the civilian market before deployment in military/law enforcement.

      So, as to this particular iteration – it’s more of a scammer than a scanner.

    18. If it’s true. the appication should be banned! The pedophiles, rapists and thugs will love having such devices and to think shithead corps like Apple are scared of the 2A. But Big Corps and Commie States ans Cities like them love enabling criminals. Go figure the bassackwards thinking behind that line.
      I can see alot of people getting their expensive iPhones slapped the hell out of their hands if pointed at the wrong people.

    19. I doubt it will work, too. But if it does it will be completely abused by gun banners and the government to harass and discourage conceal carriers. I also bet it would not be difficult to make or jam the device if it is only using radio waves.

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