Some phone cases give you more battery life or wireless charging. But how about a case that can scan people for hidden weapons?
That's exactly what Royal Holdings, a Los Angeles-based startup focused on real-time intelligence and threat detection, and run by former intelligence contractor Barry Oberholzer, aims to do with its SWORD smartphone attachment.
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.
If it works, SWORD could potentially revolutionize the security field, making it easier, less intrusive and significantly cheaper to help make public venues safer. It's a hot topic given the raft of public attacks in recent years, from school shootings to a suicide bomb at an Ariana Grande concert.
"We have developed a product that can be proactive and actually save innocent lives," Oberholzer said in an interview on Friday. "That's our primary goal."
It's unclear just how effective SWORD is yet. Oberholzer said the company will begin showing off a working prototype in August, with the first batch of products coming in spring 2019. (Check back with CNET in the coming months for hands-on impressions.)
With a price tag of $1,250 (the preorder price is $950) and a monthly $30 subscription fee, this isn't for your average Joe. But Oberholzer said the company has already received 8,000 early orders from private security companies, casinos and a "very large school district."
According to the video demo, the attachment works with the SWORD app, which lets you scan people up to 40 feet away. The app can detect whether the person is carrying something dangerous by tapping into its database of weapons and explosive devices. The early tests showed no false positive readings, Oberholzer said, noting that the company is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the database.
SWORD also offers a facial recognition system utilizing the phone's camera. Customers can feed in photos of specific people, for example, folks on a wanted list or blacklisted from a casino. Once in the system, a SWORD user can pull out the phone and scan the room for any unwanted individuals.
Royal Holdings opted to go with the iPhone 8 Plus and Pixel 2 XL because of their size. Oberholzer said he couldn't use a Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus because the central placement of the camera made it difficult to build the attachment.
Beyond corporate clients, Oberholzer said SWORD has garnered interest from the Department of Homeland Security.
"This type of product doesn't exist right now," he said.
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