The shape of police deals to come

Having the hardware for nothing and paying later for support could well be the next pitch from vendors seeking a slice of the justice market, says industry analyst Police Market Report.

May 17, 2017
By Paul Jacques

Having the hardware for nothing and paying later for support could well be the next pitch from vendors seeking a slice of the justice market, says industry analyst Police Market Report.

“The ball’s been set rolling by Axon, formerly known as Taser International, which is offering ‘no cost’ body-worn video (BWV) cameras to US police departments that sign up for a year to its cloud-based digital platform, evidence.com,” explained John Rowland, editor of Police Market Report, the monthly subscriber only bulletin that specialises in police information and communications technology.

The offer appears to be confined to the US at the moment, he said, but back in the UK it will be watched with interest.

“It appears bad luck for UK forces that have already bought their kit. Several others, which have BWV spends earmarked for this year, could well be asking ‘what about us, then?’” said Mr Rowland.

He said there were other vendors with multiple product portfolios that could make a similar pitch.

“Microsoft has already offered home consumers a one year no cost try out to woo them onto office and associated cloud storage. A variation on the ‘buy one get several other things thrown in’ was successfully tried by the Police ICT Company with IBM and its i2 agreement,” he added.

Mr Rowland said the Axon offer “appears to have no up-front strings”.

“If the user decides not to use the service after a year, then Axon will hand back all the data. Of course, by that time, frontline officers will be trained up on evidence.com. And, if all works out, they’ll be reluctant to leave what promises to be a time saver,” he added.

“Axon will then seek to clinch a paid for agreement and expand its offering.

“It is looking at automating transcriptions of audio and using artificial intelligence to find evidential markers such as numberplates. The aim is to cut out the paperwork for officers and make evidence court room-ready.

“As things stand, patrol officers are often carrying three pieces of electronic kit – a tablet or smartphone, an Airwave handset and a BWV camera.

“In the post-Airwave public safety environment, with the new Emergency Services Network, this could well be cut to a single multi-function LTE (long-term evolution) device, combining communications and video.”

Rick Smith, chief executive officer and founder of Taser International, said the change to Axon was part of its plans to “accelerate the future of policing”.

He said a recent report by the ‘fact tank’ Pew Research Centre “painted a worrying picture” of the current state of law enforcement in the US.

It found:

• 81 per cent of officers in large agencies said they were not equipped adequately to perform their job;

• 56 per cent expected that their fellow officers would not act quickly enough in the field as opposed to acting too quickly; and

• 86 per cent said their department did not have enough officers to adequately police the community.

“There is too much at stake for these trends to continue, or for outdated procurement processes to get in the way of rigorous field testing. That’s why we’re offering agencies nationwide a free one-year trial of our cameras, software and training,” said Mr Smith.

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