Tuesday, 26/9/2017 | 6:11 UTC+0

Taser is being renamed and offering US police a free trial of body cameras

Taser is making a big bet on body cameras. This morning, the company announced it would be renamed after its line of police-worn body cameras, Axon, and that it would offer any interested law enforcement agency a one-year trial of its equipment. That includes a camera for every officer on the force and use of Evidence.com, the company’s website for tracking body camera videos and other media.

The offer is meant to make it easier for police departments to start outfitting their officers with body cameras, which many hope could cut down on police brutality by holding officers accountable while also protecting officers from inaccurate complaints.

Of course, for Axon, it’s also just about selling cameras and the tech required to run them. While Axon is pitching this offer as “free body cameras for every police officer in the US,” what it’s really offering is a one-year trial. And, like any other one-year trial of a product or service, it’s meant to eventually convince the tester to buy something.

Axon has made offers like this on a smaller scale before. Last October, when it lost a bid to provide New York City police officers with cameras, Axon said it would give 1,000 cameras to the NYPD to test out for a year. Today’s announcement essentially expands that offer across the country as a way to sell more departments on Axon’s cameras.

Combined with the company’s name change, the offer shows Axon shifting its focus from stun guns to cameras and, perhaps more importantly, the technology that backs them up. (Moving away from a name synonymous with electrocuting people may have been a strong impetus, too.)

“We are changing our name from Taser to Axon to reflect the evolution of our company from a less-lethal weapons manufacturing company to a full solutions provider of cloud and mobile software, connected devices, wearable cameras, and now artificial intelligence,” company founder and CEO Rick Smith says in a statement.

The back half of the quote sounds like something you could hear out of any given tech company, and that makes enough sense when you look at Axon’s business. Taser sales still make up most of Axon’s revenue — three quarters of it in 2016 — but body camera products nearly doubled in revenue last year. And within that segment, revenue from Evidence.com more than doubled.

That’s why you have Smith discussing cloud software, AI, and networking. These are things police departments will have to pay Axon for year after year to maintain service. And that makes it pretty clear why Axon wants to get cameras into their hands to try out.

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