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TASER changes name to Axon, announces free body camera program

The moves mark an inflection point for the company


Rick Smith is presently best known in the law enforcement community for his role as the CEO and co-founder of TASER International. Their conducted electrical weapons have saved countless lives, and their Axon lines of body-worn cameras have been groundbreaking in helping officers combat unfounded claims.

However, when the history of policing in the 21st Century is written a hundred years from now, Smith may very well be known not for those things, but for increasing law enforcement effectiveness and efficiency by dramatically increasing the number of officers on the streets. And his title won’t be CEO and co-founder of TASER. It will be CEO and founder of Axon.

Why the name change?

During an event in Washington DC, Smith said that the company is changing its iconic name from TASER International to Axon as a reflection of the shift in focus the Scottsdale (Arizona) based company has been undergoing over the past several years. The company has been building a connected network of smart devices, applications and cloud services, and the name TASER conjures up mental imagery of their CEW devices — not a universe of platforms. TASER will become a product brand associated with the TASER weapons systems, and Axon will become the company brand that offers a wide array of products, applications and services to law enforcement. The word Axon, which describes the broad network of connected devices and services, is the name for the nerve fibers in the human body that connect nerve cells together.

In addition, during the event, Smith announced an initiative to literally give away to any officer or agency in the country a BWC and unlimited cloud services to manage the digital video evidence for a period of one year.

Marching toward automation and AI

The moves mark an inflection point for the company. Smith believes that by rebranding from TASER to Axon and providing free BWCs to every officer, the company can rapidly accelerate the rate of law enforcement data available in the Evidence.com cloud platform. This will enable Axon to execute on their mission to maximize AI and machine learning capabilities to build software platforms that take the place of manual data entry and management.

“We believe that we can triple the police force on the street in the next ten years by fundamentally automating all of this data input work that they’re doing that takes up two thirds of their day,” Smith told PoliceOne. “We think one hundred percent of that can be automated with sensors and artificial intelligence.”

In order for “Axon AI” to really work well, there needs to be a lot of data, and a lot of people using that data in a way that the AI software can learn from their behavior. This is where Axon fits right in.

With the combination of cloud computing, AI and a vastly larger number of BWCs feeding video files into the system, Axon is positioned to create opportunities for cops to be on the street, doing the work, not constantly entering reports and data about the work they just did.

Furthermore, Smith believes that by adding these layers of technology, the company is actually humanizing officers for the public.

“Some of the critics say we’re turning police officers into RoboCop — that technology is making them less human. We think we’re making them more human. This really allows police officers to focus on the things that humans do in human interaction, and automate the non-human clerical stuff. Instead of interviewing a victim and taking notes, they can be focusing on the person in a more connected way — the way you communicate with a friend over coffee, paying attention to body language and focusing on the individual,” Smith said.

Free cameras and Axon services

Traditional procurement practices have shown that without field testing, agencies can be left with technology that doesn’t deliver on expectations. Axon’s free trial offer provides departments the opportunity to test and understand the benefits of BWC technology while minimizing the risk of making a regrettable purchase.

“As we looked at this, we saw a real win-win opportunity,” Smith said. “We know from our experience that once an officer has a BWC very quickly it becomes like the first time you got a smart phone. You didn’t know you needed it, and then once you have it you can’t imagine doing your job without it. So we think this is one of those cases where we can put in a big investment up front and remove the logistics burden to trial this new technology and for us long term, we think they’re going to find it so valuable that they’re going to come back to us.”

After a year of using the free BWCs and supporting services, agencies can elect to return the gear and go on to investigate other options, or begin the official procurement process with the Axon sales team.

“This is a customer-centric strategy — we’re trying to start an arms race of customer centrism,” Smith said. “We’re really trying to help our customers change the way that they look at technology.

The way agencies bought technology ten years ago is they’d set up a committee of people who are not users, go through some sort of bureaucratic process, get proposals, and then based on those documents, would make some sort of decision. We know that this sort of purchasing process in the fast-moving tech just doesn’t keep up. We’ve seen so many agencies have disastrous technology programs, so we’ve come to this idea of agile procurement. If you make your technology acquisition based on what works well for the officer, you’re going to get better equipment for your officers. As opposed to making your purchases based on which vendor knows how to game the procurement process.”

The company’s new ticker symbol “AAXN” will become effective upon the opening of the Nasdaq market on April 6, 2017. The company's official website is now www.axon.com.

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