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Cisco/TASER Partnership Shows Private Cloud Hopes

Written by Robert McGarvey

The ambition is breathtaking: Using tools from Taser International Inc. (primarily a tiny camera worn on a police officer’s head), networking pipes from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and a private cloud built by Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX), Evidence.com means to do nothing less than revolutionize street law enforcement by capturing and saving every important moment in a cop’s day.

From arguments over speeding tickets through live-action footage of shootouts, the intent is to record it, then uplift it to a private cloud, all the time ensuring that the footage cannot be altered in any way by the police officers involved. This means the data becomes evidence that can decide how court cases play out.

Ask the people at Cisco, and they express great optimism about Evidence.com. And they hope it may prompt interest in a range of similar services: “We believe there will be a lot of activity in this space,” says Omar Sultan, senior solution manager for the Data Center Solutions team for Cisco. “Pharma is [an example of] an area where we think we will see more activity.”

Still, will the public sector -- savaged by the current recession -- have the money to pay for Evidence.com? Tom Smith, chairman of the board at Taser, says the price tag for Evidence.com is $5,700 per officer for a three-year contract. Smith notes that there are many federal grants, along with stimulus moneys, available for high-tech upgrades in law enforcement. “Funding should not be a problem,” he asserts.

That is one good reason Smith expresses optimism that Evidence.com will swiftly roll out to many more police departments, in addition to the two current pilot programs (in Fort Smith, Ark., and San Jose, Calif.). “We believe we will add five more agencies in January,” says Smith.

That prompts another question: Can the system scale to meet the immense data throughput needs every additional officer brings? (Smith estimates each officer generates 1 gigabyte per hour on duty.) Vincent DiMemmo, general manager, Global Cloud Computing, for Equinix, says Evidence.com was created with scalability in mind: “We know we can grow this as required.”

So for Cisco, Taser, and Equinix a lot is riding on Evidence.com. If it works, that’s a shining proof of a new model of service that delivers benefits by turning real-world data into usable information -- all without requiring capital expenditure on the part of the user.

But might it not work? Scott Testa, an assistant professor at Cabrini College and a longtime technology guru, says that “in theory” the Evidence.com offering “makes sense,” in large part because it plays into the reality that most police departments budget meager sums for IT. Buy the service in a package, using federal money, and that solves a local department’s IT problem.

Bottom line: It’s a smart move, particularly for Cisco and Equinix, both of which may be riding a powerful wave that wins them roles in bigger cloud rollouts in 2010.

But more than clouds are on the line here. Evidence.com also demonstrates the benefits that accrue from digitizing information that was formerly inaccessible and posting it on the Web.

It just may be a big win for all of us when the facts of what happened in every police-related incident are vividly caught in live-action video.

Already, in Fort Smith, an officer-involved fatal shooting was resolved in weeks, not the months typically involved in such cases, with the prosecutor ruling that the video evidence indisputably established that the officer fired in accordance with procedures. The technology removes all doubt, and that is something we all can applaud.

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