Artificial intelligence is the hottest arena in the tech world today, but the complexities of developing practical applications from the technology have made it slow to impact people's everyday lives. That may be starting to change.
Leading stun gun and body camera manufacturer TASER International (NASDAQ:AAXN) announced on Thursday that it has acquired two companies that are creating artificial intelligence technology. It's a bold move for the company, but it could make both its Axon cameras and the Evidence.com cloud platform more valuable over the long term.
Why law enforcement needs artificial intelligence
The purpose of an AI service from TASER would be to help sift through the enormous quantity of video and data law enforcement agencies are storing every single day. That data can be great for both law enforcement and the public, but it can be overwhelming to determine what information is useful and where it is.
AI can help identify objects, places, and actions people are taking. This may mean identifying a weapon in a confrontation, or spotting where a foot chase starts and stops on a video recording. That in turn can help it to categorize segments of video, which will help in the process of searching it for specific information.
TASER International is giving a bigger presentation on how the technology will be used on Feb. 15, so investors and observers can learn more then. But this will likely be an add-on to TASER's Evidence.com product.
How TASER International sees the future
If you want to understand how AI could fit into TASER International's business, one line from today's press release pops out:
The benefits of this groundbreaking technology leads to a future of hands-free reporting and real time intel in the field.
The goal is to make everything about law enforcement officers, and the citizens they interact with, easier to document and find. Not only will life be easier for officers on a day-to-day basis, court requests or public information requests will be easier to process, reducing headaches for agencies.
At least, that's the theory.
The danger of mixing AI with the P.D.
Where TASER is going to need to tread lightly is in how these products are used by law enforcement. If AI improves officers' efficiency and police accountability, it could be a win-win for law enforcement and the public. But the ACLU has already raised concerns. In an interview with Forbes, it postulated that this will be a surveillance mechanism for the government more broadly.
That's big potential a can of worms, and a question of how AI will be used here that has yet to be well defined by either the technology's developers or the government. Used with care and moderation, it could be great for everyone. But there's a potential for abuse as well. TASER International will play a role in defining how the technology is used in the law-enforcement milieu, a position it may not be ready for. While AI is an interesting addition to its portfolio, management will need to tread carefully if it wants to avoid a public backlash against it in the future.