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Axon Enterprise: Body Camera Power to the People

By Travis Hoium - Oct 23, 2017 at 9:33AM

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Citizens may now be key stakeholders for Axon Enterprise and law enforcement.

Axon Enterprise ( AXON -4.99% ) has spent the last few years building out its product lineup and software infrastructure for law enforcement agencies around the world. Axon Body 2 and Flex are the two most popular body cameras in the industry, and is a standard in cloud storage of body-camera content for officers and prosecutors.

The missing aspect of the strategy has always been civilians: everyday people who have media files that could make a difference in apprehending suspects or getting the right evidence in the hands of prosecutors. Axon Citizen is a step in that direction.

A uniformed officer, and a person in civilian dress, uploading content onto

Image source: Axon Enterprise.

How to get the community involved

Axon's announcement of Axon Citizen described the product as:

... a public safety portal that allows community members to submit evidence directly to law enforcement agencies only for crimes under investigation. There are two ways in which officers can solicit help from the community: one-on-one between an officer and the citizen, or with a communitywide broadcast requesting information on a specific crime.

The one-on-one platform will be available for free to customers who already have Pro, Ultimate, or Unlimited licenses for The communitywide call for content will be available with an additional license, and will include ways for law enforcement to comb through data as it comes in.

The idea is to bring in more content relevant to cases and give people a third party they can trust to take and store data. People can even upload content anonymously if they choose. If used properly, this could be a step in the right direction for everyone involved in complex cases (think Charlottesville or the Boston bombing).

AI is already paying off

Earlier this year, Axon acquired both Dextro, Inc. and a computer-vision team from Fossil Group, Inc. in an effort to build artificial intelligence into its platform. The use of AI is intended to make it easier for officers and prosecutors to comb through data and find the images they need to determine how or whether to prosecute an event.

It appears these capabilities will be central to the Axon Citizen platform, which will be particularly important if there are thousands of images or videos coming into law enforcement. AI could be a huge value-add for all of those involved, and a key differentiator for Axon.

Building trust is the hard part

What wasn't laid out in Axon's release is how it will give those not in law enforcement an incentive to trust it with their content. If a key piece of content isn't accepted or used by law enforcement it will undermine the point of allowing citizens to submit media. There have been cases of body cameras not being turned on during police shootings or footage not leading to conviction, so not even the body cameras of today are a perfect solution. 

Building a level of trust in content being used properly will be key for law enforcement long-term. But without the platform to submit evidence to law enforcement, it's difficult to know how this content will be used. Time will tell if law enforcement agencies or civilians will be comfortable enough getting this content and using it in the right way.

Another differentiator for Axon

What a product like Axon Citizen does for Axon Enterprise is expand on the company's leading body-camera and image-capture platform for law enforcement. As Axon builds out the platform and gets more people using it, law enforcement agencies will have a harder time leaving the platform, and competitors will have a harder time catching up to Axon's capabilities. It's just the latest move to lock customers in to Axon's products, which should be great for the company's business long-term.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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