Motorola breaks into body camera, evidence management business
The Si500 and Si300 combine a camera with a remote radio speaker microphone in a design meant to lessen the amount of gear cops wear on patrol
In 2015, the use of body cameras is no longer an option for police departments, it’s an expectation. As a result, an ever-increasing number of tech companies are entering the market. With so many body cameras available, it’s important for companies to distinguish their offering from the rest. Motorola has entered the fray with its Si series of cameras – and they believe their take on the tech accomplishes just that.
Making their debut at the 122nd annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference (IACP 2015), the Si500 and Si300 combine a camera with a remote radio speaker microphone in a design meant to lessen the amount of gear cops wear on patrol.
The Benefit of a Front-facing Display
The most immediately striking aspect of the Si500 (the more fully-loaded of the two models) is its front-facing video display, which can also be reversed to fall more in line with other body camera designs if an officer prefers it. There is a tactical purpose to this design choice, and it’s one of many that the company says was a direct product of extensive feedback from agencies that influenced the development of the camera.
“We did substantial voice of customer research not only here in the U.S., but also in Europe and Asia. We really focused on trying to understand the key challenges and opportunities that we had within the [body camera] space,” said Ron Toth, global product manager for the Si series.
Toth says that by choosing to wear the Si500 with its display facing outward, the product can function as a deterrent for bad behavior – deescalating a situation with a suspect before an officer has to record a single second of the incident.
“We offer a feature on the device called ‘video preview,’ so instead of the officer initiating an actual video recording, they can press the programmable button on the side of the device that will activate the camera’s display. When someone has to see themselves in a camera, it tends to calm them down and diffuse the situation. It also promotes a level of transparency,” Toth said.
Another example of the influence police officers had on the design is in the camera’s low-light performance.
“Some solutions that are out there today have a tendency to use LEDs to create a night vision. If you really understand the agencies’ and officers’ perspective, what they’re really saying is that ‘we want to capture the view of what the officer sees. We want the type of low-light performance that mimics the human eye.’ We meet 0.5 Lux which is right around candle light – in a low-light situation, we’re going to be capturing video exactly how the officer sees it,” Toth said.
The Si500’s video display has an interactive interface – enabling cops to tag events, control radio channels and view recorded media. The lens captures a 160-degree diagonal field of view.
Not Just for Sight
Another design choice that sets the camera apart is the aforementioned integration of a radio speaker and microphone (included in both models), which works in collaboration with a cop’s radio via a wire or Bluetooth. It features audio quality comparable to the company’s APX 6000 portable radio. Motorola touted the microphone’s adaptive audio – a feature that automatically adjusts audio settings based the ambient noise of the user’s environment and where the camera is positioned on the user. Of course, it’s also one less item a cop has to carry – a feature that was in high demand from LEOs who provided feedback.
Nathan Rowe, Senior Manager of Product Planning for Motorola Solutions, says that the value of merging the technologies together also applies to how agencies manage data:
“One thing that I think is important to understand is that the connection gives us some interesting data and access to the radio. You think about the radio being one of the primary ways that an individual is communicating – there’s a lot of information in the metadata that can be extracted from that and associated with the video content. In the bigger picture, it’s not just another siloed data. We view that architecture as being advantageous to help minimize some of the administrative overhead that happens on the backend,” Rowe said.
Motorola sees all of these data sources as a way to turn “what is a sea of noise into actionable intelligence to help the agency turn that into safety for both the officer and the citizens.” CommandCentral Vault – the company’s new cloud storage solution – is designed to work as an extension of their CommandCentral platform. As metadata such as time, date, location, and radio ID is pulled from the Si camera and stored in the vault, it can be correlated with data from an agency’s CAD and records systems automatically.
“It’s not easy to do the correlation nor is it easy to get the data out of those CAD and records systems, but because we already have analytics and predictive tools that need and leverage that data, we have a lot of expertise in doing that,” Rowe said.
Created in partnership with Adobe Systems Inc., the DEMS includes an auto redaction feature that streamlines the amount of time it takes to get incident footage up to the legal standards required for public release. Video technicians can mark things such as faces and license plates, then blur these objects through the software’s auto-tracking algorithm.
“We’re really looking to take this product to market in a more holistic fashion – we’re selling not just the device, we’re selling the complete solution with CommandCentral Vault,” Toth said.
The Si series of body-worn cameras and CommandCentral Vault are expected to launch in early Q2 2016.