How Axon is accelerating tech advances in policing
Axon’s annual Accelerate symposium connects law enforcement leaders from around the world with the technology that is transforming policing
While technology has brought the world closer together, it has not, and never will, replace the value of face-to-face communications. That’s why attending professional events is critical for the exchange of best practices and lessons learned, as well as candid discussions about the real-world challenges impacting policing today.
This year’s Axon Accelerate symposium offered just that by connecting public safety professionals from around the world. Through a combination of hands-on training, provocative panel discussions and exclusive networking opportunities, police chiefs, LE trainers, PIOs, line officers and prosecutors left the event equipped with the information they need about new technologies and evolving practices transforming the police profession on a near-daily basis.
PoliceOne spoke with Axon EVP of Worldwide Products Todd Basche about the key themes of this year’s event. Todd oversees all research and development for Axon devices. Prior to Axon, Todd was VP of software planning and product management at Dell and has held a variety of executive positions in Silicon Valley companies ranging from Rovi to Apple, where he worked directly with Steve Jobs and was responsible for the iLife and iWork suite of products.
When 1,200 law enforcement leaders from across the country and around the world attend a vendor user summit, you know the event has to be pretty special. Spectacular, ground-breaking and innovative are other words that come to mind when discussing Axon’s Accelerate symposium.
“This is the largest law enforcement tech conference with an amazing turnout and customer interaction unlike any company I’ve ever worked for,” said Axon EVP Todd Basche, who has worked with both Dell and Apple, so you have to figure he has attended a lot of major tech events.
Connecting people, technology and training is the mission of the Axon event, as witnessed by the two-way exchange of information during sessions and social networking opportunities.
“Customers engage with us, sharing best practices during sessions and talking to us about the trends in technology they are seeing and want. As part of this event, we did 30 Voice of the Customer feedback sessions to really understand our customer’s pain points,” said Basche.
How to 10x law enforcement
During the opening keynote at Accelerate, Axon CEO and co-founder Rick Smith discussed the concept of 10x thinking, which pushes organizations and individuals to improve performance not by 10 percent, but 10-fold. For most of us, technology has already had a 10x impact on our personal lives.
“For example, when everything converged on your cell phone, it didn’t just get a little bit better, it got dramatically better,” said Basche. “We see that same kind of huge shift from applying technology in law enforcement. Technology has continued to advance and Axon aims to 10x the field of law enforcement.”
The goal is to break down silos in law enforcement and equip officers with the technology that is as intuitive to use as what is found on a smart phone. By using its Evidence.com platform, Axon offers a cloud-based ecosystem that stores all LE data – from body-worn cameras to audio records – while streamlining data management and sharing.
New product offerings from Axon that are expanding this ecosystem and will revolutionize how police interact with technology were presented during the Accelerate conference:
1. Records management systems (RMS)
Clunky records management systems with old user interfaces that frustrate officers used to modern-day tech will soon be a thing of the past, said Basche.
“Axon is bringing a modern approach to RMS, making systems integrated to reduce the time officers spend writing reports. One day we will be able to have AI work on BWC video and in-car video to create a first draft of a report that an officer can go into and edit. A lot of information about events will be extracted. The Axon records product breaks down all those traditional siloes and is fully integrated with all Evidence.com videos. Records are automatically connected to reduce the amount of time cops spend filling out paperwork so they can get back on the street. That is our mission.”
2. Digital evidence collection
Axon’s new Citizen for Communities public evidence submission portal will allow agencies to collect evidence from the public during both large-scale and smaller events.
“Every day, we think about how to make the whole environment of policing safer for the community and LE officers. Allowing citizens to submit cell phone video, or video from products like Ring’s Video Doorbell, is a very positive step,” said Basche. “I was recently speaking with police leaders from a major city where I asked them how they handle video evidence from bystanders. They told me they ask folks to give the patrol officers their cell phones for a week. I asked how that is working and they said they haven’t got any phones yet! When we demoed Axon Citizen for Communities, it blew their minds.”
3. Fleet 2
Axon’s new Fleet 2 in-car camera includes redesigned front and back cameras with new features like infrared, zoom and over-the-air updates, as well as being integrated with Axon's body cameras and evidence management system.
“We see Fleet 2 – our in-car camera system – as disruptive technology for law enforcement. We have made it so anybody can have in-car cameras due to low subscriptions of $129 a month. This makes it affordable for any agency to put cameras in cars, with all the data uploaded to Evidence.com,” said Basche.
4. Drone-generated video
Axon Air is a new partnership between Axon and drone manufacturer DJI that enables police agencies to leverage the Axon network and integrate drone video into Evidence.com.
“As we talked to customers over the past year, we found an incredible uptake of PDs using drones very effectively for things like accident reconstruction, SWAT, and search and rescue, but everybody is still figuring out how to take drone videos, redact and share,” said Basche. “This is why we are making drones part of a whole ecosystem like Evidence.com. This is powerful technology. Imagine if we are able to use AI with drones to look for a missing hiker wearing specific clothing. The drone could find the missing person and report back the GPS location.”
The network effect
The movement toward total system integration was a key theme throughout the Accelerate event. As Axon expands tools that allow police departments to integrate all aspects of operations, the dataset that emerges demonstrates the true value tech advances offer law enforcement.
“We currently have over 200,000 officers on the Axon network, who have generated 30 petabytes of video data. This is 10 times larger than the Netflix database,” said Basche. “When you add data and applications into the Axon ecosystem, you get the network effect. You see how our networks allow information to be shared between prosecutors and defenders, how we can share information from the community. A typical agency has 50-100 different applications. It is crazy to think of officers logging in and out of different silo systems every day. In the Axon network, we build everything on top of an integrated software platform, so all the data is shared.”
Basche says there have been three big forces that have changed everything: the internet, mobile technology and the cloud. “These things have permeated into the fabric of our lives. We are using the most amazing technology in the world in our hands to order food or get driving directions. Cops see the power of this technology every day. The trick is to make it easy to use, accessible and affordable. I would hope that people see how the community is better served when police have technology.”
With technology changing so rapidly, it can be challenging for law enforcement agencies to stay ahead of the curve. Attending Axon’s Accelerate is one way police leaders can develop a roadmap to navigate through tech transformations.
“We are in a period of exponential growth in technology where things don’t get a little bit better, they get exponentially better,” said Basche. “New recruits have all grown up with a cell phone in their hand, so they much more tech savvy. As these new recruits come on board, they have a hunger for new tech and will demand it. Police leaders must be open to change, as technology will free up officers to spend much more time in the community where they can be most effective.”
Accelerate 2019 is scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Phoenix, Arizona. Register now at https://www.acceleratepolicing.com/.
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