Taser International Inc is making a name change and will henceforth be known as Axon. This comes as the maker of stun guns signals a move towards software. According to Rick Smith, the chief executive officer of Taser, dropping the Taser name will prevent the company from being only associated with weapons and thus avoid controversy as it diversifies into police records management software and cameras.
“The thing we saw with Axon is that it’s a less polarizing brand,” said Taser’s CEO in an interview with Reuters.
But even with the change of names, Taser still earns most of its revenue from the weapons that employ electrical current in the immobilization of targets. In 2016 out of the $268.2 million in revenues that the company earned, approximately $202.6 million was derived from weapon sales. A bulk of these weapon sales consisted of replacement cartridges.
The change of name comes at a time when the company also announced that it was giving away free body cams to willing police departments. The police departments that take up the offer will also get a one-year free access to Taser’s online software that is used to manage video as well as other evidence. Each officer will get an Axon Body 2 cam and two mounts. A docking station which allows police officers to securely upload footage would also be part of the free trial deal.
According to Smith the police body cameras will help law enforcement as they will collect an impartial record. This will also result in a reduction of paperwork as there would be no need for handwritten police reports. Additionally, artificial intelligence would assist in the streamlining of the police officers’ reporting process.
In this regard, the law enforcement equipment supplier recently acquired two AI startups whose teams are now working on technology that would be employed to redact body cam videos prior to them being released to the public. The AI team is also working on technology that would enable automatic extraction of the video information and filling out of reports.
The popularity of police body cameras in the United States rose dramatically after shooting incidents in Fergusson, Missouri as well as other areas. This led to widespread calls for increased accountability of law enforcement officers. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in January this year shows that approximately two-thirds of police officers are in favor of wearing body cameras. However, the population of police officers that currently have body cameras is only about 20%.