March 25, 2009 Dashboard cameras mounted on police vehicles have proven their worth in backing up courtroom testimony by providing a video record of incidents – as well as giving reality cop shows a veritable wealth of real life footage. Now a new product from Taser International, the company responsible for the electroshock weapon that bears that name, takes the idea one step further by capturing video and audio of incidents from the visual perspective of the responding officer.
The Taser AXON is a tactical networkable computer worn by first responders that combines advanced audio and video recording capabilities. It consists of an audio-video earpiece imager, speaker and microphone that integrate into existing radio communications through a standard 3.5 mm headphone connection, providing two way communications in addition to full audio-video recording from a head camera the size and weight of a standard Bluetooth headset.
The HeadCam can be worn over the ear like a standard Bluetooth headset courtesy of head brace that comes standard with the device, however the unit can also be mounted to glasses, helmets through the use of various accessories. It integrates with the radio earpiece and can capture color and low light infrared images. The Com Hub, which connects the HeadCam, radio and AXON Tactical Computer (ATC), contains the user controls – a standard push to talk button for radio controls and a single AXON event button that activates the system to start recording – is attached to the short of the officer while the ATC is stored away in dedicated pockets or on the belt or holster. The ATC is the brains of the system, running on the Linux Operating System the unit is responsible for video compression and storage, features a 10 hour rechargeable battery and 4.3-inch touchscreen display enabling playback and analysis of incident video.
After a day on the beat the Synapse Evidence Transfer Manager (ETM) handles the recorded data with officers placing the ATC into a cradle for recharging and uploading of data. Before the file is uploaded over a secure 128 bit encrypted transport link the AXON generates a digital fingerprint that verifies the original file hasn’t been altered. The data is uploaded via a broadband internet connection to EVIDENCE.com, which comprises two fully replicated, massively scalable, redundant, military-grade secure data centers with 24/7 reliability. The whole process promises a bulletproof chain of custody with the AXON evidence untouched by human hands so it cannot be deleted or altered.
Taser says the new AXON system not only increases officer efficiency by reducing report documentation, it would also be a boon to officers facing false allegations and complaints as they will be able to call on irrefutable video evidence to refute such claims. Taser also believes that such evidence will prove invaluable in the courtroom by giving jurors the ability to see exactly what an officer saw.
Apart from the influx of first-hand footage available to reality cop shows that could result from the use of systems like AXON, it's likely that "always-on" recording via wearable electronic devices will become common practice outside of law enforcement scenarios. Concepts like the Momenta neck-worn PC have captured plenty of attention in recent times and - even though lets face it, most of it is going to be mundane and boring - we’ll probably be recording just about everything we do in the not too distant future.
The AXON system is expected to be ready for deployment in Q3 of this year, so any spotlight hungry criminals might want to get their shirts off in readiness.