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As police move to adopt body cams, storage costs set to skyrocket

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 4, 2015
Petabytes of police video are flooding into cloud services.

Taser, which got its start in the law-enforcement video business by affixing cameras to the company's handheld electroshock weapons, has seen brisk body camera sales. The company ships about 7,000 camera a quarter, according to Mattson. In all, about 35,000 have been shipped to date, he said.

As of the first quarter of this year, more than a petabyte (one million gigabytes) of police video has been uploaded to Taser's service, according to Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle.

"A video is uploaded every 2.9 seconds," Tuttle said.

In the second quarter of this year, Taser's Axon camera and cloud storage service saw $30.6 million in sales, up 170% compared to a year ago, according to the company's earnings call.

"You can see it's growing like a hockey stick," Mattson said about Taser, which now  has 26 major cities on its platform.

Seattle-based VieVu, which was acquired earlier this year by police and military supplier Safariland Group, was the first to introduce a police body camera. The privately-held company recently introduced its hosted evidence management service called VERIPATROL, which is based on Microsoft's Azure Government cloud platform.

The VERIPATROL evidence management service comes in three iterations: an onsite software model, a fully hosted cloud model or a hybrid of the two.

VieVu CEO Steve Ward said he doesn't know how exactly many videos have been stored to date on the VERIPATROL service. But "it's in the millions."

For example, VieVu's largest client, the Oakland, Calif. police department, has already stored one million police videos in the five years its officers have been using VieVu's body cameras.

"Over the last eight to 10 months, we've seen a dramatic shift in police agencies realizing, 'We're not IT shops. We need to make a shift to the cloud,'" Ward said.

The complexity of storing video evidence is enormous. Some videos in capital crime cases must be kept indefinitely, others, only as long as a criminal case takes to run its course, Tuttle said.

A relatively simple DUI arrest, however, could go on for months or years, depending on  appeals, Tuttle added.

Gartner analyst Jeff Vining said the amount of video data that body cameras will create as their adoption escalates is "enormous."

The city of Los Angeles, for example, had initially planned to deploy 200 to 300 of Taser's body cameras for various shifts and locations. Then Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan to equip all 7,000 officers with body cameras.

"That caught everyone by surprise," Vining said.

L.A. police officers began strapping the Taser's palm-sized cameras on Monday.

"You've got the [Los Angeles police] IT department cringing. Do you know what that entails?" Vining said. "And, of course, they don't."

Politics ahead of policy 


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