Axon rolls out police body cameras with live-streaming capability

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An Axon Body 3 camera on a police officer. (Axon Photo)

Police officers equipped with Axon’s next-generation body camera will be able to automatically live-stream shooting incidents using technology similar to the Amazon Echo smart speaker.

Like smart speakers, the devices “listen” for a wake command that queues them to start recording. In the case of the Axon Body 3, the camera wakes when it hears gunshots. Officers can also manually live-stream if they want assistance or another set of eyes on a scene.

Axon today announced that the Cincinnati Police Department is deploying more than 1,000 of the Axon Body 3 cameras, with live-streaming capability built-in.

Axon says the cameras will help police speed up administrative tasks like accessing evidence and completing reports. The law enforcement technology company, previously known as Taser, has a major presence in Seattle and is headquartered in Arizona.

The LTE-connected cameras start at $699, with additional costs for the Aware software that powers live-streaming. Axon first unveiled the cameras at a police conference in Orlando in 2018. At the time, the devices raised some eyebrows from privacy and civil rights activists.

Of particular concern is the power of technology to expand police surveillance and disproportionately impact marginalized communities. Privacy advocates at the time told Fast Company they feared the devices could eventually be built with facial recognition technology built-in.

But last year Axon put a moratorium on facial recognition technology in any of its devices until questions of bias and accuracy could be worked out. The decision was prompted by a review from Axon’s ethics board.

In an interview with GeekWire this week, Axon CEO Rick Smith said the ban is still in place.

“We felt the technology was not sufficiently accurate nor were the privacy issues sufficiently well-vetted that it would make sense to put these on a body camera,” he said. “We still see that statement as true.”

Axon offers a suite of technology products for law enforcement, including Taser devices and other types of body cameras. The company has been steadily growing its Seattle engineering office over the past few years. Axon currently has 227 employees in Seattle and is hiring for an additional 74.

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