Body cameras are a tool of citizen surveillance and of public accountability. They’re endorsed by police reformists and police chiefs, and, above all, by the White House, which has pledged $75 million toward nationwide adoption of police-worn cameras.
But they’re something else, too: a business. And, on Thursday, we got a sense for how big that business might become.
That’s because Taser International announced its first-quarter 2015 earnings. They beat expectations, in part because Taser, though best-known for its stun guns, is becoming one of the major American manufacturers of body cameras.
How major? Sixteen large U.S. cities have purchased Taser body cameras, according to the company. They include Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas. Other cities, including Washington, D.C., are running smaller programs with the company’s cameras.
Taser has two body-camera-related products. The first is the body cameras themselves, video cameras that can be worn on the chest or head, which the company calls the Axon series. The second is essentially a Dropbox for body-camera footage—a digital storage service to which departments can subscribe—which the company calls Evidence.com.
Revenue from those two businesses combined grew 73 percent to $6.4 million compared with the first quarter of last year—that's $2.7 million more than the same period in 2014. Almost half of that came from “service revenue”—in other words, new subscribers to Evidence.com. Taser now claims more than than 22,000 users for its Evidence.com.