• 04.05.17

Taser is zapping its name

Taser, the company known for its electric stun guns, is changing its name to Axon as part of its aggressive push to dominate the market for body cameras and the video and data services those cameras require. 

Already the market leader in body cameras, the company also said Wednesday it would offer cameras and cloud storage free for a year to any eligible police department. When paired with Axon software, the cameras, said CEO Rick Smith, “also hold the potential to change police work as we know it, by seamlessly collecting an impartial record and reducing the need for endless paperwork.” The company has recently built up a new unit, Axon AI, focused on software that could someday automate police reports, said Smith, and could allow police to scan video in real time for objects and faces.

The “free” trial program—a page borrowed from the consumer tech industry—could help fill a shortage in funding for body cameras and accelerate their adoption. The Trump administration has indicated it’s not as committed to supporting local efforts at police reform, and may withhold federal police funding from so-called sanctuary cities.  

“What we’re trying to do is accelerate the market forward,” says Smith of the body camera trial program. His message to police agencies is, “We think these things are useful, we think you will as well. Let’s not wait to see if there’s federal funding or not.”

Though Taser will remain the brand name of its weapons products, the corporate name change—years in the making—was prompted by the company’s determination to redefine itself as a more public-facing tech company, and to distinguish it from the stun guns for which it is widely and controversially known.