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Can cloud software help end police brutality?

A police officer wears a body camera.
Getty Images
A police officer wears a body camera.

Police violence in Missouri, New York, Maryland and South Carolina have turned the issue of body cameras into a mainstream topic of debate.

But as more police departments begin mandating wearable video, what happens when all that content needs to be stored, retrieved and shared with prosecutors? After unfortunate incidents take place, the amount of data that has to be quickly tapped can create chaos.

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A possible solution is coming from an unlikely source: Taser.

The manufacturer of police stun guns—and more recently body cameras—is moving from hardware to software. The company is doing its part to build the law enforcement cloud and is utilizing a subscription business model pioneered in Silicon Valley.

"Video is just the tip of the iceberg," said Luke Larson, president of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser. "There's a bigger story around using a cloud-based service and how do agencies keep up with all of this inflation of information and the digital explosion."

Taser shares

Whether it's profiting from a flurry of high-profile confrontations or just benefiting from a global movement to the cloud, Taser is capturing plenty of investor attention.

Taser's shares have surged 140 percent in the past year, compared with the 13 percent gain for the S&P 500. Revenue climbed 19 percent last year to $165 million, and analysts are predicting growth of 18 percent in 2015.

Larson was in San Francisco on Wednesday for Subscribed, a conference focused on the subscription economy. He's speaking about Taser's business model transition that involves selling Web-connected body cameras combined with a cloud software suite called Evidence.com.

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For $100 a month per user, Taser provides its Axon camera as well as access to its Web portal for storage, file management, file sharing, mapping of media and a host of other tools. Other pricing plans are available. Taser has Axon deployments in 23 major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and 24 active trials in other cities.

Subscribed is sponsored by Zuora, whose software powers the billing, finance and commerce behind subscription businesses. The company recently raised $115 million to help traditional license and offline businesses move to subscriptions. Larson said Taser has an "active pain that Zuora solves," but he didn't say if the companies will be working together.

For Zuora, Taser fits into an emerging theme around the Internet of Things.

"A police officer is a walking connected device," said Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Zuora. (Tweet This)

The current string of police violence that captured national attention began in July, when a man on New York's Staten Island was killed after being put in a chokehold by a police officer. The following month, an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed teenager. In April, an unarmed man was shot by a policeman in North Charleston, South Carolina, and in Baltimore, a man died of a neck injury while in police custody.

The victim in each case was black.

"The need for video is in national demand right now to increase transparency between law enforcement agencies and communities," Larson said.

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Taser cites a Cambridge University study that shows an 88 percent reduction in citizen complaints when officers have cameras and a 59 percent drop in the use of force.

Those are the societal benefits. But to bring its video business to the cloud, Taser is turning to Silicon Valley for help. Bret Taylor, former technology chief of Facebook and co-creator of Google Maps, joined the company's board in June, and Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi has been a director since 2010.

"We view ourselves as competing against Google, Facebook and Amazon," Larson said. "We're recruiting the best talent in the industry."