Samsung, Visual Labs aim to consolidate police body cameras into smartphones

The last thing police officers need is another device to lug around. Here's how Samsung and Visual Labs are addressing the issue.

Law enforcement organizations may be starting to use smartphones as body worn cameras to save money, use more connectivity via FirstNet and lighten the load of devices carried by officers.

For instance, Samsung and Visual Labs outlined how deputies in the Kit Carson County Sheriff's Office in Burlington, CO are using Galaxy S9 smartphones as a way to consolidate the need for separate body worn cameras.

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A Samsung Galaxy S9 as a body camera. Credit: Samsung

Tom Ridnour, Sheriff of Kit Carson, said the combination of Samsung, FirstNet and Visual Labs, which provides evidence management as well as cloud storage saved his organization money. "It was cheaper as we didn't have to buy body cameras. We were getting the phones anyway," said Ridnour.

FirstNet is a wireless network designed to prioritize first responder traffic.  AT&T is building out the network, and the only carrier that can enable access to the FirstNet communications platform dedicated to public safety. 

Ridnour's approach may spell more competition for Axon, which makes Tasers and body cameras as well as offers the Evidence.com cloud service. Watchguard Video, which was recently acquired by Motorola Solutions, is another firm that provides evidence management as well as body and in-car cameras. 

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What companies like Samsung and Visual Labs are doing is aiming to grab share with lower costs and more standard hardware. Ridnour added that additional perks were FirstNet connectivity, lower training costs and a lighter load on officers' vests. For Visual Labs, the partnership with Samsung and the Kit Carson case study highlights its strategy to be the "body camera company that does not make body cameras." Visual Labs is software and cloud based.

Alexander Popof, chief operating officer of Visual Labs, said the addition of FirstNet means that smartphones can continually update evidence. "Smartphones are small computers and connected so they can mean one less piece of equipment to carry," said Popof.

For Samsung, the bet is that FirstNet will open the company's business-to-business unit to more public safety account. "From enterprise to government and the public sector, the ecosystem is ripe for having the smartphone for ease of uptime and low costs," said Reg Jones, US public safety lead at Samsung.