Criminal justice is being revolutionized with the advancement in technology and the introduction of new devices and software. Law enforcement and governmental agencies swiftly adapt to new and better ways of fighting crime and making our communities safer. It is becoming well understood that technology is becoming the wheel of the law enforcement vehicle. Similar to every other corporation and organization, going digital is the need of the hour for law enforcement.
Keeping this in mind, many companies are investing in R&D and creating solutions that would help law enforcement achieve that goal. Hardware such as body-worn cameras, dashcams, tasers and AI solutions are some of the prime examples. Why is such technological hardware considered essential for police officers? To collect evidence that would assist in solving crimes. The question arises: “Have some companies thought of creating a consolidated system that would make collecting, processing, analyzing and sharing digital evidence seamless for law enforcement agencies?" Fortunately, the answer is in the affirmative and in the scope of this article, we will discuss how the top two players in the market: Axon Evidence and VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS), are adding convenience to the lives of law enforcement officers. Let us dive in and analyze digital evidence management systems.
What is a Law Enforcement Agency Looking for?
A typical law enforcement agency would be looking for a system that reduces their manual work. Most officers enroll in police for field jobs that allows them to test their skills each day with a new challenge. Law enforcement agencies would ideally not to want to drown officers with monotonous tasks such as manually collecting, processing and analyzing huge evidence files. A typical law enforcement agency is also looking to build their credibility in the eyes of the public by improving their crime clearance rate. A higher security level is directly associated with how fast the police collects, processes and analyzes relevant evidence that would assist them to close a criminal case.
What is a Digital Evidence Management System?
A digital evidence management system is used to streamline the evidence collection process by connecting the available data silos into a single consolidated system. The digital evidence can be in the form of video and audio recordings, incident reports and a digital file from an electronic source emails, text messages, instant messages, electronic financial transactions etc. A regular digital evidence management system allows digital evidence to be ingested, stored, managed, analyzed, and shared in a centralized repository. Let’s analyze the digital evidence management system as provided by Axon and VIDIZMO:
Axon calls its digital evidence management system Axon Evidence, also known as Evidence.com. As described by Digital Marketplace, Axon Evidence is a digital evidence management system that streamlines data management and electronic sharing within one secure platform. It is a system that provides different deployment options: community cloud-based model, hybrid and on-premise deployment. Axon Evidence is a stand-alone product, but it can be connected with Axon solutions such as body-worn, in-car cameras and interview room systems. It then serves as the solution that acts as the data repository, configuring and integrating with the hardware. Some of the most prominent features of Axon Evidence are: automatic ingestion of Axon/TASER data, secure digital sharing to stakeholders, automated and manual redaction tools, audit report on all system access, actions, entities and usage, collaboration, request access and case management tools.
VIDIZMO is recognized as a significant player in the 2020 IDC MarketScape. Designed specifically to make the work of government and law enforcement agencies easier, VIDIZMO automatically ingests all types of digital evidence from sources such as CCTV, body-worn cameras and dashcams, and enables you to securely share evidence with various stakeholders, such as other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) transcribes video evidence to improve accessibility, allows protection of personally identifiable information by redaction, and flexible deployment options to store evidence on-premises, on a government cloud or in a hybrid infrastructure. Some of the notable features of VIDIZMO are: intelligent search, audit trails, role-based access control, Artificial Intelligence (AI), automatic transcription and translation and separate portals for prosecutors, public defenders, internal affairs and for the general public. In short, each of the features in VIDIZMO is designed to make work more straightforward for the government and law enforcement agencies and play a part in improving the criminal justice system.
1. The dearth of information out there:A customer goes through 3 major stages in the buyer journey: awareness, consideration and decision. With the free flow of information available, most law enforcement agencies are already aware. The consideration phase requires extensive research in which law enforcement agencies understand the services offered by companies and compare them with their requirements. To decide whether they would need an off-the-shelf software or a bespoke one, market research is required. Since the technology is relatively new, there is hardly any information available in physical publications. One would expect to find most information from online sources. However, the information available online isn’t detailed. Investing in a Digital Evidence Management System is usually done once in a company’s lifecycle. It is essential to research extensively which system provides the most suitable features for the organization before deciding.
While Axon has a large market presence, it’s surprisingly not forthcoming in terms of information available online. As far as Axon Evidence is concerned, their website gives a basic overview of their system, and they provide instructional articles to help understand the features. However, it can be difficult to reach the desired information since the process of finding information is not as streamlined or easily available. This can make the buyer’s research phase longer and more complicated than necessary.
In comparison, VIDIZMO’s website has a separate DEMS page with individual feature pages, use cases and relevant whitepapers. Moreover, the separate domain for blogs aims to equip potential customers with all the information they need.
2. Area of expertise:
A major factor in the decision-making process is understanding that the company being chosen is the expert in the field.
Axon, previously known as Taser, specializes in producing tasers. Axon is more popular in the public safety space. They market their smart weapons such as the Civilian Series allowing self-defense for the general public. Their tasers include Taser StrikeLight, Taser Pulse and Taser Pulse+ etc. Axon produces cameras which are sold as: “Axon Body 3”, “Axon Fleet 3”, “Axon Flex 2”, “Axon Air,” etc. In the category of software, Axon Evidence is a system for managing, storing and sharing digital evidence, Axon Respond is a real-time operations platform and Axon Records is a way of writing dynamic, integrated reports. In short, Axon focuses on providing both hardware and software system solutions.
VIDIZMO focuses solely on providing software solutions and their forte is providing enterprise video content management systems and digital evidence management systems. VIDIZMO is recognized in the Major Players category in the 2020 IDC MarketScape for digital evidence management for law enforcement. VIDIZMO was brought into the DEM market via a partnership with Microsoft.
3. Device Agnosticism:
Law enforcement agencies use various hardware that do not necessarily belong to the same company. Purchasing software that is not compatible with other computer components and hardware isn’t a brilliant option.
Axon Evidence only integrates with its own products and solutions. While Axon provides all kinds of systems such as Axon Records (records management system) and Axon Respond (computer-aided dispatch), the lack of integrability with systems from other brands means law enforcement and criminal justice agencies can’t use their existing systems and need to purchase brand new systems from Axon. This creates budgetary challenges as they are unable to leverage their existing technology investments.
VIDIZMO is vendor-agnostic and device-agnostic, which means that it gives its customers the option to integrate DEMS with their existing systems such as RMS, VMS, CAD and other evidence collection systems from any provider. In addition to its agnosticism, VIDIZMO DEMS is also mobile-friendly. Hence, convenience to officers and users is guaranteed.
4. Deployment options:
An organization needs to decide as to which software deployment option is optimal. The number of options available is on-premises, hybrid infrastructure or shared cloud (SaaS). Some agencies prefer an on-premises option that allows them to install it on its own local server and have full control over their security. In a shared cloud, DEMS can be deployed in a multitenant cloud environment that also has the advantages of flexibility and customization. Hybrid infrastructure is a mixture of on-premise and cloud services.
Axon Evidence provides the deployment options of cloud, hybrid and on-premises. However, once the customer decides on a deployment option it can be challenging for customers who seek to move their evidence to another vendor or in-house. The storage options offered by Axon have a spiraling cost that could render the system out of budget for some mid and low tier customers.
VIDIZMO provides a flexible range of deployment models: public, private and on-premise data centers. With VIDIZMO, organizations can also opt for a hybrid deployment model to leverage both on-premise and cloud storage.
5. Customer Support:
Deploying a system which digitizes the entire evidence collection, ingestion, processing and managing process is a huge task and there can be customizations that do not meet the requirements or some bugs that were not identified during the testing phases. For this reason, hiring a company that provides exceptional customer support is vital to ensure customer satisfaction.
Axon is a public company, hiring around 1700 people. Along with having brand awareness in the market, it also has extensive agency support, so the sales service aspect is commendable. The biggest customer for Evidence.com DEM solution is the London Metropolitan Police.
VIDIZMO offers full support in each of the phases, whether it is testing, deployment or acquisition. Additionally, its Knowledge base has detailed explanatory videos and articles that include release notes, how-to perform tasks, installing & configuration, integration, troubleshooting etc. VIDIZMO is chosen by clients such as the County of Santa Clara.
6. The system follows compliances:
Meeting digital evidence compliance requirements is essential and also helps build the foundation of trust. With the increasing dissent amongst the public over recent police-related incidents, building a decent reputation is needed now more than ever.
As far as following compliance are concerned, Axon Evidence is fully CJIS-compliant. Additionally to secure Axon Evidence and their data, it follows ISO/IEC 27000:2013, ISO/IEC 27017:2015, ISO/IEC 27018:2019, HIPAA and HITECH, Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) standards and Cloud Security Level Alliances.
VIDIZMO DEMS follows the highest level of compliances such as CJIS, FedRAMP, GDPR, HIPAA, FIPS 140-2, EAR and ITAR etc. In addition to that, VIDIZMO gives the option of extracting vital insights from evidence data that allows detecting regulatory compliance risks. VIDIZMO DEMS was one of the first to receive Azure Government Cloud certification, giving it an edge over other digital evidence management systems.
7. Simplicity of the system:
It is vital to have an evidence management system that is easy to understand and simple to use. Since the system is mainly going to be used by officers who have little or no technical knowledge, considering simplicity is important. Ideally you would want to have a system which does not require extensive training which drains up your budget and time.
Axon Evidence is too fragmented. It has made many of its different features into a separate product. For instance: Axon Capture is the name given to the mobile application that allows gathering of photo, audio and video evidence from phone and allows uploading on Evidence.com using the mobile phone of an authorized person such as an officer. Similarly, for connecting to Axon body cameras to review, tag and instant video playback there is a mobile application that is termed as Axon View.
VIDIZMO DEMS is a consolidated system that has a user-friendly interface. Its extensive training videos, helpdesk articles, resources such as blogs and whitepapers make it simple to understand and operate the system.
8. Artificial Intelligence:
Video evidence tends to be extensive. An officer cannot be expected to watch hours long footage just to find a suspect who appeared for an action that lasted 10 seconds. Luckily, AI technology is helping analyze long videos easily by searching for people and objects inside video for a quicker analysis that consequently leads to a higher crime clearance rate.
Axon AI is being used to improve workflows and to leave the more important decision-making tasks for the officers. Axon AI is used for accelerated review and automated reporting that is directly generated from audio and video. Additionally, Axon AI includes a redaction feature that is sold as a separate product under Axon Evidence termed as “Redaction Assistant”. Redaction Assistant automatically identifies the screen, faces and license plates in a video footage. Axon has a quick course correction feature that enables creating a new mask to cover any missed spots that are not recognized by the Redaction Assistant. However, Axon Evidence does not have the feature of search inside video.
VIDIZMO DEMS has a feature of multifaceted search that enables search inside video, search by insights and global search. Using AI, DEMS recognizes faces, people, objects and characters inside the video that saves time and costs. VIDIZMO has an AI-enabled audio and video redaction feature that allows detecting and redacting faces, people, license plates, speech and custom identifiable information. Additionally, it helps identify errors such as identifying the wrong suspect since AI does the job for you in helping recognize the face using the facial recognition search option which shows the number of times a person appears in a video.
9. Digital Portals:
For a fair criminal justice system, public trust needs to be developed. Accountability and public trust are directly related. The task of internal affairs is to investigate possible suspicions of lawbreaking pertaining to the officers on the force. In other words, internal affairs are the police to the police, which gives the highest importance to accountability. A digital evidence management system warrants having a separate portal for internal affairs to ensure the aim of not compromising public trust remains intact.
Axon markets its Axon Evidence as a product that allows the elimination of data silos in evidence management. Axon Citizen is a portal that allows witnesses to submit photo and video evidence of any incident directly to the law enforcement agency. Additionally, Citizen for Officers enables officers to send invites to people who can send evidence directly via Evidence.com or Axon Capture. Axon Evidence for Public Defenders allows defenders to receive and manage digital evidence disclosures from prosecutors. Similarly, Axon Evidence for Prosecutors is available for prosecutors to manage evidence of any type from one place.
Similar to Axon Evidence, VIDIZMO DEMS also has a public portal to allow citizens to submit evidence and separate portals for prosecutors and public defenders. Additionally, VIDIZMO has come up with creating a separate portal for the convenience of internal affairs that ensures law enforcement integrity, allows secrecy for covert investigations and prevents unlawful activity within the agency. Having a digital portal for separate target audience gives VIDIZMO DEMS an edge over other digital evidence management systems.
Final Verdict: Axon Evidence Versus VIDIZMO DEMS
Axon Evidence has some prominent features such as redaction and automatic ingestion from their hardware products such as Taser data. However, Axon is not device-agnostic which means that agencies who are considering purchasing the software are at a disadvantage. Axon’s forte is providing hardware such as body-worn cameras and tasers that could be used for self-defense both by the officers and the public. In comparison, VIDIZMO offers a consolidated digital-evidence management system that is device-agnostic. VIDIZMO specifically focuses on the video and digital evidence market and offers separate portals for Internal Affairs. Lastly, both Axon and VIDIZMO provide a commendable digital evidence management system that offers flexible deployment options and portals for citizens.