Wednesday, May 23, 2012
The International Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Information Management Conference, known as IACP LEIM, was held in Indianapolis and ended today. I had the honor of being a co-presenter on two of the hottest topics in LE tech: license plate readers (LPR) and body-worn video.
In regard to body-worn video, Panasonic had the biggest news at the conference, announcing their new wearable camera, the WV-TW310. The unit has been under development for approximately four years and I’ve seen various iterations as the company continually sought feedback from its user community and made changes before bringing their wearable camera to market. Panasonic has such a strong presence in law enforcement with their Toughbook in-car computer and their Arbitrator line of video that the wearable camera seems like a natural fit to their product line.
Dave Poulin, Panasonic Director of Video Marketing, showed me the camera and I had the opportunity to handle it, operate it and give some feedback to the engineers. My take: This is a very compelling entry to the body-worn market. The Panasonic Toughbook heritage shows in the clean and functional design. The construction and cabling are first rate and everything operates intuitively. Status indicator lights can be covered with a sliding door so that there’s nothing to draw attention to the unit’s operation. The camera has an ultra-wide perspective, 180 degrees horizontally by 140 degrees vertically. If you extend your arms out to your sides, the camera will capture everything in front and even a portion of your arms. Recording includes pre-event capability, which is a must-have for LE operations. The unit is weather sealed and has automatic day/night mode switching.
The best feature is what’s available when you view the captured video. Panasonic provides supporting software called Agent/Viewer that's capable of stabilizing and self-orienting. It’s absolutely amazing to watch the before and after with this software in use. Anyone who has tried to watch a video generated by a body-worn device knows the annoyance of the bouncing and sudden angle changes that can almost induce motion sickness. The Agent/Viewer does away with this while leaving the original file unaltered. In other words, the original file is preserved as potential evidence but the viewing of the file is much easier and informative. I was impressed. This is an area where Panasonic’s 50 years of video experience really shows.
The learning curve for this camera should meet the needs of any patrol officer—single button on/off and straightforward auto upload of the resulting files via Ethernet connection. I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by the price point—suggested retail is $1,000. GSA pricing will be significantly less.
I’ve been a photographer and cop virtually forever. I tend to have a critical eye when it comes to introducing camera products into the police environment. Panasonic has spent a lot of time figuring out their approach before launching this product and the efforts show. I encourage you to take a look.