Taser buzzes cops when fired

Maker pro­motes weapon’s abil­ity to alert po­lice if used

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Peter Hol­ley The Wash­ing­ton Post

In the heart of an emer­gency, when the body’s fight-or-flight re­sponse is fully ac­ti­vated, call­ing the po­lice is of­ten an af­ter­thought.

That’s ex­actly what cus­tomers told Axon when the com­pany — which makes Tasers for self-de­fense and law en­force­ment —— asked for feed­back from peo­ple who had used their prod­ucts.

Their so­lu­tion: a new Taser that au­to­mat­i­cally alerts au­thor­i­ties as soon as the weapon is fired.

“When you’re un­der stress and your fo­cus nar­rows to get­ting away from some­one, then small de­tails like pick­ing up the phone and call­ing 911 can es­cape you,” said An­nie Pratt, Axon’s di­rec­tor of con­sumer prod­ucts. “We wanted to cre­ate a de­vice that doesn’t re­quire peo­ple to be in the phys­i­cal men­tal state to re­mem­ber that last step.”

To make that pos­si­ble, Axon has part­nered with Noon­light, a com­pany that makes an app that au­to­mat­i­cally con­nects peo­ple with emer­gency ser­vices. To con­nect users with po­lice, the Taser is al­ways paired with Noon­light’s app, of­fi­cials from both com­pa­nies told The Post. When the trig­ger on the TASER Pulse+ is pulled, a bea­con on the de­vice com­mu­ni­cates with the app, which alerts au­thor­i­ties that a likely emer­gency is un­fold­ing.

Us­ing in­for­ma­tion from the app, in­clud­ing GPS, re­spond­ing au­thor­i­ties have ac­cess to the user’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and lo­ca­tion, even when some­one is flee­ing the scene of the in­ci­dent.

“Ev­ery­thing hap­pens in real time,” said Nick Droege, the co-founder of Noon­light. “We dis­patch emer­gency ser­vices and the user is get­ting text mes­sage and a phone call from us so they can ex­plain what’s hap­pened and 911 dis­patch­ers are also see­ing this in­for­ma­tion.”

“We might also have their health in­for­ma­tion, which in­cludes in­for­ma­tion about al­ler­gies and med­i­ca­tion use, and their pic­ture from their pro­file in­for­ma­tion,” he added.

If a Taser owner presses the de­vice’s trig­ger while the safety is on, Pratt said, po­lice aren’t alerted. If cus­tomers don’t need as­sis­tance from au­thor­i­ties af­ter fir­ing the weapon — or if they’ve mis­tak­enly pulled the trig­ger — a user can can­cel an ac­tive alarm by shar­ing a four-digit code af­ter they re­ceive a text from the com­pany’s dis­patch­ers ask­ing them whether they need help.

The Taser Pulse+ has a 15-foot range and is de­signed to in­ca­pac­i­tate some­one for 30 sec­onds, Pratt said. The de­vice, which in­cludes ac­cess to Noon­light, costs about $470, ac­cord­ing to Axon.

The com­pany de­clined to re­veal how many in­di­vid­u­als have pur­chased their Tasers and what per­cent­age of their cus­tomers are in­di­vid­ual own­ers ver­sus law en­force­ment agen­cies.

Tasers re­main con­tro­ver­sial be­cause of the phys­i­cal toll they can ex­act and a track record that calls into ques­tion their ef­fec­tive­ness, ac­cord­ing to some ex­perts.

“Elec­tronic weapons rarely work all the time,” Ron Martinelli, a foren­sic crim­i­nol­o­gist, told CNN in 2015, not­ing that in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion can hinge upon where and how both elec­tri­cal probes strike the body. “His­tor­i­cally, they tend to be about 60 per­cent ef­fec­tive.”

Droege said his longterm goal is to cre­ate tech­nol­ogy that com­pletely re­moves the bur­den of con­tact­ing au­thor­i­ties when some­one finds them­selves in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion. To get there, he said, Noon­light will part­ner with com­pa­nies that cre­ate wear­able de­vices and med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy that can sense when some­one is in phys­i­cal dis­tress.

In Septem­ber, Noon­light added a fea­ture to its app known as “au­to­matic crash de­tec­tion and re­sponse.” The app uses an al­go­rithm that taps into a smart­phone’s sen­sors, al­low­ing the plat­form to mea­sure and de­tect mi­nus­cule changes in the user’s lo­ca­tion, mo­tion and force.

For crash de­tec­tion to work ac­cu­rately via a smart­phone, Droege said, the sys­tem re­lies on the de­vice’s GPS, ac­celerom­e­ter and gy­ro­scope, both of which are used for main­tain­ing ori­en­ta­tion. The app might also tap into sen­sors such as a phone’s prox­im­ity me­ter or mag­ne­tome­ter. The for­mer mea­sures a phone’s prox­im­ity to an­other ob­ject and the lat­ter pro­vides the phone with ori­en­ta­tion to the earth’s mag­netic field.

The sen­sors are used in con­junc­tion with an­a­lyt­ics data from bil­lions of miles of driver data from Zen­drive, a com­pany that amasses data about driver be­hav­ior, such as ag­gres­sive and dis­tracted driv­ing. An al­go­rithm pores over the dual streams of in­for­ma­tion, Droege said, not­ing that the data is reg­u­larly up­dated in hopes of im­prov­ing the al­go­rithm’s ac­cu­racy.

If the sen­sors de­tect a sud­den change in mo­tion and force in­di­cat­ing that the user has been in­volved in an ac­ci­dent, the app alerts 911 with­out any prompt­ing.

“You don’t even have to be driv­ing a ve­hi­cle for this plat­form to work,” Droege said last month.

COUR­TESY OF NOON­LIGHT

A new Taser au­to­mat­i­cally alerts au­thor­i­ties via an app as soon as the weapon is fired.

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