Axon Enterprise Inc., the police technology company best known for its Taser stun guns, agreed to purchase its main competitor in the body camera industry, Vievu LLC. The combination of the two largest providers of the recording devices will create a dominant force in police surveillance. The companies declined to disclose financial details; Axon said it would discuss them in its quarterly earnings call.
Body cameras and related software services account for just over 30 percent of Axon’s revenue, but the company expects the business to surpass Taser in the next few years. Body cameras have spread rapidly across the US, a response to pressure from critics of police departments and many of their backers. Their use remains controversial, largely around surveillance risks and the still-evolving landscape of rules governing their use. Axon was already in a central role to help shape the way the technology is used. That will be even more true after the Vievu acquisition.
The deal caps a long and contentious relationship between the two companies. Before starting Vievu in 2007, Steve Ward worked at Axon, then known as Taser.
His former employer sued him, alleging he stole trade secrets. The case was eventually settled. With Axon apparently reaching the limits of growth for its Taser business, it turned to body cameras, and the two companies entered a city-by-city race to sign up police forces. Axon shares gained as much as 6 percent after the deal was announced.
Safariland LLC, a company whose primary business is body armor, bought Vievu in 2015.
The intention was to compete with Taser in the burgeoning market for body cameras, which was heating up in an atmosphere where concern over police misconduct had spiked due to a series of high-profile deaths.
Vievu’s cameras were superior to Taser’s in certain ways—they were better at recording audio, for one thing—but Axon leveraged its credibility with police departments to achieve a huge head start.