BYRON CENTER — As scrutiny over law enforcement agencies mounts in the wake of recent high-profile deadly force incidents, an increasing number of police departments have adopted body camera technology.
The heightened interest in that technology has created a growth opportunity for one West Michigan manufacturer of video equipment, which aims to capitalize on the body camera market with a new product.
Byron Center-based Pro-Vision Inc. recently launched its BC-300 series body camera, which improves on the technology of the company’s previous BC-100 model. Company executives believe the new model’s technology, including extended battery life, increased data security and lighter materials, will make it an ideal fit for police departments.
“It’s important because you want to protect the officers that are doing the job, the peacekeepers who are out there keeping us safe,” said Andrew Beach, director of sales and service at Pro-Vision. “There’s a component for the public as well. It’s that viewpoint that is not slanted toward one party or the other. It tells the story without having a personal angle on it.”
The BC-300 can record more than 12 hours of continual footage on one charge, is waterproof and offers a wider angle of view than other cameras on the market, according to Sam Lehnert, Pro-Vision’s marketing manager.
Pro-Vision plans to leverage its existing relationships with police departments from previous body camera sales as a platform to win additional contracts. The company maintains a salesforce in 11 states and also has a presence in international markets, Lehnert said.
The firm recently began production of the product and will start to ship orders shortly.
In conjunction with the physical camera, Pro-Vision also offers law enforcement agencies software that secures, manages, tracks and controls access to the video data after it’s been downloaded from the camera. The security component to the software is extremely important given the potentially sensitive nature of the recordings, Beach said.
“You have to make sure the evidence submitted in a court case, there’s no question of its integrity,” Beach said. “If for some reason an officer gets in a tussle … that camera to the general public if it’s found needs to become a paperweight so the data can’t be watched. There’s a lot of cameras out there that if I handed them to my 12-year-old neighbor, he could figure it out.”
The BC-300 locks down all the data until the camera is docked at a station in the police department or securely transmitted from the officer’s patrol car.
Pro-Vision entered the body camera market in 2013 to complement its other product lines, which include in-car video recording, rear-vision systems and other recording equipment for law enforcement, transit and commercial vehicle applications.
The company currently employs approximately 100 workers and plans to hire an additional 20 people through 2016 to accommodate growth.
Pro-Vision generates less than $50 million in annual sales and has grown at a year-over-year rate of roughly 40 percent — a growth target the company intends to reach again this year, Lehnert said. Body cameras account for roughly a third of Pro-Vision’s business.
A GROWTH CEILING?
A combination of tragedy and increased scrutiny on law enforcement personnel in recent years has driven more police departments to make body cameras a standard piece of equipment for officers.
Proponents of the technology say the cameras, paired with management and storage software, enhance transparency among departments and aid in providing more accurate evidence in court cases.
It seems police departments across the country agree. Los Angeles in late June approved a $60 million purchase of 7,000 body cameras to outfit its police force, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Locally, the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) agreed to purchase 298 body cameras in September 2015.
In both cases, the cameras came from Taser International Inc., a company widely known for its less-than-lethal electrical weapons. Taser International (Nasdaq: TASR), which produces the Axon line of body cameras, has experienced substantial growth recently.
In a recent quarterly report, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company generated $58.8 million in its second quarter, a 26-percent increase from the previous year. Sales in the company’s Axon segment accounted for $13.2 million of second quarter revenue, which was 49 percent higher compared to the same period a year ago.
Despite the rampant growth in body cameras, it’s possible the industry could reach a ceiling as soon as 2020, according to a video surveillance trends report for 2016 by IHS, a market research firm.
“IHS forecasts most of the markets in these regions to have reached near saturation, becoming mainly replacement markets,” the report said. To avoid losing momentum, the report recommends that body camera manufactures tap into other markets such as corrections officers, repossession officers and bouncers.
For its part, Pro-Vision aims to maintain body cameras as a third of its business and avoid relying too heavily on that category, Beach said.
“It’s not any one product that makes us strong,” Beach said. “If you want a strong company, the key to stability and growth comes from the diversity in the product line. I would never want body cameras to be 90 percent of the business we do.”
Made in Michigan: Byron Center-based Pro-Vision Inc. is in the final stages of launching its new BC-300 body camera, which the company believes will grow its law enforcement business. The company, which also manufactures video recording and vision systems for the commercial and transit industries, generates less than $50 million in annual sales and plans to grow 40 percent this year. Pro-Vision currently employs about 100 people and will hire approximately 20 more this year to accommodate growth, according to executives.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information that Pro-Vision has launched production of its BC-300 body camera.