Connected devices, otherwise known as Internet of Things technologies, are already making a difference in public safety in verticals like automobiles and transit. Cities are even using connected sensors and cameras to solve crimes and inform public safety officials. Now, one startup is beginning to commercialize a product that brings IoT even closer to the safety official — by connecting their gun.
Yardarm Technologies produces connected sensors that attach to an officer’s holster and the gun itself to collect data, turn on body cameras, and alert command central whenever unholstering, gunshots, or other firearm-related events are occurring. A dashboard shows stats on the gun status in real-time so command can make informed decisions on whether to send additional backup officers or emergency services, as well as collects the data to use as evidence following a firearm event.
Yardarm was founded in California, but manufacturing and production were always conducted in Georgia and, following the hiring of CEO Kirsten Kliphouse, a former Microsoft executive of 25 years and Atlanta native, has moved much of the team to Atlanta. Production of the devices is done in Norcross, Georgia, and Kliphouse says the growth path is to continue to grow out of Atlanta.
The company went commercial this past summer and is currently wrapping up or in the midst of several pilots to test the product with public safety departments and security agencies.
“The pilots are very concentrated, — you need to do it in a controlled environment like at a gun range because in most instances most officers would never fire the weapon. You could go months or a whole year without firing their weapons,” says Kliphouse.
They intend to finish the pilot stage by Q2 2018 and go into procurement stage at that point. Kliphouse says they already have distribution agreements in place with major distributors like Motorola and Harris Corporation.
The company has raised $3.5 million from friends, family, and angel investors thus far and is in the middle of closing a $4 million angel-driven Series A to scale the team and do customer acquisition — Kliphouse says they plan to grow from the current seven employees to four times that next year.
We are an internet of things technology company that develops sensors and software for public safety that allows them to have real-time awareness of their firearms.
Who’s the target market?
We’re sold to anyone in public safety, private security, and the military. Most private security are part of very large firms — there’s actually more private security officers carrying weapons in the United States than there are police officers. And then the military as well, like the military police. So anyone that would carry a weapon is a candidate for our technology, but we are not private consumer-based.
Can you describe how the sensors and the platform work?
Our sensors actually attach to the outside of a holster. Most weapon-carrying officers, whatever industry they’re in, have a holster that the gun sits in, usually attached to their belt or in a concealed holster. We have a sensor that attaches to that holster and its purpose is to do detection on whether the gun has been unholstered or not. That allows us to start a sequence on our platform for people in the dispatch office or in the command center or the Chief of Police to know when any weapon that they have attached to an officer in any situation, all of a sudden, the sequence is started so an event might be occurring. The weapon is unholstered — that would be the first thing.
Then at the next point our other sensor attaches inside the gun, embedded in an open part of the handle on the gun itself, and that sensor allows us to be able to communicate real-time status of shots being fired and also captures the telemetry of the weapon. So now I have a full circle of events for command or dispatch to see these events from officers in the field. I know where they are because of the location services. I know that an officer has unholstered his weapon. I might know he has fired his weapon. I have a real-time event status from the weapon point of view.
How does this make things easier for officers in the field?
When you’re an officer your most important thing is protecting your community and yourself — your hands are trained to be on your weapon when you’re in an unholstering situation. They’re not trained to be talking on the radio and they’re not trained to be turning on a body camera. You don’t have four hands, you have two, and both are on the weapon. Our technology allows this real-time status to occur so they don’t have to worry that command knows what’s going on.
It also automatically activates the body camera, so now you have a complete record of what occurred. We’re capturing all of the evidence: the telemetry of when the gun was fired, the angle it was fired, the time, etc. So we have a full sequence from an unholstering event all the way through a shot being fired to re-holstering that can now be used by command for evidence.
Can you describe how that might be helpful in a situation following a shooting where there’s any questions about what happened?
The technology is not there to project right or wrong — it’s not there to prevent the incident from happening. The technology is used to produce an evidence-based view. However, it does allow command to know what’s going on in the surroundings with a real-time view. It’s up to the agencies to make that policy decision in the moment, but let’s say there’s four officers walking down the street and all of a sudden one unholsters, then another couple of seconds and another does, and a third and a fourth. That would allow command to know immediately that something is going on here. They might notify other officers in the area to come for backup immediately. They could send EMS services to a scene. So it allows us to be engaged in the ongoing real-time analysis of how the agencies want to respond to their officers and to the community.
On the evidence side, after a shot has been fired, it would allow the department as well as the community to be able to go back and definitively say, yes, three shots were fired in this direction and at this time, etc., and map that with a video. It’s pure data.
How did you get involved in Yardarm from your former role as an executive at Microsoft?
I had integrated myself into the startup community in Atlanta and also done a lot of work over the years doing angel investments myself. I was always looking for that one startup that I wanted to work with, that really met my social impact goals as well as matched the financial and business side of what I wanted to do. Most of them didn’t really have the social impact angle, but this [Yardarm] was really interesting to me because we could really truly make a difference with this technology. Once it’s widely deployed, we could really potentially save lives. That was exactly what I wanted.
How do you see the IoT industry expanding in Atlanta?
I think IoT across the board is going to continue to proliferate very quickly, because in situations like the one Yardarm works in, we’re now able to use technology to do something that before required people to potentially be in a difficult situation. These officers can’t do multiple things at once. By having our sensors be able to take data that’s already there, in an activity that’s already occurring, and just report on it, it’s only going to go faster and faster.
You can imagine the future of policing, for example, where all of the devices are interconnected — today we connect with the body camera, we activate it upon unholstering. There is going to be many other scenarios where there will be opportunities for the technology to further enable the capabilities of the officer, protect them better, and enable them to do their job better. I think it’s only going to explode — we’re incredibly excited about the market potential for IoT.