Steve Ward had wearable cameras in his sights when he was a Seattle police officer on bike patrols in the late 1990s.
Back then, he figured body-worn devices could show 100 percent of what a cop deals with on a daily basis, rather than the 5 percent or so that is seen on the dashboard camera videos that have become a staple of evening newscasts.
Yet, Ward had to wait for the technology to catch up with his ideas.
"Now we have smaller batteries, longer life and smaller image sensors," he said.
Ward now also has his own six-year-old company, VIEVU, and an initial body-worn camera that's been successfully marketed to the law enforcement community. That product is now used by 3,000 agencies in 16 countries.
Ward's newest product, the VIEVU2 (VIEVU Squared), is a response to requests he was hearing from a different marketplace as he was selling his first wearable camera.
"We'd get a lot of people coming to us saying, 'hey, make us a camera that we can use to protect our businesses, or protect ourselves and our jobs," Ward said. "So we listened to what the market said."
The VIEVU Squared is the result: a rugged, square-ish camera that fits in the palm of a hand, and is primarily targeting home service professionals, security personnel or business owners.
"These are professionals that have liability in their jobs, or a business person who wants to protect their company. So we make a camera that they can have daily events recorded for later liability issues,” Ward said.
The waterproof device works three ways: it can store video internally for transfer to a computer via USB cable, it can wirelessly link up with an existing IP network of security cameras, or it can be paired with a smartphone via iOS and Android app. The latter method streams real-time video to the phone, where it can also be stored and sent out via email or social networks.
In addition to security personnel getting a live, roaming camera to add to their networks, Ward sees the VIEVU Squared as a way for home repairmen to acquit themselves when they accused of damage or theft. "They get accused every day of scratching a floor, not doing the work they're supposed to, taking a watch on a counter, or breaking something. These companies have a huge exposure to liability later and they pay out nuisance complaints literally daily." The ability to show video that contradicts those accusations could prove valuable to small and midsize businesses.
Ward is aware of the proliferation of cameras in society in the 21st century, and that some may criticize another method of providing what they see as spycams. He answers that VIEVU is not about surveillance.
"What we do is make cameras so that people can make a targeted, direct video for an incident, so that they can use it later to protect themselves from liability," he said. "We are about the truth, and we want people to be able to show and say, 'no wait a minute, I did the right thing, I said the right thing, I acted properly, and here it is,' and that's what we're about."
In that respect, the $349 VIEVU Squared recalls his time in the SPD and his reasons for starting his company. "Our goal was to restore the nobility of police work. Cops on a daily basis go out and do the right thing all day, every day. We know this, but they need to show people they're doing the right thing."
VIEVU is currently taking pre-orders for the VIEVU Squared at www.vievu.com. The product and related smartphone apps should be available in early 2014.