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VOL. 37 | NO. 20 | Friday, May 17, 2013

Made in the shades

Brentwood firm’s video glasses offer glimpse of future for police, health care

By Harriet Wallace

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They look like a pair of fashionable sunglasses. Yet these shades have a high-tech secret.

Pivothead Manufacturing, a technology company headquartered in New York City, makes the state-of-the-art, hands-free video recording sunglasses, but it’s Brentwood-based Applied Technology that makes them work. The company designed the software that powers the glasses and manages the data they produced.

Pivothead’s Recon Series glasses do indeed look like a standard pair of dark sunglasses, but hidden in the body of the frame is a camera that can take still pictures and record audio and video using a Sony C Mount camera. It records at 30 frames per second and has eight gigabytes of memory. The arm has a toggle switch that allows users to move from still camera to video camera.

John McConnell, owner of Applied Technology, was a pioneer in creating and producing the original in-car police video cameras in the late 1980s. He also was awarded a patent for the development of police car video.

He says the glasses are simple to use and will “change the game of law enforcement surveillance.’’

John McConnell, president/CEO of Applied Technology Partners, models a pair of video sunglasses from Pivothead. His company supplies the software and data storage.

-- Michelle Morrow | Nashville Ledger

McConnell says they are attracting several businesses as potential clients to his firm, but they have already met with Tennessee’s Governor’s Highway Safety Office. The agency quickly took interest and began encouraging its agencies to consider buying the glasses.

Sullivan County’s Sheriff’s Office in upper East Tennessee was the first department to buy the glasses, 100 in all, at about $500 each.

“I think it’s going to be very large, simply because it’s cost effective, high quality, small form and improves operational efficiency and accurately documents the engagement,” McConnell says of the potential police usage.

After recording an image, or an incident such as a traffic stop, the glasses are connected to a computer using a USB for downloading the photo, audio or video.

The video glasses have built-in data storage. Photo, audio or video files can then be  transferred to a computer using a standard USB port.

-- Michelle Morrow | Nashville Ledger

At least three sheriff’s offices in Tennessee are already using them. The glasses are an affordable and convenient alternative to in-car video, although using both systems is an option.

Clint Shrum, law enforcement liaison for the Governor’s Highway Safety Department of the Cumberland Region, says the glasses will make a difference in DUI enforcement.

“One thing we are interested in is saving lives, and that is in alcohol enforcement,’’ he explains. “[Officers] can get a more enhanced view of a standard field sobriety test.’’

Shrum explains that the glasses allow a close-up view, a different perspective than the in-car video. Officers in court will be able to present two different views of the same incident.

While the Recon or the many other versions of the glasses on the market may end being popular for sports teams or for entertainment, McConnell’s background and expertise gave him a leg up in working with the law enforcement applications.

“We’re leveraging a lot of experience,’’ he says. “The evolution has been driven through a couple of variables. One variable is us working with law enforcement. They asked us to come up with a better point of view.

“Secondarily, shows like CSI showing the latest and greatest technology have forced public safety agencies to produce newer technology,” McConnell adds.

It took 12 months to develop the product and get the software right, McConnell says. He declines to say how much it cost to develop the glasses, but admits it wasn’t cheap.

McConnell says he’s excited that the law enforcement community is showing interest, but they want more agencies across the country to buy in.

To that end, they’ve sweetened the pot. Applied Technology not only developed the software behind the glasses, they also store, manage and disseminate the data.

“If you have 100 police cars, then you have 100 tapes,” McConnell explains. “The real challenge for law enforcement is they now have to manage all of this video. We literally were able to capture, index and archive that in-car video on the computer. So we eliminated the hassle of physically managing tapes and that is the key of our business.”

When he began creating the in-car videos devices, McConnell had dreams of entrepreneurship, a way to spend more time with his wife and three children. Though he now has more time with family after leaving a corporate job, being an entrepreneur comes with its own challenges.

“Each path we choose as a career, whether corporate or as an entrepreneur, will have its own unique set of circumstances,” he says. “I’ve participated in both roles. The role of entrepreneur gives me flexibility and freedom, but it comes with a wealth of sleepless nights.

“I was up to 3 a.m. and didn’t go to bed until 12,” he adds. “You do control your destiny, but there is a lot of work, and you get some grace from the Lord above. We are fortunate to be blessed with success.”

McConnell has a silent partner. Both used their own funds to start the nearly three-year-old Applied Technology. Shortly after using up their money, McConnell says they sought the financial commitment from private investors in Brentwood.

And, he says, he hasn’t looked back since.

“Brentwood is a tremendous place to do business, and we don’t want to forget our friends and family in the Nashville community because of the extreme focus on entrepreneurship and the proximity of universities, where there are a lot of talented individuals,” he says.

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