Short of the Taser, it’s been awhile since police officers have added a new tool to their belt. But with public pressure and calls from policymakers for policing agencies to do more and improve efficiency while grappling with dwindling budgets, SceneDoc is hoping its mobile data collection platform will become the next big tool for law enforcement.
“If you’re not in public safety you think to yourself – they’re not doing this already? But it’s really just happening now,” explains Alex Kottoor, co-founder and CEO of the company. The Toronto-based startup says they’ve come up with the first mobile platform for collecting, documenting, and reporting evidence and data from crime and accident scenes.
“SceneDoc coupled with these devices, smartphones and tablets, can optimize the process, make them more efficient, untether them from their cars, untether them from their office, and really bring that entire data collection workload right to the point of need on scene,” says Alex.
But it’s not just about capturing the information and annotating it. It’s the ability to make the information available right away.
“That’s fairly unprecedented today,” says Alex. “As I’m capturing things on scene or at the incident in real time it can be shared with other stakeholders, whether that be the bosses, other peers, or a neighbouring agency that may be responding because there’s all types of collaboration that happens at an incident level.”
Alex and co-founder Adrian Bubalo, who both worked in enterprise software, initially came up with the bones of SceneDoc four and a half years ago as a note-taking app. But after receiving an email from Dr. Ed Espinoza, a deputy director at a federal law enforcement agency and crime scene investigation expert proposing a pivot towards crime scene documentation, the duo went back to the drawing board.
“He really opened our eyes to a niche use case for our note-taking application,” says Alex adding that they worked on it for a year and a half, bouncing ideas off “Dr. Ed” to see if they were on track. The end result was SceneDoc.
Since then, the company has started pilot programs in Ontario and B.C. as well as started to catch attention from major U.S. law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the L.A.P.D.
“It’s been a slow journey only because it’s a difficult space,” says Alex pointing to sensitivity surrounding protecting information and storing it on servers. “It’s a high barrier to enter, but we’ve always been real to the fact that once we enter this market, you can become a standard – that’s the goal right now, to become that standard (for) how data gets collected in public safety.”
In the meantime, SceneDoc plans to continue its two-pronged approach with law enforcement agents both north and south of the border.
“Our day-to-day focus market is really the U.S. public safety market only because of the sheer size,” says the entrepreneur. But he admits finding a niche market in Canada was a surprise. “We kind of overlooked the Canadian market as a viable one early on but it’s really starting to come together for us.”
In addition to its pilot programs, the company is speaking with two consortiums representing more than 20,000 police officers in Canada. And with early investments from the Toronto ecosystem, including MaRS and Chicago-based Motorola Ventures, SceneDoc plans to stay in Toronto where it’s already “plugged in” to the startup ecosystem even as it builds out its U.S. operations.
“I kind of look at the technology world as borderless…we can be anywhere and operate,” says Alex. “I think the ecosystem in Toronto is just starting to really fire up now.”