In 2002, I was asked by angel investors to investigate a novel software technology designed to provide law enforcement with better real-time information. The core of the system was a relational database that could track, store, and query information based on incomplete data.
For example: a police officer could enter a partial license plate ID and a city location, and the software would provide all records that matched the available data and notify the officer if specific individuals had outstanding warrants or were considered dangerous.
In 2016, based in part on American TV shows like “Law and Order” and “NCIS,” we just assume such capabilities are readily available. In 2002, however, the software, data management, and data transfer capabilities appeared almost magical.
The start-up company commercializing the software had convinced two small police departments to try out the software. Those were the Technology Enthusiasts. But the vast majority of police departments could not afford the technology upgrade and were not prepared to take chances with confidential information and controversial search processes. Adoption was inevitable, as we can clearly see in hindsight. But at the time (2002) we suspected crossing Moore’s chasm would be too difficult for that company to cross. We did not invest. As we feared, the company was unable to consistently demonstrate the full benefit of the underlying technology to police departments and civic authorities. They were not helped by the budget challenge facing many police and safety departments. After a few years of struggling to get sales, the company folded.