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With its product on the nose of a NASA spacecraft, the sky is literally the limit for Niche Concepts L.L.C., Michael Jones’ 10-year-old, six-employee firm in Troy, New York.
“We were contacted by Boeing to supply a high-resolution, broadcast-quality microcamera and a portable solid state DVR [digital video recorder] for NASA’s X-37 re-entry craft’s nose camera system,” recalls Jones. The vessel is designed to test technologies for NASA’s Orbital Space Plane Program.
Niche Concepts designs, manufactures, and markets micro-video cameras smaller than a lipstick tube that attach to everything from helmets, caps, eyeglasses, and clothing to race cars and space vessels. Jones is expanding Niche Concepts’ stake in the lucrative law enforcement and military markets. But one of his top priorities is expanding and protecting the company’s brand and its intellectual property as it prepares to challenge competitors that use specific wearable components to produce videos, DVDs, or interactive marketing in ways that infringe on the company’s patents.
Jones’ technology allows military customers to make quicker, better informed decisions on issues related to training or national security. The U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego has already seen results while testing the company’s helmet cam and DVR in a range of applications, from boarding a ship to conducting a rescue.
Because video can be sent electronically to officials in a matter of seconds, “We have the potential to cut the decision-making speed from eight to 12 hours to minutes,” says Lt. Michael Frawley, assistant aviation engineering officer in San Diego.
In law enforcement, the cameras and recorders increase criminal conviction rates and reduce internal affairs investigations. “There isn’t a police department in the country that can’t use this system,” says Jones, 57. “I don’t care if the department has two people or 2,000. The price structure is reasonable for all of them compared to the expense of added investigation time.” Costs range from $1,200 to $1,800 per unit.
By the end of 2007, Jones expects sales in the military and law enforcement niche alone to exceed the company’s 2006 revenues of just under $1 million. He projects total revenues of between $1 million and $3 million for 2007. Jones says the recreational rental market, in which the company is one of the top three that rent helmet cams and DVRs to individuals to record souvenir DVDs of activities such as skiing or riding roller coasters, could also quickly exceed $1 million as the company moves into resort locations with strategic partners.
The company is currently financed by Jones and his family and friends. With the demonstrated need for his products, Jones plans to seek additional funding to capitalize on business opportunities.
Niche Concepts’ new products and applications greatly expand on their patents use and will increase their functions by adding components such as global positioning systems, as they establish credibility with high-profile placements. “JonesCams” broadcast-quality video can already be seen on shows on several networks, including the Discovery Channel and ESPN.