Ticketless parking, smart billing, and automatic tolling are trending across Europe and America.
The technology that underpins these advancements is license plate recognition (LPR) software.
These automated systems used in Europe, America, and beyond are reinforcing smart parking and law enforcement to control vehicle movement. Subsequently, they are replacing the widely used RFID-based system.
License plate recognition technology has undergone countless improvements over the years. With the introduction of machine learning and deep learning, the technology has uncovered new ways to progress.
The software can recognize and read license plates to process data internally and forward results to integrated devices at remote locations for additional processing.
They are reliable systems with accurate reading rates and help detect license plates even in difficult lighting situations.
So, how does this technology work? And what does it mean for your business?
To get the answers, let’s deep dive into how this technology works, what components back it up, and how your business can use it for security purposes.
How Does License Plate Recognition System Work?
The automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) system employs a series of manipulation techniques to detect a license plate. The software captures the image and uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to convert the image to machine-readable characters.
ALPR Technology Combines Hardware and Software Components
1. ALPR Software
The software aspect of ALPR runs on standard home computer hardware and can integrate with any applications and databases.
It works by employing a number of manipulation techniques for capturing, normalizing, and enhancing the license plate and OCR for extracting alphanumerics of the number plate.
There are two basic approaches for deploying ALPR systems:
- One allows us to execute the entire process at the location in real-time.
- The other captures image data from several lanes to transmit to a remote computer location where it performs the OCR process later at some point.
When the process occurs on the spot, the system captures the plate alphanumeric, lane identification, date-time, and other relevant information in milliseconds. It then transmits information to other systems for further processing or stores it for later retrieval.
In the second approach, there are typically several PCs and servers linked with the system to handle high workloads. These systems often need to send images to a remote server for storing and processing.
2. Imaging Hardware
While the software works at the backend, there is imaging hardware running at the frontend of the license plate recognition system.
Imaging hardware consists of specialized cameras designed specifically for the license plate recognition task.
Cameras snap an image of the number plate and use the garbage in, garbage out principle for computing. This step of the process is crucial for the overall results since factors like the speed of the vehicle, varying ambient lighting, and environmental conditions can pose difficulty for imaging cameras while capturing license plates.
This is why most ANPR cameras use infrared lighting to snap pictures at any time of day or night. Infrared cameras are good at coping with the issues of lighting and plate reflectivity and enable the system to take clear images of the plates.
You know about software and hardware components used in ANPR systems. But, what is that technology that enables the software to identify a license plate?
They’re a couple of algorithms.
The software requires algorithms- seven primary algorithms- for identifying a license plate. These are:
Plate localization – it finds and isolates the plate on the picture.
Plate orientation and sizing – responsible for compensating the skew of the plate and adjusting the dimensions to fit the desired size.
Normalization – performs brightness and contrast adjustments on the image.
Character segmentation – separately identifies the characters on the plate.
Syntactical/Geometrical analysis – identifies characters and compares them against country-specific rules.
Optical character recognition – converts the characters on the plate into encoded texts.
Averaging – it takes an average of the recognized value from multiple images to produce more accurate results since a single image may have defects like partial obscurity, reflected light flare, or other obfuscating effects.
Where is License Plate Recognition Software Used?
Automatic license plate recognition software are deployed on thousands of sites spanning different industries and real-world settings.
Some of the applications of this technology include:
- Logging vehicles during border crossing
- Measuring average vehicle speed for long distances in section control
- Recovering stolen automobiles
- Logging patterns of use in marketing
- Capturing vehicle data and identifying motorists that drive away without paying for the fuel at petrol stations
- Determining the flow of traffic using the time a vehicle takes to move from point A to point B
- Recognizing customers based on their license plate in customer drive-through to offer them personalized items they ordered when they used the service last time
- Identifying guest vehicles while assisting visitor management systems
- Car parking companies using the system to simplify parking
Use of LRP Technology in the US
The land of 50 states, the US can be best described using the word diversity.
It’s a diversified land in all aspects.
When it comes to license plates, the USA is extremely diverse.
Each state in the US has its unique license plate design with distinct features, colors, font style, templates, and more.
Some states also have flags, slogans, and other emblems embedded on plates. In states like Florida, plates have an orange in the center, while Wyoming plates have a cowboy placed on the left of the license plates.
Most licenses issued for passenger vehicles have 5 to 7 characters, but vanity plates are different and have up to 8 characters.
This amount of variation makes it difficult for humans to sort out US license plates.
Then, how do LRP systems do it?
While the nuances do exist on license plates across the US, many software companies are constantly fine-tuning their systems to recognize subtle differences and provide accurate results.
The companies like Plate Recognizer are refining their LPR engine to omit reading icons, applying statistics to improve the accuracy of the software, and adding more layers of filtering to avoid irrelevant details and provide desired results.
Consequently, the evolution of LPR systems is expected to bring a significant boom in the adoption of license plate recognition technology across the US. By 2023, the license plate recognition system market will climb to $3.57 billion.
Since it can provide us with the ability to control traffic crashes, recover stolen vehicles, and enforce traffic laws for the security of the population, the LPR technology is worth the investment.
Which Businesses Can Use License Plate Technology?
You might not even realize it, but your business may be in a position where it can greatly benefit from license plate recognition software.
This technology allows for reliable and accurate supervision of vehicles incoming and outgoing your premise and helps monitor various other activities.
Besides the above-mentioned list of businesses using the system, here are a few more industries and businesses that can benefit from it. Your business might be one of them:
Power plants can use LPR software at the entrance and exits to capture images of the license plates of all the vehicles. By recognizing registered vehicles, the system can enable the automated opening of the security gate.
Whether you are security in charge at commercial headquarters, run a small trucking company, or own a vehicle fleet service, you need an LPR system to keep track of vehicles entering your establishment. You can embed LPR cameras with video analytics systems to capture and analyze license plates and improve your approach to commercial security.
Government facilities are perhaps more vulnerable to security attacks than any business premise. This is why it is critical to keep an eye on every vehicle entering the facilities.
Installing license recognition software can help government facilities prevent disaster by detecting suspicious license plates beforehand.
The applications of license recognition systems across different industries are evident of why this technology is prevailing.
It is a strong component of security systems. Businesses that want to improve the security of their premises and working sites can install LRP cameras on entrance gates to automate license plate detection and reinforce a secure working environment.
So, whether you are a commercial business owner or a government facility, the license plate recognition software can serve all your transport-related security purposes.
But, not all systems can equally meet your requirements. You need a system that caters to the unique needs of your business.