While automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras have become commonplace in many areas, especially those with higher population density, many people don’t understand them.
Among the common misconceptions are:
1. The security of your data being compromised when read by an automatic plate-reading device
2. Automatic plate reading being used only, or mostly, for speed measurement
3. All plates being readable by generic software
4. Anyone can build a successful license plate reading system
5. ANPR systems not being durable.
The purpose of this article is to debunk some misconceptions and help people understand these devices a little better. And with the help of Adaptive Recognition, a leader in the automatic plate-reading business since 1991, we can get accurate information about the subject.
When an ANPR Camera Reads Your Plate, Your Privacy is Violated
The software that allows an ANPR camera to do its job also stores the data in an encrypted file available only to the camera’s owner.
The European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the strictest of its kind, guarantees that no data is mishandled by companies lest they want to be severely fined. Nearly every country in the world has similar legislation, in many cases patterned after the GDPR. Regardless of the state, however, the regulation spells out exactly how data must be encrypted and how it can be stored and used. And since your license plate and any images of it, you, and your car are considered personal data, these rules definitely apply to them.
Also, think about it: wherever you travel and visit, your license plate information will be captured in some way or another. Would you rather have your license plate data in an open list or file on a computer or in an encrypted file protected by carefully crafted legislation? With ANPR involved, it’s always going to be the latter.
ANPR Cameras Are Used Primarily for Speed Measurement
Speed measurement is an important area that’s heavily based on ANPR technology, but it’s far from the only purpose. In fact, many ANPR cameras don’t measure the speed at all, as they are purposed for other tasks, such as:
- Automatic toll collection on public highways or private facilities
- Access control for high-security areas
- Parking lot fee collection, enforcement and access control
- Identification of stolen vehicles and those wanted for other crime involvement
- Many types of traffic control in smart cities
- Determination of guest reservation status
- Entry refusal for non-employee vehicles to an employee-only location
- And the list goes on depending on what other new use case scenario is discovered.
In many of these applications, the ANPR data is linked to other databases or software. An example is in toll- or fee-collection. In that case, the license plate information can be linked to the vehicle owners’ credit card or bank account, or even an automatic invoicing app.
A License Plate is a License Plate is a License Plate
Many people assume that license plate readers can read and recognize all license plates of the world.
License plates come in many different sizes, shapes, colors and lettering styles, although, recently, some efforts have been made to standardize the many existing formats. In some countries, gaps have been added in the curved portions of characters like O, P, 8, etc., making them easier for a computer to recognize. Several years ago, Texas prohibited gimmick frames surrounding state-issued license plates to aid ANPR tech.
Still, there are many differences between license plates to this day, adding to the confusion. Some European plates are half as long as the width of the car they’re mounted on. Others have letters and numbers in two rows. A few U.S. plates – not just those from Texas – have the state name or a slogan written in a cursive script.
As such, an ANPR camera may be able to read a particular license plate type but may not even recognize a plate if it’s in another style. To be effective, these devices must automatically adapt to all license plate styles they capture.
ANPR Is an Easy Add-on for Any Digital Cameras
To have a camera accurately deal with license plate information, sophisticated processing is a must. Companies producing license plate recognition equipment with the highest accuracy rates have long experience in refining their algorithms to eliminate erroneous reading of other lettering on vehicles, errors in reading license plates, etc. Adaptive Recognition, for example, has been developing its image-based analytics technology since 1991, creating some of the most accurate license plate recognition and other identification tools such as ID scanners in the process.
In other words, creating reliable ANPR technology is a delicate process. Companies that attempt to slap a casually developed ANPR app on a general-purpose digital camera will never match the accuracy of a company with decades of experience working the bugs out of their technology.
ANPR Cameras Are Fragile, Delicate, and Ephemeral
One thing we learned from industrial cameras is that their bulky design guarantees long-lasting operation – and the same stands for ANPR cameras. In fact, the best ANPR cameras in the industry are encased in impact-resistant and waterproof (IP67) plastic cases that protect them from almost any environmental hazard or rough handling. They’re specifically designed to last for many years, requiring only the absolute minimum of maintenance – which, most of the time, can be performed remotely.
Cameras such as Adaptive Recognition’s MicroCAM are designed to be mounted on top of patrol cars’ roofs – or behind the windshield – and frequently moved from one vehicle to another. Despite being exposed to the elements of nature and used for police operations – meaning rough handling almost 24/7 – their design ensures reliable service for countless years.
As with anything not well understood by laics, ANPR becomes the subject of stories, many of which are made up by people guessing at the truth. But as we demonstrated above, many of those guesses are in stark contrast with what ANPR cameras are truly capable of.
However, it’s important to know the truth about these devices, especially if you have a license plate reading application for your business. Hopefully, this article was of help to you, but if not, we have an excellent source for further information: Adaptive Recognition’s website. The company’s experts are more than happy to provide answers to any additional questions or to discuss your needs.