How can automatic Number-Plate Recognition create value for society and business?

July 09, 2020
When automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR) was invented in 1976 by the UK’s Police Scientific Development Branch, few could have predicted its vital role in public safety, logistics, site access and more - over four decades later. 
To bring you up-to-date with all its potential, here are the answers to the questions I’m most often asked about ANPR and its many uses.  

How is ANPR used today?  

ANPR is used for everything from pre-empting traffic jams, to helping to maintain social distancing during a pandemic and managing shipments to ensure they arrive on time. It is essential for policing, security, and, more recently, logistics and operations.  

Advances in video analytics and data have caused ANPR to leap ahead and adapt for the times. It can now be divided into two main categories: automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) and automatic container code recognition (ACCR). Both meet different needs and enable various activities to be done.
How can ANPR improve public safety?
Vehicles can be tracked within a specific area based on their number plates and delays or traffic jams can be pre-empted. Likewise, toll payments can be charged automatically. ALPR also enables local authorities and Government bodies like the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVLA) to flag dangerous driving, as well as outdated MOTs or driving licenses, or tachograph manipulation. More recently, we’ve also seen police forces using ALPR to track outside visitors who shouldn’t be in the area due to social distancing restrictions on non-essential journeys.
How can the technology help with site access?

Automatic license plate recognition can be used to control access to a site based on specific number plates. Visitors can submit their number plates for seamless entry once they visit a new site, and those details can be stored for future visits. This helps to prevent trespassing and improves the visitor experience.  

For sites with paid entry and parking systems, ALPR can be used to track visitors and automatically charge them. This stops people having to queue for a ticket and also improves parking compliance and missed charges.  

Milestone partner, Veertec, uses ALPR combined with Milestone’s XProtect® software to provide such a solution for cashless parking management. Everything is automated by the system, including direct debits and issuing customers with an invoice once they drive off-site. It can detect license plates from different countries, along with automatic language detection and plates can be analyzed at speeds of up to 150mph.

How can ACCR help logistics?
Automatic container code recognition (ACCR) targets specific codes on shipping containers which makes it particularly valuable in logistics and operations. Shipments can be tracked to ensure they are on-track and aren’t delayed. Security personnel can also be alerted when a container enters or exits a port or storage area. They can take immediate action if an exit was unauthorized. ANPR camera systems operate 24/7, without the need for personnel to be on-site. Strengthening a site’s security and - at this time, helping the team remain safe in a central control room.
How is video data analytics improving the technology?
Advanced video data analytics (powered by machine learning) is bringing more uses for ANPR. Vehicle make and model recognition can be analyzed and compared with the make and model on record for a certain license plate to quickly identify a stolen vehicle or fraud. A vehicle or container that’s left in the wrong place can be automatically flagged for investigation. Red-light violations, unsafe driving (such as driving the wrong way up a street) and vehicles using an incorrect lane (like a bus lane) can be alerted to the transport police for follow-up.
What’s the future of ANPR?

As machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) advances, there will be further possibilities for ANPR. There’ll be more data sources, from different types of cameras such as thermal imaging and ultra-high-definition, to complement the feed from an ANPR system. I can’t wait to see what the next decade brings for this timeless technology.    

You can explore ANPR in the Milestone Partner Community via Milestone Marketplace.

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Soraya Heristchian
Community Manager, North Europe
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