Wednesday, March 17, 2021

License plate recognition isn't just for bridges and toll roads


If you frequently use a bridge or highway that charges a fee for access you’ve probably noticed that something is missing: the little toll booths where you drop a few coins or hand someone your dollar bills. Across the US and around the world, those booths are being replaced by digital cameras that scan and record license plate numbers as fast as the speeding vehicles pass under them. 

Those cameras are connected to computers equipped with ALPR - Automated License Plate Recognition. The computers check the plate number against a cloud-based database of vehicle registration data. Even if your car is registered in a state hundreds of miles away from the bridge you just crossed, chances are you will get a bill for the toll.  

ALPR is a technology that helps the bridge and highway owners pay for construction and maintenance costs by reducing or eliminating toll collection expenses (i.e. the people who work in the toll booths). It also helps maximize revenue by insuring that no users get a free ride. 

Now vehicle number recognition is also starting to deployed in other locations such as parking lots and garages, business districts and even private residential areas. In the Toronto area city of Oakville, developers are using ALPR to manage access to a new complex of condos and townhomes. Instead of keypads or fobs, permitted vehicles breeze through gates and garage doors by simply by driving down approach lanes and passing within a camera's view. 

When the system captures a license plate number, it compares the number to a database of authorized users and automatically grants access. Vehicles that try to sneak past the checkpoint are also identified and added to a blacklist. The system saves money by eliminating staffing costs and it allows developers or individual residents to use a vehicle's arrival to trigger other smart home or office technology. 

ALPR can also be used to add a new dimension to neighborhood watch programs. In 2018, Portola Valley, a small city in California’s Silicon Valley area, installed ALPR cameras to monitor traffic on the roads leading into and out of the city. 

This year, residents  of Los Altos Hills, another small city is Northern California, began exploring an ALPR system. Resident Rajiv Bhateja, a proponent of ALPR technology, told the Los Altos Town Crier that the system would be a deterrent to crime and he recalled a burglary at his apartment when he lived in Berkeley. “It is important to give people a sense of safety and security around their home, because I do remember when I was burglarized, it wasn’t so much the monetary cost; it was the sense of security and the violation.”  

Companies such as Camdog offer vehicle plate recognition as part of their cloud-based surveillance services. At Camdog, ALPR is included in the company's High Security and Business Video Analytics Plan. 


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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