Once considered the exclusive preserve of law enforcement, automatic number-plate recognition offers a vast range of benefits for many applications. While the main role is one of security, identifying vehicles entering and exiting a site and logging attempted entries out of working hours, ANPR can also deliver efficiencies in terms of health and safety, site management, traffic control, logistics, access control, fleet management and even revenue collection for parking services. Now Hanwha Techwin claims to have made the technology more affordable.
When considering ANPR, most people think about law enforcement agencies – the police, the Border Agency, Home Office, etc. – using a system linked to the DVLA database to identify wanted individuals, suspicious vehicles and other known miscreants. Of course, this is a role that automatic numberplate recognition is ideal for, and it has been proven to be very effective in such applications.
It could be argued that the success of ANPR when utilised in this manner has led to a somewhat blinkered consideration of its potential for other applications. The high profile which has been generated by the technology’s successes in the field of law enforcement can lead to many believing the systems are too complex and too expensive for everyday applications. However, there can be no doubt the technology offers enhanced value and a return on investment when deployed in commercial and industrial applications for a variety of purposes, including security, safety and site management.
In theory, ANPR is a data collection technology. Cameras capture images of vehicles, and analytics detect vehicle number-plates in the images and run algorithms which perform optical character recognition.
The data collected is the vehicle’s registration number, and as video content analysis becomes increasingly powerful, other metadata about the associated vehicle can also be linked.
One of the simplest uses for ANPR is access control. The technology can be used to automate gates and barriers allowing traffic access and egress. Approaching vehicles have number-plate details checked against a watch-list. Where a vehicle is known and has the relevant access permissions, gates or barriers can be opened automatically.
Of course, there are a number of additional tasks which can be performed based upon captured number-plate data. Certain vehicles can be directed to relevant areas suh as loading bays, deliveries or collections can be scheduled out of hours, known visitors can be granted access whilst their host is notified of their arrival, accounts can be charged for parking, or vehicle details can simply be archived to create a log of on-site activity.
The benefits are impressive, but in some smaller applications, the cost of the management server can be prohibitive.
A serverless approach
In traditional ANPR solutions, cameras capture images of vehicles, and the video data is then streamed to a central server which manages the detection of number-plates and the optical recognition. The resulting data is then entered into a database, and this is used to carry out comparisons with other database records containing white lists, black lists, permissions and activity logs.
For many smaller sites where there might be a single entrance point, for example, it is the cost of the server and associated software which results in an ANPR implementation being not cost-effective.
However, with the development of increased storage and processing capabilities in edge devices such as cameras, it is possible for sites with limited needs to enjoy the benefits of ANPR without the need for a server.
Hanwha Techwin offers a range of Intelligent Traffic Management solutions, and recently added a cost-effective serverless ANPR solution.
The use of easy-to-configure camera-to-camera IP-based communication technology enables up to four Wisenet ANPR cameras to simultaneously capture and transmit ANPR data to a convenient user interface. The cameras are configured as a single master unit and three slave units; the latter send data back to the master, ensuring a unified system is in place.
By taking advantage of powerful integral chipsets, the serverless ANPR solution is both easy to configure and delivers high levels of reliability, with a quoted 95 per cent accuracy rate capturing number-plates of vehicles moving at up to 31mph.
The system is designed to offer an affordable edge-based solution for car parks, petrol stations and small residential estates with multiple entrances and exits, barriers or roadways.
The ANPR camera-based solution provides the opportunity to automatically control the movement of up to 1,000 white-listed vehicles, with barriers or gates controlled via camera relay outputs. The system can also provide car park management information, such as time spent on site, as well as overall occupancy rates, all without having to incur the cost of installing and running the application on a server.
An API is available to system integrators, allowing the ANPR solution to be integrated with third-party software and systems.
A scalable option
The range of ANPR-based Intelligent Traffic Management solutions has been developed by Hanwha Techwin in partnership with analytics experts, FF Group. In addition to the serverless and single site ANPR camera solutions, the range also includes a server-based number-plate recognition solution for large site management, as well as a cloud-based option for multiple sites. This ensures systems are fully scalable if end users want to expand coverage of the system.