License Plate Recognition: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Melissa Parsons on April 17, 2020

Everyone is waiting for the day their government says they can leave their homes and resume their daily activities. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the loss of jobs. Some people won't have a job waiting for them.

The word is that 6.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment. This brings the total of unemployment to 10 million in the last two weeks of March. However, those numbers are lower than the actual count. Some haven't been able to file for unemployment due to overwhelmed systems.

The unemployment rate remains lower than the peak of 25 percent in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nonetheless, MarketWatch reports economists think the U.S. may come close in the next few months.

Even if your business keeps every employee, it's at risk for crime. In a recent issue of Labor Economics, a study titled "Job Displacement and Crime" looks at the connection between unemployment and crime.

Researchers have analyzed data of more than a million laid-off workers in Norway. The study has found that within a year of losing their jobs, there was a 20 percent increase in the crime rate, and a 60 percent increase in property crime charges.

What all this means is that every organization needs to review their security plan. If it doesn't exist, create one.

Here's help to create a security plan by industry:

Each article provides security options that may fit your requirements. No one security plan works for all businesses. Not even if they're in the same industry. Still, there's a security technology that's worth exploring for most industries. It's license plate recognition (LPR) technology.

The Need License Plate Recognition Technology

One common problem affects any property with roads: speeding. In fact, National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) says speeding has killed almost 10,000 people in 2018. Almost half of the speeding drivers in fatal crashes occurring in 2017 did not have seatbelts. Speeding is not the only reason that you want license plate recognition technology.

For one, if you have a lot of delivery vehicles coming to your property, the technology can capture the license plate and other identifying information. Secondly, when criminals enter your business property, they often arrive in a vehicle. Sometimes you can't see their faces. License plate recognition will aid in finding the vehicle.

Here's a video of a car crashing into an apartment gate. While the license plate has been blurred, it comes through clearly. How many white Toyota sedans are there on the streets? Too many. License plate recognition technology makes it easier to track down the vehicle.

These are why properties may want to add license plate recognition technology to their security arsenal. It has the ability to automatically and quickly read license plates.

What Is License Plate Recognition Technology?

Like any technology, some work better than others. Automated license plate readers contain high-speed, IP camera systems that companies can mount almost anywhere.

You can mount LPRs to the following:

  • Mobile trailers
  • Street poles
  • Signs
  • Entry gates

A license plate reader automatically captures a license plate in the camera's field of view. Simultaneously, it records the date and time. The system creates a data file that includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes the driver and passengers. The system runs a series of algorithms on the photographs. It converts the data into alpha/numeric data and saves it into a database on the server.

It's important to understand the meaning of lanes where LPR is concerned. In this case, lane refers to a typical lane on a street or highway. One lane is the size of one vehicle and captures one license plate. As a vehicle travels within this path and enters the camera's field of view, it snaps the license plate. Some solutions can handle one camera for every two lanes. Be sure to ask about this when you research license plate recognition technology.

How License Plate Recognition Algorithms Work

The most important piece of technology is its algorithms. It's the one thing that can make one company's technology more effective than another. A company enters thousands of lines of software code to create precise algorithms. The process involves constructing large mathematical models and using computer modeling to create many possible scenarios.

A system evaluating the vehicle's image uses localizing. This is an algorithmic function that allows it to read the license plate. This lets the camera look at the back of a vehicle to detect the license plate and remove all other irrelevant information from the vehicle.

A vehicle can have many alpha and numeric characters like its manufacturer, make, and model. The system learns to rule out the grill, mirror, headlights, bumpers, and stickers. The algorithm focuses on finding rectangular geometric shapes. Stickers and other items can potentially have a similar shape. So, its components search for license plate characteristics to validate whether it's a license plate.

A vehicle isn't always stopped or parked. An advanced algorithm knows how to watch a moving vehicle and read a license place at a skewed angle. Another factor affecting an algorithm's ability to detect a license plate is the reflection or amount of light it sends out. A high quality LPR has external hardware components and filters to control the variables of the light.

Design algorithms can control the angular skew and lighting variabilities. The algorithm's normalization components help it regulate the shifts in contrast and brightness. It also adjusts for the license plate's angular skew by sampling, correcting, and recalculating to an ideal size.

Not only are the algorithms seeking rectangular shapes but also characters of equal color and distance. They'll have similar font structures to separate each individual character. Character segmentation divides each letter and number.

Next, the optical character recognition (OCR) algorithms do their thing and process the information. It converts the characters from the image into alpha and numeric text entry. Finally, the algorithm verifies the text information and arrangement with a ruleset. It sounds like a long process, but all of this happens in milliseconds for each license plate.

Benefits of License Plate Recognition Technology

License plate recognition technology offers many benefits. Some you may not have thought about.

1. Automates monitoring and surveillance

Considering the algorithm can capture a license plate in milliseconds, it saves a lot of time in manually recording license plates. It also eliminates human error. With license plates not having words, it can be easy for someone to transpose two digits.

You can further automate security when you integrate an access control system and remote video surveillance with license plate recognition. If there's severe weather, it can reduce the effectiveness of license plate recognition. A security operator watching the cameras can take over and watch for suspicious activity.

2. Helps deter crime

It's always better to prevent crime from happening than to let it happen. You avoid delays that come with replacing stolen items and repairing the damage. License plate readers can help deter crime because of the presence of cameras.

3. Captures video footage

The system captures images and videos of the vehicles and plates. These can be used as evidence in a lawsuit or to help the police with their investigation.

4. Helps enhance security

While LPR is a proactive security solution, it's also a reactive one. When the suspects get away, the data captured by the license plate recognition technology will help with forensics, investigations, and court cases.

5. Relies on analytics and human intelligence

Effective video analytics prevents the need to have someone constantly monitoring the cameras. The algorithm does its job of watching for potential problems. When video analytics spots one, it alerts the monitoring operator who checks out the activity. The operator takes the needed action. This could be issuing a warning on an on-site speaker or calling the police. For this partnership to happen requires a high-quality technology and algorithm.

Combining license plate recognition with video surveillance can help increase the possibility of deterring crime or capturing the guilty party. Video surveillance cameras can provide clear images of suspects' faces. However, it may be faster to find someone based on the license plate. Granted, in some cases, it could be a stolen car. Having both video footage and the license plate information will help with the investigation.

Choosing a License Plate Recognition Technology Vendor

While phone cameras continue to improve, they have not quite matched the quality of the upper-end cameras the professionals use. By the same token, not all license plate recognition technology performs at the needed level. Even if the cameras have a high enough resolution, their system may not have a strong algorithm.

Stealth's license plate recognition cameras can see license plates on moving vehicles up to 25 mph with a 96 percent accuracy rate. It has a built-in IR to attain license plates in a dark setting.

The Stealth system has the following capabilities:

  • Tracking all vehicles 24/7
  • Has a recognition accuracy rate of 96 percent or higher
  • Captures non-reflective plates
  • Provides up to 30m IR range
  • Includes full 1080P video at up to 60 FPS

Every company's security is unique. Since Stealth specializes in video security, you get a security solution customized based on your company's requirements. A security specialist evaluates your property and requirements to make recommendations that deliver exactly what you need. This helps ensure you see a fast return on your security investment.

The pandemic is an example of how the unexpected can happen. Don't wait for crime to increase as the result of many people getting laid off. Protect your most valuable assets with our help. Call toll-free (855) STEALTH or contact us today. You can browse this website and check out the videos to watch how video surveillance deters crime.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Video Monitoring