Around 2010 Allegheny County, Penn. experimented with the thought of automatic license plate recognition systems (ALPRs). Unfortunately, with the cost at about $10,000 per machine in addition to monthly licensing and maintenance fees, they opted to start with just two.
Having limited resources, the county police department logically decided to focus on major roads and highways. While these ALPRs proved to have some success, the assistance was limited in part due to the lack of range and accuracy — and a diminished coverage area with only two deployed cameras.
The standard, hardware-based model often leaves law enforcement straddling the line between cost and need, as the capital expenditure to deploy a new camera is significant. While some jurisdictions can afford more machines than others, there is always a tough decision to be made in regard to where to set it up to prioritize the expensive resource.
Do you put them on major roads where there is more traffic but less crime? Or do you put them on side roads, in areas where the crime rate is higher but there is less activity?
Today, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) AI-enabled ALPRs allow departments to expand their area of focus in an affordable and scalable fashion. The SaaS solution can be installed into any existing IP cameras to instantly turn it into a powerful ALPR, which many counties and towns already have at intersections, in shopping plazas, and in office complexes.
Rather than having to buy expensive hardware — while weighing cost over safety — departments can quickly integrate a SaaS ALPR solution into hundreds of existing cameras at once for a more reasonable capital expense.
Real Time Scanning, Real Time Information
If there is a report of a stolen vehicle, law enforcement can enter the license plate and/or vehicle description into its system. If that vehicle crosses paths with an ALPR camera, officers receive an alert allowing them to dispatch in real time. With advancements in artificial intelligence, some ALPR solutions can provide information on a vehicle outside of just license place and last known location, like make, model, year and color.
And while traditional ALPRs offer about 70-80% accuracy, SaaS systems powered by AI can provide accuracy as high as 99% on license plate readings. It is imperative that authorities receive accurate information as to not waste their time and resources stopping the wrong vehicle or losing it before it leaves the area.
Not Just for Law Enforcement
The primary purpose of ALPRs has generally been to assist authorities in stopping crime. While that still remains true, cost-effective options like SaaS AI-powered ALPR platforms have enabled a variety of alternative usage such as parking management, private security and for various consumer services.
- Parking Management: In a parking lot that requires gate access, rather than having a person manually open the game or the driver having to roll down their window and swipe a card, ALPRs can recognize the license plate to allow instant access.
- Private security: We have seen the stories of disgruntled former employees who returns to their former employer for “revenge” or someone who shouldn’t be near a school such as a former student, known criminal, or unauthorized family member for pickup. ALPRs can alert security/local law enforcement if a certain license plate is scanned entering the lot or even up to a few blocks away, preventing a potential tragedy.
- General Consumer Services: By syncing vehicle data to a company’s data base, services can be provided faster and more efficiently. For example, at a car wash, when a vehicle drives in, the ALPR camera shares their information. It will notify them if it is their first time or a repeating customer as well as what service they previously received. This makes the overall customer service experience more efficient and automated.
We’ve seen AI play a role in major tech advancements across various industries over the past few years, so it comes as no surprise that we’ve been able to find a way to incorporate it into surveillance and security.
As with any technological innovation and advancement, the goal is to create something that can solve a problem and do so efficiently. SaaS AI-powered ALPRs are doing just that — saving people, time and resources, which are two of the most valuable assets, especially to authorities around the world.
Matt Hill is Chief Science Officer for Rekor Systems.
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