The Evolution of License Plate Recognition Cameras in Parking

13 Jun 2016

The advent of license plate recognition (or automatic number plate recognition) revolutionized parking enforcement, and the use of this technology brings a wealth of advantages now and down the road.

This advancement is particularly valuable when it comes to pay by plate parking. Pay by plate is a much more efficient parking management system with license plate recognition—a manual check of each parked vehicle’s plate is a time consuming endeavor. As you can imagine, this is a topic near and dear to our hearts.

 

How License Plate Readers Work

Pittsburgh Parking Authority Pay by Plate Parking

Pittsburgh Parking Authority Pay by Plate Parking

Before discussing the history of license plate recognition technology, it’s important to know how this technology functions.

The specifics may vary between parking enforcement systems, but in any instance, photographic or video evidence of each license plate is captured. These images or videos are then processed through an algorithm that reads the image, extracting an alphanumeric conversion of what the plate says. This data is then normally exported with third party interfacing and becomes a text entry in whatever system is being used.

With gtechna, this works a bit differently. Our license plate recognition technology and ticketing system are actually part of the same software. Instead of the data being bridged over into another system, we’ve managed to streamline this step, leaving less room for error, Slimming down the number of vendors involved and your infrastructure.

 

LPR History

Old fashioned police sign UK

License plate recognition parking utilities have roots in the United Kingdom. In 1976, the first technology of this kind was developed by the British Police Scientific Development Branch. License plate recognition first started to be used in vehicles and then fixed locations like toll bridges and parking lots.This was an exciting breakthrough, but the accuracy of the initial prototypes was low.

Thankfully, the British scientists developing this technology kept at it. Within a few years, improvements were made, and working models began to be used at various locations around England. As time progressed, so did the upgrades; accuracy increased.

There were some technological advancements in the 1990s. The systems for plate recognition were previously expensive and difficult to set up, but now easier mobile units came on the scene. The software became more affordable and it could run on a PC instead of a special system. The hardware no longer need special angles, speeds, and other specifications to capture the plates, and it became more affordable too. This meant that an increasing number of law enforcement agencies were turning to automatic number plate recognition.

While law enforcement was the main application for plate recognition, eventually parking enforcement systems began to utilize it. For instance, parking garages began to use this to distinguish between a frequent occupant using a prepaid permit versus an occasional visitor who must pay at a pay station using their plate number and a credit card.

Fun fact: The reason license plate were made reflective dates back to the early part of 20th century.

Model T’s and other early motor vehicles were black with no lights in the back making it difficult to identify the plate.  A quick fix was to make the plate reflective so that headlights on other vehicles illuminated the plates.

 

Plate Recognition Technology Today

Pay by plate parking in Pittsburgh

Pay by Plate Parking Kiosk in Pittsburgh, Winter

Thanks to continuing evolution, license plate recognition technology has brought about many benefits. One of these is in terms of enforcement. The new, accurate technology has a small margin of error. With this, violations are easily processed and linked to the plate number, which is easy for viewing and paying fines for consumers.

Additionally, more plate readers make for a smarter better informed parking operation. The data collected from the plates provides valuable analytics helping governments maximize convenience for parkers as well as other stakeholders.

This technology is highly efficient, and can scan many cars quickly. It’s automated, so less labor is needed too. It reads the plate once allowing officers to enforce for every type of parking correctly: echalking, pay by phone, pay by plate pay stations, stolen vehicle alerts and scofflaws.

One of the new cost effective ways to provide this technology is to use smartphones with mobile LPR technology. With this, license plate recognition has made an ideal pay by plate parking solution scenario possible. To learn more about adopting this solution, download our recent white paper:

 

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