License Plate Scanner Software – Pt. 3 Guide to Pay By Plate Success
16 Apr 2015
Welcome back to the 3rd and final part of the the Guide to Pay by Plate Success series. If you are just joining us, you may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. To recap, Part 1 reviews potential communications pitfalls at various points in the chain of data communication which may cause either latency or no communication events. Part 2 dives deeper into this phenomenon and, in addition, highlights other error-causing factors: Human and Machine Input Error.
Today, in this final review of the Challenges of Pay by Plate, solutions to all 4 scenarios will be presented paving a clear path to reap the benefits pay by plate offers. Pay by plate has permanently changed the landscape of the parking market and here are a few reasons why:
> Reflects demographic trends; 58% of American adults have a Smartphone [Pew Research Poll, 2014]; Mobile apps are used everywhere and we must adapt to parker behavior to provide better services. Integrated pay by phone and kiosk services answer this need.
> Reduces infrastructure costs. Since the plate is the common denominator it can be used to manage and enforce several types of parking operations. The parking credentials are all accessible from one central database trimming down on a ‘mix’ or ‘patchwork’ of technologies and streamlining assets using the license plate for management and enforcement.
> Improves productivity and precision with license plate recognition enforcement using handheld LPR enforcement on Android SmartPhones as well as traditional vehicle LPR.
> Provides access to plate recognition software and eticketing software from the same user-interface creating a unified workflow.
> Economizes on space, the rarest of assets, especially, in crowded urban centers.
> Facilitates proactive enforcement. Since all parking rights are held by the plate, a PEO can simultaneously check for scofflaws and stolen vehicles or send stealth alerts to police for criminal alerts.
Knowing all this, it’s imperative that the parking community take a proactive approach to the implementation of the technology and its inherent benefits. In the following few paragraphs you will gain the knowledge needed to take a 360 degree approach to pay by plate guaranteeing optimal performance and a highly successful parking operation.
A number of pay by plate use cases and millions of transactional data points lead down the same path: pay by plate errors threaten to undermine the technology posing a serious road block that urgently needs to be addressed. If the pay by plate project is not thoroughly managed, the integrity of the technology will suffer causing issues for everyone. How do we catch these errors? How do we eliminate these errors? Here are the answers for each of the 4 elements:
Latency (real time) – Certain problems with latency will always exist and problems with pay by plate kiosks or wireless networks will always be there; so, the question is, how will the enforcement solution adapt to various latencies?
Here are items to look for when implementing a system to ensure it is well adapted to latency:
1.) First you must decide if a grace period will be given to parkers. From here you can mathematically calculate the odds of tickets given in error. The table above provides statistics on average latencies from a one month sampling from two different cities and manufacturers.
2.) The enforcement solution must provide a “last check” before a ticket is issued which provides the PEO a last verification of parking rights.
3.) The parking rights needs to be pushed and not pulled from the pay by phone system, or whatever means of payment have been used, to ensure the fastest transaction time. Also no middleman should be introduced; the parking transaction where the payment was introduced needs to be pushed to the enforcement solution. Anything that can slow down the transaction should be removed.
No Communication – No communication occurs when any parking transaction that has not been communicated. Here are solutions to counter a no communication scenario.
1.) For a kiosk that has not communicated within a certain time, the enforcement solution can adapt by drawing an area around that kiosk that will automatically show all cars parked within that area “as paid”. You do not want to show that an area has issues because enforcement personnel will not go in the area to enforce. The idea here is to show parkers that the parking area is still being enforced which will encourage payment at the kiosk. No communication for the kiosk is captured through the interface of the manufacturer of the pay by plate server. Once communication has restarted the “paid” is removed in order to continue enforcing parking rights in real time.
2.) All parking rights interfaces, use a “keep alive” mechanism that monitors all communications between systems that basically says, “are you there”, to ensure both ends are still functional and are ready to respond. If an interface does not respond, an “all paid” status is automatically displayed for that specific interface and zone. So, if a pay by phone interface is down, an “all paid” would be shown for the area pay by phone covers.
3.) In the case of a no-communication due to extreme latency that surpasses a grace period resulting in a ticket; “auto-void” is enacted; parking rights are reviewed in real time. If it is determined that the ticket was issued due to a latency or no communication the ticket is voided automatically. All this happens in real time so if a parker calls customer service to inquire about a ticket issued in error, customer service agents are empowered with the right information immediately. The ideal response in this scenario: “Yes, Mr. Customer, your ticket was given in error and has been voided; you may throw out your ticket.”
Human error – When a plate is entered the wrong way by the Parker on a pay by plate kiosk, that human error entry is pushed to the enforcement solution.
> Within the enforcement solution you should have a method to validate if there is human error. As an example, PlateCheck is an added feature on gtechna’s parking rights which uses an error correction algorithm for parker entry errors. This is done with various simultaneous algorithms. The human error is cross-checked with potential “matches” to eliminate wrongful tickets. All one-digit errors are corrected 100 percent of the time.
Machine error – When an LPR vehicle, handheld LPR or fixed LPR are used, OCR misreads will happen. Here are solutions you should look for:
> Within the enforcement solution you should look at ways to reduce the misreads.Platecheck, as previously mentioned, is also great at providing an additional crosscheck on potential errors and flags them if a vehicle is unpaid. This improves the positive “hit” rate of LPR to over a 95% read rate requiring less human intervention and making the process easier.
The only way to make pay by plate technology reliable is by adding technology such as automatic checks and balances and by purchasing from the right manufacturers, otherwise, there will be a lot of frustration and adoption of the technology will suffer. Parkers will complain, media will spin it, revenues will go down. The good news is that all this can be avoided. Like most things, it is in the details. It is the little things that make a difference, but these “small” items are not small. Unless someone has years of experience and has actually run into these issues first hand they will not understand the importance of it. Someone saying they have an interface is nice, but how robust is the interface, will it adapt to a no communication event?
Past technologies like pay and display did not have these challenges because computer communications were not needed. No one had to worry about these issues. However, pay and display had its own set of problems related to dependency on visual enforcement. Today, we are faced with new challenges and we need to ensure that the right tools are in place to overcome them. But as systems get smarter and real time communication is required you must ensure that your system is designed for the worst case scenario. Pay by plate is happening; it is the new way to manage parking because of the huge benefits it offers to parkers, cities, universities and operators. Just ensure you do not forget the “little pieces”.