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ANPR: Why it’s a key element in smart city

ANPR: Why it’s a key element in smart city
Smart city has become a well-known concept. More and more, ANPR and cameras supporting it have become an important part of it. This article discusses how.
Smart city has become a well-known concept. More and more, automatic numeric plate recognition (ANPR) and cameras supporting it have become an important part of it. This article discusses how.
Urbanization has become a global trend as people migrate to cities. According to the United Nations, more than half of the global population lives in urban areas, while the urban share worldwide is rising from around one third in 1950 to around two thirds in 2050. Inevitably, this has led to various problems facing cities, including traffic congestion, crime and pollution.
As cities always face manpower and resource constraints, they turn to smart city solutions to make their metropolises safer, cleaner and more livable. Among the examples, IP cameras with advanced analytics can spot suspicious individuals or activities. Smart sensors can detect water or pollution level and send alerts when an event likely to threaten citizen lives is about to happen.

ANPR plays a critical role

One technology that can help cities become smarter is ANPR (also referred to as automatic license plate recognition, ALPR, or simply LPR). ANPR recognizes a vehicle’s license plate number, which is the unique identifier to any vehicle. More advanced ANPR can even recognize a vehicle’s make, model and color. As such ANPR has a range of smart city applications, helping make cities more competitive, efficient and sustainable. We take a closer look below.

Law enforcement

Law enforcement authorities can help make cities and streets safer with ANPR, which can identify blacklisted, stolen or suspicious vehicles. “The police in many countries use vehicle surveillance ANPR cameras mounted on top of or inside police cars for crime prevention purposes or investigative activities. After all, in contrast to the camera systems installed at fixed points that are recognizable to all citizens over time, constantly moving mobile cameras can capture violations unexpectedly, incentivizing drivers to act as if they were under constant surveillance. As a result, there has been a significant decline in crime rates in cities where such technology has been introduced,” said Csaba Nagy-Amigo, Director at Adaptive Recognition.


According to Nagy-Amigo, usually traffic violators have to face penalties and fines, but there are a few initiatives that motivate drivers with rewards. “We also came across a project where the vehicle's owner was rewarded with a tax refund if they avoided certain city districts, choosing suitable alternative routes during specific periods. In these cases, too, the municipalities solved the problem with automatic number plate reading technology,” he said.

The environment

Pollution is a tough issue faced in every metropolis, and ANPR can also play a role in this regard. In particular, now there are so-called low emission zones spread in cities around the world, and ANPR can serve as an ideal entry/exit solution. “Cities create entry and exit points at the borders of these zones. Access is either limited to license plate number and type of license plate (for example only purely electric cars can drive in), or it can be used with a time limit (for example you have to leave two hours after crossing the checkpoint),” Nagy-Amigo said.


Finally, ANPR makes parking operations and enforcement much easier for city operators and drivers. “Automatic number plate recognition technology allows the charging of drivers automatically for the actual parking time at a parking zone,” Nagy-Amigo said. “Suppose the municipality knows that there are 350 parking spaces available in zone A and 600 in zone B. In that case, it can use ANPR technology to see the number of cars parking in each zone and inform drivers about the number of parking places still available with the help of a mobile application. Thanks to the constantly updated information systems, everyone can find a parking space in much less time, and the city administration can save the citizens millions of hours every day.”

ANPR cameras vs. traditional IP cameras

Increasingly, there are dedicated ANPR cameras with ANPR algorithms built in. It’s important to note that in a smart city deployment, ANPR cameras and traditional IP cameras serve different purposes.
“Our ANPR camera is developed specifically to take photos of passing vehicles, recognize the vehicles' unique ID, and take pictures that can be stored as still images. In the case of IP cameras, it is much more important to see an area as large as possible at one time and to keep zones under surveillance. The camera then records the events that took place, which can be stored for a certain period of time,” Nagy-Amigo said.
He added: “Technically, the two goals can be achieved in two different ways. One usually captures and stores an image, the other a video recording. In the case of ANPR, it is sufficient if the vehicle and its close environment are visible on the image, while in the case of the IP camera, the main objective is to see an area as large as possible.”
However, for cities with existing IP camera systems, they can still do ANPR with dedicated edge boxes. “If an IP camera system has already been installed somewhere, and the viewing angle and resolution of the cameras allow it, you can use an accessory for the IP camera, which allows the IP camera to be used as a full-fledged license plate recognition camera. We named this accessory CarmenBOX, which we introduced to the market last year with great success,” Nagy-Amigo said.

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