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ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition ) can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license plate, with some configurable to store a photograph of the driver. Systems commonly use infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of the day.
Automated License Plate Readers, which collect not just numbers and letters but the location and time of the scan, are both a privacy and security concern. And that is increasingly the case, thanks to the indiscriminate, and insecure, collection of vehicle license plate data, according to recent reports from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the alt-weekly DigBoston.
The technology at issue is Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) a€“ cameras mounted on patrol cars or stationary roadside structures like utility poles that record not just the plate number, but metadata including the date, time and location of the vehicle. The systems studied by EFF were made by a company called PIPS Technology, which was acquired by 3M in 2012.
Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at EFF, said the organization does not know how many ALPR systems are in use throughout the U.S. But with the exploding popularity and use of such cameras, it is virtually guaranteed that there are both security and privacy issues that are not being addressed. DigBoston reported that the open online server it found, used for municipal parking enforcement, was owned by Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), a Xerox subsidiary.
Jody Westby, CEO of Global Cyber Risk and a privacy consultant, said that digital surveillance many times exceeds the expertise of a€?guards, guns, and gatesa€? security teams. Those teams, she said, a€?are often very reluctant to turn the maintenance of these systems over to the IT staff,a€? which is a prime cause of security flaws. The stated purpose of the camera systems is to aid law enforcement in investigations: If the plate matches a number on a so-called a€?hot lista€? a€“ where the owner is wanted for anything from an unpaid parking ticket to a probation violation to a felony, or is connected to an AMBER alert or any kind of a gang or terrorist watch list a€“ then the system notifies police or other agencies.
But most ALPR systems collect and store data on every vehicle they scan a€“ they do not discard information on plates that dona€™t match the hot list. And when EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a public records request for ALPR data to the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriffa€™s Office, a€?the agencies refused to hand over the data, citing a provision in California law that allows them to withhold investigative records. The ACLU and EFF then sued to compel the release of the data, but lost at both the Superior Court and Appeals Court level, where the courts ruled that even though the large majority of the data collected by the camera systems was on innocent motorists, it still qualified as investigatory material, and therefore not subject to public disclosure. But even if the privacy advocates win, the reality remains that there is little oversight or regulation of ALPR data collection. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 10 states have laws putting limits on the collection, storage and use of ALPR data a€“ Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont. Most of those laws say the data may only be used for law enforcement purposes and limit the time it is stored to anywhere from 21 days to several years.
But most also contain exceptions, such as the recording of plate information at automated tollbooths or for the security of specific bridges and approach structures. It might be possible to mine the data and conduct predictive searches about what somebody might do. Nancy Libin, a partner at Jenner & Block and former chief privacy officer at the Department of Justice, said there hasna€™t been enough study of the data being collected about not only its current, but possible future, use. And she said it could become, a€?even more pernicious, considering the way technology is evolving. Your use of this website constitutes acknowledgement and acceptance of our Terms & Conditions.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR; see also other names below) is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read the license plates on vehicles.
ANPR can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license plate, with some configurable to store a photograph of the driver. Concerns about these systems have centered on privacy fears of government tracking citizens' movements, misidentification, high error rates, and increased government spending. The software aspect of the system runs on standard home computer hardware and can be linked to other applications or databases. The cameras used can include existing road-rule enforcement or closed-circuit television cameras, as well as mobile units, which are usually attached to vehicles. Recent advances in technology have taken automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems from fixed applications to mobile ones.
Relative speed is only one issue that affects the camera's ability to actually read a license plate. Installing ANPR cameras on law enforcement vehicles requires careful consideration of the juxtaposition of the cameras to the license plates they are to read. The latest development, which is unique in the world, is the Matrix Pocket ANPR for Android. Steps 2, 3 and 4: The license plate is normalized for brightness and contrast, and then the characters are segmented to be ready for OCR. Plate orientation and sizing – compensates for the skew of the plate and adjusts the dimensions to the required size. The complexity of each of these subsections of the program determines the accuracy of the system. Early ANPR systems were unable to read white or silver lettering on black background, as permitted on UK vehicles built prior to 1973.
Poor image resolution, usually because the plate is too far away but sometimes resulting from the use of a low-quality camera. A different font, popular for vanity plates (some countries do not allow such plates, eliminating the problem).
While some of these problems can be corrected within the software, it is primarily left to the hardware side of the system to work out solutions to these difficulties. At the front end of any ANPR system is the imaging hardware which captures the image of the license plates.
License plate capture is typically performed by specialized cameras designed specifically for the task.
Many countries now use license plates that are retroreflective.[13] This returns the light back to the source and thus improves the contrast of the image. To maximize the chances of effective license plate capture, installers should carefully consider the positioning of the camera relative to the target capture area. Vehicle owners have used a variety of techniques in an attempt to evade ANPR systems and road-rule enforcement cameras in general. Novelty frames around Texas license plates were made illegal in Texas on 1 September 2003 by Texas Senate Bill 439 because they caused problems with ANPR devices. If an ANPR system cannot read the plate it can flag the image for attention, with the human operators looking to see if they are able to identify the alphanumerics. In order to avoid surveillance or penalty charges, there has been an upsurge in car cloning. Other possible options include IR emitting LEDs around the license plate which would serve to "blind" cameras. The project of system integration «OLLI TECHNOLOGY» and Department of State Traffic Inspection (STI) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine continue experiment on introduction of a modern technical complex which is capable to search stolen cars, drivers deprived of driving license and other problem cars in online mode. Several Hungarian Auxiliary Police units use a system called MATRIX POLICE in cooperation with the police.
Other ALPR uses include parking enforcement, and revenue collection from individuals who are delinquent on city or state taxes or fines. A recent initiative by New York State deployed ALPR systems to catch car thieves by tracing suspect plates back to forged documents. In addition to the real-time processing of license plate numbers, ALPR systems in the US collect (and indefinitely store) data from each license plate capture. From time to time, states will make significant changes in their license plate protocol that will affect OCR accuracy.

Another challenge with ALPR systems is that some states have the same license plate protocol. This works by tracking vehicles' travel time between two fixed points, and calculating the average speed. In Italian Highways has developed a monitoring system named Tutor covering more than 1244 km (2007).
Many cities and districts have developed traffic control systems to help monitor the movement and flow of vehicles around the road network. CCTV cameras can be used to help traffic control centres by giving them live data, allowing for traffic management decisions to be made in real-time. Some counties of the United Kingdom have worked with Siemens Traffic to develop traffic monitoring systems for their own control centres and for the public.[34] Projects such as Hampshire County Council's ROMANSE provide an interactive and real-time web site showing details about traffic in the city. The UK company Trafficmaster has used ANPR since 1998 to estimate average traffic speeds on non-motorway roads without the results being skewed by local fluctuations caused by traffic lights and similar. IEEE transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems(IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society) published some papers on the plate number recognition technologies and applications. Ontario's 407 ETR highway uses a combination of ANPR and radio transponders to toll vehicles entering and exiting the road. There are numerous other electronic toll collection networks which use this combination of Radio frequency identification and ANPR. E-ZPass in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts (as Fast Lane), Virginia (formerly Smart Tag), and other States. OGS (Otomatik Gecis Sistemi) used at Bosporus Bridges and Trans European Motorway entry points in Istanbul, Turkey. The London congestion charge is an example of a system that charges motorists entering a payment area. There are currently 1,500 cameras, which use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology.[38] There are also a number of mobile camera units which may be deployed anywhere in the zone. Both front and back number plates are being captured, on vehicles going both in and out – this gives up to four chances to capture the number plates of a vehicle entering and exiting the zone. In Stockholm, Sweden, ANPR is used for the congestion tax, owners of cars driving into or out of the inner city must pay a charge, depending on the time of the day.
Older systems had been notably unreliable; in the UK this has been known to lead to charges being made incorrectly with the vehicle owner having to pay ?10 in order to be issued with proof (or not) of the offense. Perhaps the best known incident involving the abuse of an ANPR database in North America is the case of Edmonton Sun reporter Kerry Diotte in 2004.
Other concerns include the storage of information that could be used to identify people and store details about their driving habits and daily life, contravening the Data Protection Act along with similar legislation (see personally identifiable information). There is also a case in the UK for saying that use of ANPR cameras is against the law under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.[56] The breach exists, some say, in the fact that ANPR is used to monitor the activities of law-abiding citizens and treats everyone like the suspected criminals intended to be surveyed under the act. Drive Through Customer Recognition, to automatically recognize customers based on their license plate and offer them the items they ordered the last time they used the service, improving service to the customer. It is not uncommon to read claims of Automatic Number Plate Recognition read rates in excess of 98%. Hydraulic press machine for making 1-layer, 2-layer numberplate, name plate, license plate.Embossing letter, font, number. 3M, in a statement to EFF, said the cameras had good security features, but that they had to be enabled by customers. A team of computer scientists at the University of Arizona issued a recent report saying they had found vulnerable cameras in Washington, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. When notified about it, a€?within two hours, the portal was removed from public view,a€? wrote reporter Kenneth Lipp. They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task. Systems commonly use infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of the day.[1][2] ANPR technology tends to be region-specific, owing to plate variation from place to place.
Prototype systems were working by 1979, and contracts were let to produce industrial systems, first at EMI Electronics, and then at Computer Recognition Systems (CRS) in Wokingham, UK.
It first uses a series of image manipulation techniques to detect, normalize and enhance the image of the number plate, and then optical character recognition (OCR) to extract the alphanumerics of the license plate. When Dutch vehicle registration plates switched to a different style in 2002, one of the changes made was to the font, introducing small gaps in some letters (such as P and R) to make them more distinct and therefore more legible to such systems.
Scaled-down components at more cost-effective price points have led to a record number of deployments by law enforcement agencies around the world. Algorithms must be able to compensate for all the variables that can affect the ANPR's ability to produce an accurate read, such as time of day, weather and angles between the cameras and the license plates. Using the right number of cameras and positioning them accurately for optimal results can prove challenging, given the various missions and environments at hand.
During the third phase (normalization), some systems use edge detection techniques to increase the picture difference between the letters and the plate backing.
Two cars from different countries or states can have the same number but different design of the plate. Increasing the height of the camera may avoid problems with objects (such as other vehicles) obscuring the plate but introduces and increases other problems, such as the adjusting for the increased skew of the plate. Bikes on bike racks can also obscure the number plate, though in some countries and jurisdictions, such as Victoria, Australia, "bike plates" are supposed to be fitted. The initial image capture forms a critically important part of the ANPR system which, in accordance to the Garbage In, Garbage Out principle of computing, will often determine the overall performance.
Factors which pose difficulty for license plate imaging cameras include speed of the vehicles being recorded, varying ambient lighting conditions, headlight glare and harsh environmental conditions. In some countries, the characters on the plate are not reflective, giving a high level of contrast with the reflective background in any lighting conditions. Because the car is moving, slower shutter speeds could result in an image which is too blurred to read using the OCR software, especially if the camera is much higher up than the vehicle. Exceeding threshold angles of incidence between camera lens and license plate will greatly reduce the probability of obtaining usable images due to distortion.
One method increases the reflective properties of the lettering and makes it more likely that the system will be unable to locate the plate or produce a high enough level of contrast to be able to read it. That law made it a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by a fine of up to US $200), or Class B (punishable by a fine of up to US $2,000 and 180 days in jail) if it can be proven that the owner did it to deliberately obscure their plates.[15] The law was later clarified in 2007 to allow Novelty frames. This is usually achieved by copying registration plates from another car of a similar model and age. The Ukrainian complex "Video control" working by a principle of video fixing of the car with recognition of license plates with check under data base. It consists of a portable computer equipped with a webcam that scans the stolen car database using automatic number plate recognition. Effectively, the police and security services track all car movements around the country and are able to track any car in close to real time. Images, dates, times and GPS coordinates can be stockpiled and can help place a suspect at a scene, aid in witness identification, pattern recognition or the tracking of individuals. As of July 2009, 12 such cameras are operating, mostly in the west of the country and along the A12.[28] Some of these are divided in several “sections” to allow for cars leaving and entering the motorway.
By using ANPR on this footage it is possible to monitor the travel of individual vehicles, automatically providing information about the speed and flow of various routes.
The site shows information about car parks, ongoing road works, special events and footage taken from CCTV cameras. Radio antennas are located at each junction and detect the transponders, logging the unique identity of each vehicle in much the same way as the ANPR system does.

Transport for London (TfL) uses ANPR systems and charges motorists a daily fee of ?10 paid before 10pm if they enter, leave or move around within the congestion charge zone between 7 a.m.
The video streams are transmitted to a data centre located in central London where the ANPR software deduces the registration plate of the vehicle.
These include Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) and Transport for London. Then the machine reports data - date, time, speed measurement and license plate - a good system records a photo of the event - so a person presented with the data is making an accusation. Easterbrook also argues that this technology is employed to maximize revenue for the state, rather than to promote safety.[41] The electronic surveillance system produces tickets which in the US are often in excess of $100, and are virtually impossible for a citizen to contest in court without the help of an attorney.
Improvements in technology have drastically decreased error rates, but false accusations are still frequent enough to be a problem.
The experience of system operators is that overall read rates for license plates are 90% to 94% in ideal conditions with excellent modern systems. Ltd does not currently advertise comprehensive company & product information with Global Sources. They are used by various police forces and as a method of electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and cataloging the movements of traffic or individuals. ANPR systems are generally deployed in one of two basic approaches: one allows for the entire process to be performed at the lane location in real-time, and the other transmits all the images from many lanes to a remote computer location and performs the OCR process there at some later point in time. Some license plate arrangements use variations in font sizes and positioning—ANPR systems must be able to cope with such differences in order to be truly effective. Smaller cameras with the ability to read license plates at high speeds, along with smaller, more durable processors that fit in the trunks of police vehicles, allow law enforcement officers to patrol daily with the benefit of license plate reading in real time, when they can interdict immediately. This equipment must also be very efficient since the power source is the vehicle battery, and equipment must be small to minimize the space it requires. A system's illumination wavelengths can also have a direct impact on the resolution and accuracy of a read in these conditions. Highway patrol requires forward-looking cameras that span multiple lanes and are able to read license plates at very high speeds. The license plate numbers can be entered manually, or can be caught by the smart phone's camera. Most dedicated license plate capture cameras will incorporate infrared illumination in order to solve the problems of lighting and plate reflectivity.
A camera that makes use of active infrared imaging (with a normal colour filter over the lens and an infrared illuminator next to it) benefits greatly from this as the infrared waves are reflected back from the plate. In slow-moving traffic, or when the camera is at a lower level and the vehicle is at an angle approaching the camera, the shutter speed does not need to be so fast.
This is typically done by using a plate cover or a spray, though claims regarding the effectiveness of the latter are disputed. This can be difficult to detect, especially as cloners may change the registration plates and travel behavior to hinder investigations. The system is installed on the dashboard of selected patrol vehicles (PDA based handheld versions also exist) and is mainly used to control the license plate of parking cars. The license plate numbers can be entered manually, or can be catch by the smart phone's camera.
Vehicle movements are stored for 5 years in the National ANPR Data Center to be analyzed for intelligence and to be used as evidence. So each time the ALPR systems alarms, it is the user’s responsibility to make sure that the plate which caused the alarm matches the state associated with the license plate listed on the in-car computer. These details can highlight problem areas as and when they occur and helps the centre to make informed incident management decisions.
ANPR systems can be used to provide average driving times along particular routes, giving drivers the ability to choose which one to take. The revenues generated by these machines are shared generously with the private corporation that builds and operates them, creating a strong incentive to tweak the system to generate as many tickets as possible. When done at the lane site, the information captured of the plate alphanumeric, date-time, lane identification, and any other information that is required is completed in somewhere around 250 milliseconds. More complicated systems can cope with international variants, though many programs are individually tailored to each country. City patrol needs shorter range, lower focal length cameras for capturing plates on parked cars. When used for giving specific vehicles access to a barricaded area, the decision may be made to have an acceptable error rate of one character.
This is only possible on dedicated ANPR cameras, however, and so cameras used for other purposes must rely more heavily on the software capabilities. In most jurisdictions, the covers are illegal and covered under existing laws, while in most countries there is no law to disallow the use of the sprays.[14] Other users have attempted to smear their license plate with dirt or utilize covers to mask the plate. As the Auxiliary Police doesn't have the authority to order moving vehicles to stop, If a stolen car is found, the formal police is informed. ROMANSE also allows travellers to see the current situation using a mobile device with an Internet connection (such as WAP, GPRS or 3G), thus allowing them to be alerted to any problems that are ahead. A reduced fee of ?9 is paid by vehicle owners who sign up for the automatic deduction scheme.
ANPR is a developing technology which is coming of age and functional applications are expanding on a steady basis.
This information, now small data packets, can easily be transmitted to some remote computer for further processing if necessary, or stored at the lane for later retrieval. Parking lots with perpendicularly parked cars often require a specialized camera with a very short focal length. The software can be configured for white list database and black list database search, so it can be used for different tasks. This is because the likelihood of an unauthorized car having such a similar license plate is seen as quite small.
Further, when a full-colour image is required as well as use of the ANPR-retrieved details it is necessary to have one infrared-enabled camera and one normal (colour) camera working together.
The Matrix-Pocket is the undeniable most efficient automatic number plate recognition device in the patrol's hands.The software can be configured for white list database and black list database search, so it can be used for different tasks.
In Arizona, insurance companies are helping to fund the purchase of ALPR systems for their local law enforcement agencies to aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles.
Fines for traveling within the zone without paying the charge are ?60 per infraction if paid before the deadline, doubling to ?120 per infraction thereafter. In the other arrangement, there are typically large numbers of PCs used in a server farm to handle high workloads, such as those found in the London congestion charge project. Most technically advanced systems are flexible and can be configured with a number of cameras ranging from one to four which can easily be repositioned as needed.
However, this level of inaccuracy would not be acceptable in most applications of an ANPR system.
Although this software is mainly developed for the Police and Auxiliary Police, Matrix Pocket can be also used by detectives, car parking companies, hotels. Often in such systems, there is a requirement to forward images to the remote server, and this can require larger bandwidth transmission media. States with rear-only license plates have an additional challenge since a forward-looking camera is ineffective with incoming traffic.

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