Automatic License Plate Recognition Software Providers, a Detailed Comparison

Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) or Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) as it is sometimes called in Europe, is a technology that uses optical character recognition on images to decipher vehicle license plates.  In some cases, these images are captured utilizing cameras specifically designed for the task.  In other cases, the license plates are decoded using machine learning software in the cloud.

Automatic License Plate Recognition Software Applications

Automatic License Plate Recognition is and can be applied in many use cases.  Police and security firms use plate recognition to identify Amber Alert vehicles and for road-rule enforcement.  In Europe, automatic number plate recognition is also used for electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads.  In addition, ALPR can help with parking enforcement in hotels, commercial parking lots and retail establishments where parking usually have defined time limits.  In some cases, license plate recognition software can serve as an access point control by opening gates for authorized vehicles in gated communities and private parking garages.

 

Evaluating Automatic License Plate Recognition Softare Vendors

Automatic License Plate Recognition is and can be applied in many use cases.  Police and security firms use plate recognition to identify Amber Alert vehicles and for road-rule enforcement.  In Europe, automatic number plate recognition is also used for electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads.  In addition, ALPR can help with parking enforcement in hotels, commercial parking lots and retail establishments where parking usually have defined time limits.  In some cases, license plate recognition software can serve as an access point control by opening gates for authorized vehicles in gated communities and private parking garages.

If you are in the market for automatic license plate recognition software, there are quite a number of vendors. However not all plate recognition software providers are the same.  It is important to select the right vendor as plate recognition is the foundation by which the next step decisions are predicated on.  For example, if the ALPR decodes a number plate incorrectly, the wrong person will be billed or kept out of his townhouse community.  With this in mind, this article provides a comprehensive review of several popular ALPR software providers.

We evaluated automatic license plate recognition software providers based on the following criteria:

1) Pricing.  Budgets are a fact of life.  As such, it is important for you to be able to see, evaluate and compare the pricing of license plate recognition software vendors to determine which one makes the best sense financially and within the scope of what the customer needs.  If you are unable to easily see published pricing on their website, we have a tendency to think that a vendor is doing some value-based pricing based on the information you have provided regarding your project. This value-based pricing for license plate recognition often tends to be very high.

2) Works in All Environments.  Some ALPR only works within the respective vendor’s own suite of products, such as their management software, cameras or OS.  Others can work with everything.  It is best to choose a license plate recognition software that works with and within all environments.  For example, a parking lot may already have cameras installed for security purposes but wishes to add license plate recognition.  If a vendor can only work with a specific type of camera, then it can not support this customer. 

3) Developer Support.  While the choice to automate and improve efficiencies may rest on the business side of an organization, at the end of the day, it will be your engineers who have to deal with the automatic license plate recognition software.  Therefore, having the right documentation available and accessible will enable your developers to quickly and easily implement your ALPR-related solution.  In addition, having support, especially technical support, available to the team is vital to ensure a smooth implementation.  Some organizations end up spending more money (rather than saving) by selecting the cheapest ALPR software with the worst support.  Don’t make that mistake.

4)  Free Trial.  The best ALPR software vendors believe in their products and welcome you to try things out before buying.  This way, you can test within your own environments and determine whether the software works for you.

5) Data Accuracy.  Since each use case operates in a different environment such as low light,  angled vehicles or blurry images, etc., it is important for you to evaluate a vendor based on whether the vendor’s license plate recognition software can provide accurate deciphering of your data set.  If your country has motorcycles with 2 lines of number plate, then you need to make sure that the automatic license plate recognition software supports that.  Some vendors provide data sets on their sites, others do not.  We recommend that you view the data available online to determine whether the ALPR can work for your specific case.

We assigned stars to denote the scores.  The more hearts, the better.  No hearts mean that a company does not provide this service and/or information

 

Comparison of Top ALPR Software Vendors

We chose five vendors that varied in size and scope as well as those who cover international markets to evaluate.

 

OpenALPR

OpenALPR  is a service based on open source license plate reader.  The company has been purchased by Novume Solutions in March 2019.  Novume provides products and services to both mostly state and federal government entities, with an emphasis on public safety, risk management and workforce solutions.

OpenALPR scored highly on a number of criterias.  Its software works with most cameras in most environments.  The company provides pricing.  However, we noticed that its prices are quite high, with its ALPR SDK priced at $1,000 per camera. 

For developers, the code is written in C++ with bindings in C#, Java, Node.js, and Python.  Its solution provides for light analytics of data collected.  Installation is not difficult with an easy-to-use dashboard so this solution may fit a non tech-user versus a more sophisticated developer.  The company does offer a 14 day free trial for most of its solutions.  The OpenALPR website also has benchmark plate images, annotation and testing tools online.

While OpenALPR is not restricted by cameras or environments, certain products require the extra step of installing Nvidia packages to enable GPU acceleration.  Despite our best efforts, we were unable to really reach anyone live for support, and our emails took several days to return.

Based on the above assessment, we gave OpenALPR the following ratings:

Pricing: ♥♥
Works in All Environments: ♥♥♥♥♥
Developer Support: ♥♥♥♥
Free Trial: ♥♥♥♥♥
Data Accuracy: ♥♥♥♥

Vigilant Solutions

Vigilant Solutions is a large video surveillance and management company.  Founded by former law enforcement personnel, the company fully understands the intricacies of how to use technology for surveillance, crime detection and deterrence. It has a big footprint in law enforcement communities.  It has a full suite of products that include facial recognition, automatic license plate recognition, crime investigation services, and on-person cameras.  When fully integrated, the products provide for a best-in-class solution for its core customers. 

Vigilent is good if you need to know more information than just a license plate number (such as whether the driver is male or female) as in some law enforcement use-cases, but most ALPR applications do not require this.

Despite the breadth and depth of its solutions, Vigilant Solutions did not score well based on our criteria.   For one thing, it lacks transparency on pricing on all of its products.  For another, the company’s products only work with and within Vigilant Solutions products and environments. There is also very little developer support as there are no code or documentation publicly available.  Lastly, the company offers no free trials, but you can request a demo.  Given that the ALPR set-up requires a full-blown installation of their solution, even if a free trial were available, it would not be easy to implement.  We were unable to find any data supporting the accuracy of the license plate recognition software.

Based on our findings, these are Vigilant Solutions’ ratings:

Pricing: 
Works in All Environments:
Developer Support:
Free Trial:
Data Accuracy: ♥♥

Innova System Group

Based in Spain, Innova System currently serves 16 countries.  Its products are mainly used in urban environments for parking and traffic control.  In addition to automatic license plate recognition software, it also sells its own cameras.

 When judged against our criteria, Innova System did not score well.  The website lacks pricing information and API documentation or technical requirements.  This will make it difficult for you to evaluate both the technical and financial sides of your ALPR solution.  It is not clear whether their software works in all environments and there are no free trials available.  We were also unable to find any relevant data sets that shows the efficacy of its software, but there are a few useful case studies.

On the plus side, the company has great European presence.  Its license plate recognition software is integrated with leading European manufacturers of automation systems of parking (ex: parking meters) for parking enforcement.  For those looking for a vendor who knows and understands the European market in terms of license plate recognition, you should include Innova on your evaluation list.

This is how Innova scored based on our assessment:

Pricing: 
Works in All Environments: ♥♥
Developer Support:
Free Trial: 
Data Accuracy: ♥♥

Plate Recognizer*

Based in Silicon Valley and Europe, Plate Recognizer provides automatic license plate recognition software that is optimized for real-world situations such as low-res, blurry, angled vehicles, etc.  See their list of ALPR supported environments.  Its algorithms have been trained with datasets from over 100 countries.

Plate Recognizer scored well across the board.  First, full pricing is made available online for both its On-Premise SDK and Cloud API for ALPR.  The company is one of the few who openly invites you to request custom quotes if standard pricing does not apply to your situation. 

Their support for developers is top notch.  Software code and API documentation are easily found and accessible and you can review their documentation without even signing up to make sure you are comfortable with the code.  Developers can choose from Shell, Ruby, Python and Javascript.  Its software is hardware agnostic and runs on Linux, Windows, Mac and even Raspberry Pi.

Inquiries are often responded to within a few hours and you can even get support via their live chat widget on their website.  Moreover, support is provided by their engineers, not a random customer support representative.  In addition, Plate Recognizer is the only ALPR vendor on our list to offer free trials with no expiration date as sometimes 14 day trials just isn’t enough time to fully evaluate a product.

On the downside, the company is a relative newcomer to the space so there are currently no case studies shared on the site.  This may be due to the fact that their customers do not want to reveal all the components of their full solution. It may also not be the easiest to use if the customer is not as tech savvy.  However, the company has shared that it is working on an easier implementation solution. 

One added bonus is that the company is a subsidiary of ParkPow, a parking enforcement software firm. Customers have the capability to use data collected with its Plate Recognizer to do parking policy enforcement such as receiving alerts for cars that overstay or unwelcomed visitors.

Plate Recognizer’s ratings of the five criteria is as follow:

Pricing: ♥♥♥♥♥
Works in All Environments: ♥♥♥♥♥
Developer Support: ♥♥♥♥♥
Free Trial: ♥♥♥♥♥
Data Accuracy: ♥♥♥♥

PlateSmart Technologies

PlateSmart is a leading provider of camera-agnostic, intelligent video analytic ALPR solutions.  Its suite of products include ALPR analytics, peer-to-peer data sharing platform mostly suited for law enforcement in identifying hot vehicles and parking enforcement software.  PlateSmart is a more mature company in comparison to others in the field.

The company seems to offer a well rounded suite of products and the website provides an abundance of information related to its core license plate recognition technologies and use cases including white papers, video demonstrations and case studies. 

However, a lot of the information by which we are evaluating vendors are not available.  We were not able to find any pricing, API documentation or free trial information.  If you desire to trial and evaluate the software before purchase, you may not be able to do so.   Due to this lack of info, the company did not score as well as it could have.

Here is how PlateSmart scored based on our assessment:

Pricing:
Works in All Environments: ♥♥♥♥♥
Developer Support:
Free Trial:
Data Accuracy: ♥♥♥

Which is the Best Automatic License Plate Recognition Vendor?

The main thing we have found from our evaluation of these ALPR providers is that each has its own strength and weaknesses and the one that is best is the one that fits your specific situation.  For instance, if you are looking for a strong surveillance and crime deterrence solution, Vigilant Solutions or PlateSmart are solid candidates.   If you need help in Europe, you should strongly evaluate Innova Systems.  If you are need to incorporate license plate recognition into a broader solution such as for a parking lot or HOA gate access, Plate Recognizer or OpenALPR will enable you to do so.  

However, if you are looking to evaluate license plate recognition to see if it is a solution for your needs, Plate Recognizer is one to go with as the company allows for free trials  and provides the best support and documentation so you can get started right away. 

Regardless of your needs, we hope that our findings will help you get started with selecting the right license plate recognition software provider. 

 


What do you think about our assessment of Automatic License Plate Recognition software providers?  Do let us know if you feel that we’ve been unfair in any of our ratings.

*Discloser: We work at ParkPow; however, we evaluated all companies listed here strictly based on the criteria set forth.

About Plate Recognizer

Plate Recognizer provides accurate, fast, developer-friendly Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) software that works in all environments, optimized for your location.  Sign up for a Free Trial!

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