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What Is ANPR? Automatic Number Plate Recognition Explained

Acronyms are overrunning our language. Every new generation (LOL, AFK), industry (NCIS, BTC), and technology (MRI, SMS) brings a new horde of shortened terms designed to make communication clearer, so long as you’re in the know.

So what is ANPR, and why is it so important? Find out now.

anpr number plate recognition camera

Automatic Number Plate Recognition in action.  Source: Pixabay.

What Is ANPR, Exactly?

In ANPR, A Is For Automatic.  The “automatic” or sometimes “automated” part of ANPR describes the action that technology is making better and better. ANPR cameras process, grab images, identify the number plates, and automatically translate the information into data at breakneck speed.

In ANPR, NP Is For Number Plate.  NP stands for Number Plate—the common British term for a vehicle registration plate. These metal or plastic plates vary by the region in which they were registered. In the States they’re called vehicle license plates. In Canada they’re referred to as licence plates. Every powered vehicle, from motorcycles to RVs and even trailers, has its own registration plate for easy identification on the roads.

In ANPR, R Is For Recognition.  Recognition means the technology can pick out, read, and recognize the number plate information from the rest of the image before translating it to usable, shareable data. How well a particular ANPR solution recognizes and translates plate data is reflected in its reported accuracy rates. Many factors can impact recognition: time of day, angle of capture, camera quality, weather, speed of vehicle, and competing images (like stickers), to name a few. More advanced solutions use AI engines where the system learns to overcome these environmental challenges and increases accuracy rates to well over 95%. 

Is ANPR the Same As ALPR?

Yes. The ANPR acronym is more commonly used in areas speaking British English. ALPR is the prominent phrase in American English areas. Whether your community drives on the right or the left side of the road, the technology is the same.

what is anpr number plate recognition defined

ANPR vs ALPR – is there a difference? Source: Pixabay, Plate Recognizer.

ANPR Data Secures & Optimizes Vehicular Engagements

Now that ANPR data can be counted on for virtually immediate results with 95%+ accuracy, the opportunities for usage have exploded. Forward-thinking organizations are looking to ANPR to help stretch budgets by securing larger areas without needing additional personnel. Other unexpected departments thinking about customer experience rely on it to reduce friction through automation.

How ANPR Helps Law Enforcement?

ANPR was first developed as a law enforcement tool. While cameras could take photos of vehicles at intersections, they couldn’t easily translate that information into data before the advent of ANPR.

anpr number platerecognition highway monitoring

ANPR for highway monitoring. Source: Pixabay.

1) Identifying & Automatically Ticketing Vehicles That Break Traffic Laws

ANPR helps law enforcement officials every day. At traffic stops, it can automatically run number plates on the car and report back any red flags. It can automatically identify vehicles that run red lights or speed through intersections. Because the crime is caught on camera, some communities allow tickets to be automatically generated and mailed to offenders.

2) Monitoring Areas For Stolen, Suspicious, Or Otherwise Targeted Vehicles

Cameras with ANPR technology can monitor designed areas 24/7 for stolen, suspicious or otherwise targeted vehicles, alerting local law enforcement when any such vehicle appears on the system. The system cross-references all captured plates to regularly updated law enforcement hot list databases.

3) Providing Visual Proof Of Illegal Activities To Support Prosecution Cases

When ANPR cameras that are set up to monitor for illegal activities capture illegal dumping or vandalism, for instance, the system can alert local authorities and use speakers to encourage the people onsite to leave. ANPR systems also record and tag the images from the event, along with the make, model, and color of the vehicle, for use in any future prosecution cases.

what is anpr for police surveillance

ANPR is a critical tool in law enforcement.  Source: Pexels.

ANPR Helps Facility, Parking, and Public Space Management

It’s not just law enforcement that’s putting ANPR to good use. Ingenious property managers are finding new uses for the technology.

1) Allowing Approved Vehicles To Access Parking Lots & Garages

The ANPR technology is a boon for access control in parking lots, car parks, and garages. Reading number plates can allow approved vehicles to move quickly in and out of secured areas, which helps to improve the customer experience.

2) Tracking Specific Vehicles, Timing, Entry & Exit Points in a Secured Area

The data from ANPR can be analyzed to determine everything from the busiest parts of the day to how long any vehicle remained onsite on any particular day.

3) Automatically Collecting Tolls & Parking Fees

When ANPR data is connected to collection systems, tolls and parking fees can automatically be deducted from customer accounts without them ever needing to touch their wallets.

4) Dissuading Would-Be Criminals From Theft, Vandalism, & Illegal Dumping

Prevention of theft, vandalism, and illegal dumping can save communities millions. Strategically-placed ANPR cameras help prevent such crimes by being able to monitor hotspots 24/7 in ways that security personnel and law enforcement cannot.

what is anpr defined parking

ANPR for parking management. Source: Pexels.

Who Benefits the Most from ANPR? (aka, “What’s In It for Me?”)

If you don’t interact with vehicles in your area of responsibility, ANPR probably can’t help you. But if you oversee any of the following, ANPR can be a considerable time (and budget) saver:

  • Law enforcement.
  • Community managers responsible for securing public spaces like parks and government complexes.
  • Teams who secure restricted areas like offices, manufacturing and production plants.
  • Construction site security teams.
  • Security personnel who oversee private gated communities.
  • Parking lot managers.
  • Toll operators.
  • Secure public works facilities like utilities, water treatment plants, and government offices.
  • Cities, municipalities, and other government agencies looking to decrease vandalism and illegal dumping while increasing revenue.
what is anpr for toll system

ANPR used for toll plaza.  Source: Unsplash.

How ANPR Works

Different ANPR solutions process information differently, but here’s an overview of how ANPR works.

Is ANPR a camera? Software?  System? Or something else?

Yes. ANPR can be used to describe any and all of the above. The technology to read and save number plate data is at the heart of the system, but part of its great benefit is how it plugs into the rest of an organization’s security system. When you have a dynamic AI-powered engine, you can quickly find the number plate, read it, and store it as data. Then the ANPR can send alerts the way you want—emails or text messages, for instance, or it can open a gate or process a toll payment.

An ANPR system that spots a stolen car can dispatch law enforcement immediately.

ANPR can also be part of a system remotely placed in an illegal dumping hotspot, powered solely by solar energy and running on wi-fi for ultimate portability. Or it can be hardwired to an on-premise system for added security.

The ability of ANPR to integrate and add value to existing security systems is one of its many benefits.

Does ANPR work with still images or video?

Yes. Different ANPR cameras can capture either video or shoot still images, depending on the location and usage requirements.

How fast does ANPR capture number plate information?

It varies by location, vendor, type of unit, and attached processing computer. When evaluating choices, ask specific questions to ensure that you compare apples to apples.

what is anpr definition fast vehicle speed

A good ANPR software can capture vehicles at very fast speeds.  Source: Pixabay.

Does ANPR work everywhere?

The leading ANPR providers serve nearly 100 countries. Within some countries, there are hundreds of different number plates. Each of the 50 US states has one official and multiple other number plate designs, for instance. Because the number plates in each country are different, the ANPR technology for each region must be built specifically for that area. ANPR for Australia has slightly different needs than that of Thailand, for example.

Is ANPR software as good as it’s going to get?

No! The beauty of AI is that it keeps on learning and getting better. How much a vendor updates their AI and reports their iterative improvements is an excellent way to get a sense of who’s most passionate about improving accuracy. While 95%+ accuracy is excellent in many regards, it also means 5% inaccurate, delivering incomplete or false positives. When you’re dealing with issues of security and safety, aspiring to 100% accuracy should be the goal of every ANPR vendor, but it’s not. Look for the ones that relentlessly pursue improvements over time.

anpr number plate recognition definition

Some beautiful number plates here!  Source: Pixabay.

The Conclusion

The right ANPR solution is really the cornerstone of any perimeter security solution.  As we know, it’s garbage in, garbage out. 

With that in mind, we encourage you to take our free trial ANPR for a test drive.

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