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The benefits of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems

Published: 15/03/2021

What is ANPR and where is it used?

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) was first introduced in the UK in the 1980s and has since become a staple in traffic management. ANPR uses high-speed image capture to identify number plates as they pass by an infra-red camera. The license plates are then cross-referenced against a large database, checking for inconsistencies, information, or usage, depending on the application. Originally, ANPR was most notably used by the police force, with the main purpose to detect and deter criminality. By positioning cameras in fixed locations with high crime rates, the police are able to monitor the traffic and keep an eye out for suspect vehicles. The police currently have a network of approximately 8000 ANPR cameras in undisclosed locations.

Not just for the police, however, ANPR cameras have been used in many different industries, including retail parks, supermarkets, and privately-owned car parks. Many car parks use ANPR parking systems to monitor the length of time a vehicle was parked and if the parking fee was paid, which can be done by connecting the ANPR system to the database from the car park ticket machine.

With so many vehicles on the road today, ANPR cameras are being used in so many different applications. If you are looking to install ANPR it is important to carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of ANPR cameras. With that in mind, we’ve put together some of the pros and cons that you should consider when looking to invest in ANPR parking systems.

Advantages of ANPR camera systems

Added security

ANPR largely acts as a deterrent. The knowledge that their number plate is being recorded and checked is usually enough to stop criminal behaviour in advance. ANPR is also useful for the police, who can browse the data collected and check for suspicious vehicles, or vehicles that were involved in a crime. Thanks to the need to store the data for a short while, ANPR data can provide both alibis and incriminating data. ANPR also provides security on a lower level, such as open workplace parking where it can manage permit parking for staff vehicles, or recognise a vehicle that has previously been banned from your premises. ANPR offers an extra measure of security for both public and private use.

Automated service

ANPR cameras are an efficient and cost-effective way to monitor parking solutions. In car parks, they negate the need for parking wardens. Thanks to their high-accuracy readings and 24/7 operation, they are more efficient than most individuals and therefore provide a more dependable service. They also offer a confrontation-free parking solution, which some have found to be beneficial when delivering fines to drivers. Parking management teams often find that both traffic personnel and ANPR cameras work well together, especially in traffic and parking enforcement, where staff can rely on ANPR to provide the necessary information, minimising the time they spend on the streets.

Real-time benefits

ANPR is beneficial to many industries thanks to the real-time imaging it offers. Historically, number plate recording would take time, and then longer still to send out penalty notices to those who violate traffic laws. With ANPR however, number plates can be recognised and checked against the database almost instantaneously. From this, it takes as little as 48 hours to issue a penalty notice. The fast nature of these cameras allows for an immediate response to criminal activity, making sure no unwanted behaviour goes unchecked.

Disadvantages of ANPR camera systems

Privacy concerns

Using ANPR cameras raises privacy concerns for many people, who dislike the idea of their data being stored for months. There is the concern that storing information could lead to data leaks and theft, or misuse of their personal information. People also dislike the idea of their whereabouts being known at all times. However, ANPR is not considered an infringement on an individual’s privacy, and the data is always stored securely and should only be accessed for good reason by a senior official.

Extreme circumstances

While a great addition to a car park, ANPR is not a fool-proof method. ANPR cameras may struggle to work in adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain, or snow, where the number plate is obscured or distorted. These cameras also rely on sensible driving from cars. For example, if, when leaving the car park, you were too close to the car in front and your number plate was obscured, the cameras may not recognise that you had left, and could end up overcharging you. Not only this, some ANPR cameras are not advanced enough to recognise number plates that vary from the standard, such as vanity or foreign plates. In these situations, it would be useful to mix both personnel and automated systems.

Human behaviour

A disadvantage of ANPR parking systems is that they rarely take into account human error and behaviour. ANPR systems do not usually consider giving a grace period when you enter a car park. This means that those drivers who enter the car park and don’t find a space can be charged, as the camera saw them enter and leave, but can find no matching ticket. Similarly, a mistyped ticket at a ticket machine, for example, using the letter ‘O’ instead of a zero, can result in a fine, as the system cannot find a matching ticket to the number plate the cameras read.

Are ANPR systems worthwhile?

ANPR parking systems are a worthwhile parking solution to monitor and evaluate your car parks. They offer added security, cost-effective parking management, and quick response times. They can make a great addition to any car park; however, it is important to consider the downfalls ANPR cameras have, and make every effort to counteract these downfalls. These issues can easily be managed by utilising a competent management team and an effective appeals system. At Total Parking, we are perfectly equipped with the experience and technology needed to advise, implement, and manage your ANPR parking systems. To find out how we can enhance your parking facilities, browse our website, get in touch on 01536 680107, or email us at [email protected].

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