Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) is a ground-breaking technological software innovation that uses optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration plates to create vehicle location data.
ANPR is able to use existing closed-circuit television, road-rule enforcement cameras, or cameras specifically designed for the task. ANPR is used by law enforcement but it is also used to make car parks more efficient and secure and as a method of cataloguing the movements of traffic.
The main use of ANPR software is for law enforcement purposes. The Home Office claims that the purpose of ANPR in the United Kingdom is to help detect, prevent and stop crime, including fighting organized crime groups and terrorists. As a vehicle passes an ANPR camera, its registration number is read and immediately checked against Vehicle of Interest database records. Police officers are allowed to intercept and stop a vehicle, check it for evidence and make arrests when necessary. A database is kept for all vehicles passing by a camera, including those for vehicles not considered to be of interest at the time of reading which may be accessed for investigative purposes under appropriate circumstances.
Use of ANPR in this manner has proven to be effective in detecting many crimes, including identifying stolen vehicles, combating unauthorized use of vehicles, and addressing terrorism cases, and major and organized crime. It also allows the attention of officers to be drawn to offending vehicles while permitting law-abiding drivers to go unhindered in their company.
In addition to helping law enforcement, the ANPR software is also able to help transportation and vehicle based infrastructure become more efficient. For example, ANPR technology will help facilitate the enforcement of bus lanes. Many drivers do not follow the rules regarding bus lanes which leads to an increase in congestion as well as accidents involving a number of reckless drivers trying to cut time in their commute. ANPR cameras will ensure that these procedures are better enforced and those that do not follow such guidelines are identified and suitably fined. Thus, with the help of ANPR software, bus lanes will be safer and will cut bus travel times to make it possible to meet timetables more efficiently, helping millions of passengers to reach their destinations on time.
Another example of the application of ANPR technology is car park management. There are a couple of applications for ANPR technology in parking facilities including parking automation, parking security, and ticket-free parking fee management. Integrating ANPR technology into car park management systems provides visitors with a sense of security and improved parking management efficiency, while providing operators with the best return on their investment through improved charge compliance. It is commonly used in many British supermarkets and public house car parks upon entering where patrons have a limited period of time to park for free.
ANPR is a technical tool used to help enforce the law and to guarantee the continued safety of all road users. ANPR supports the safety and security of citizens all over the world and is evolving to improve people's efficient real-time transport flow.