Automatic Number Plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are widely used by traffic management businesses and police forces. ANPR can also be an efficient and valuable tool in car park management. The cameras use optical character recognition to automatically read number plate numbers on cars, vans and any other vehicles entering and exiting a car park. But how do they work and why are they so popular? Keep reading to find out.
Here's a general overview of how ANPR cameras work in car parks:
- Strategic camera placement
- Number plate capture
- Data processing
- Number plate comparison and verification
1.Strategic Camera Placement
In order for the cameras to capture clear images of all vehicles who use the car park, ANPR cameras are strategically positioned at entry and exit points of the premises. In addition to these entry points, ANPR cameras might also be set up on high structures such as columns or overhead beams, which ensures a clear view of the number plates as vehicles pass underneath the camera.
If the car park has restricted areas, such as disabled parking bays or reserved parking bays, ANPR cameras can be strategically positioned within the car park to monitor these specific areas. If the car park has payment stations, ANPR cameras can be placed in close proximity to read the number plates of cars as they stop or pass through these areas.
If the car park has payment stations, ANPR cameras can be placed in close proximity to read the number plates of cars as they stop or pass through these areas.
2. Number Plate Capture
When a vehicle approaches the ANPR camera, the high-resolution image sensors automatically capture detailed images of the number plate. The camera's sensor quickly captures a number of images to increase the chances of obtaining a clear and legible image of the vehicle and licence plate.
Once the image of the vehicle is captured, the image data is then processed using advanced technological algorithms. The image is analysed to locate the number plate region and separate it from the rest of the image, disregarding any irrelevant information, such as logos or decorative elements.
The great thing about ANPR cameras is that they can handle a variety of conditions, such as bad weather, poor lighting (even complete darkness) & different number plate formats, such as those from other countries.
This is due to the camera having built-in infrared (IR) illumination. In low-light conditions, the camera emits IR light to illuminate the number plate, ensuring a clearly captured image. ANPR cameras are also able to accurately read number plates from fast moving vehicles at multiple angles.
3. Data Processing
The next stage of the ANPR system is data processing which involves the analysis and interpretation of the captured number plate images.
Once the number plate characters are recognised, the segmented characters are passed through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) algorithm, which interprets the alphanumeric characters on the licence plate and converts them into machine-readable text.
Once the characters are successfully validated, the ANPR camera extracts the licence plate number as text data and is stored along with additional information, such as the time of entry & exit, date, and location of the vehicle.
4. Number Plate Comparison & Recognition
The licence plate number is then compared against a database of registered vehicles or a list of authorised/ prohibited plates, depending on the purpose of the ANPR camera system.
Based on the results of the comparison, the ANPR system can carry out various actions. For example, if a car has violated parking regulations or has a flagged number plate, it can automatically generate an alert for enforcement personnel or carry out automatic ticketing.
Which Is Best - ANPR Cameras or Barriers?
We are seeing more and more car parks moving away from the traditional barrier management solution in favour of other, more customer-friendly solutions, such as ANPR. Let’s compare the two and see why this change is happening so rapidly:
It’s no surprise that barriers have a large mechanical component, and unfortunately for them that means there’s more that could go wrong. Naturally, barriers are often directly in the path of moving vehicles, and even a slight knock can break or scratch something. Also, if one of your barriers fails to work, that blocks an entire entrance or exit to your site, increasing congestion, inconvenience and discouraging people from using your car park.
ANPR typically eliminates the need for a barrier, which means there are fewer mechanical components and in turn, less things that could go wrong.
Also, because ANPR cameras can be monitored 24/7, you can identify possible issues and fix them without causing any major disruption to the operation of your car park.
The main role of a barrier is to manage vehicle access in and out of the car park, but beyond that, they don’t particularly have any impact on what goes on inside of your premises.
ANPR cameras, however, can act as a visual deterrent against anti-social behaviour such as theft and vandalism, as well as enforcing multiple rules on a car park which makes it more difficult for this type of behaviour to take hold.
By increasing the security of your car park, it remains a pleasant and secure place to leave a car, which is much better for customer experience and is more likely to attract new customers as well as encourage existing ones to return time and time again.
For any business to be successful and continue being successful, it is essential that you understand how your services are used and identify your customers’ behaviour overtime.
Other than managing entry and exit access of a car park, barriers don’t offer much else in terms of data and customer information.
But with their highly advanced algorithms and advancements, ANPR can help a car park to generate vast amounts of information which, when analysed, can let you know the types of vehicles using your site, the length of time people stay in your car park and how drivers pay for their parking, just to name a few.
You can use this data to steer your decision making down the best possible routes for your customers and maximise the value of your car park. For example, if you identify a vast number of electric vehicles using your car park, you might decide to invest in adding EV charging bays to your car park.
Not only does this provide customers with a brand new service, which increases satisfaction and loyalty, but it also means your business will benefit from an increased revenue stream.
We are Euro Car Parks, the most experienced car parking management company in the UK.
We pride ourselves on having over 47 years of car parking experience delivering market leading parking solutions to a broad range of national and multinational companies.
In addition to ANPR technology, we offer a range of car park management solutions, such as intelligent data reporting, validation systems and revenue generation, all designed to mitigate your issues, ensure space availability and maximise your income.
To find out more, get in touch with our sales team or call us on 020 7563 3000.