License plate recognition systems are used by law enforcement and homeland security, so why isn’t it always a security option in the private sector? Not every private business will require these automated systems, but quite a few may be overlooking their usefulness. License plate recognition systems aren’t just for government entities. They can work in the private sector to secure assets and protect employees, especially those that include heavy automotive traffic like franchises, gas stations, and hospitals.
Those unfamiliar with this technology may picture complex, highly expensive systems designed to monitor hundreds of vehicles, but this is not always the case. It’s possible to create a simplified system by connecting existing surveillance to specialized recognition software. This process automates license plate recognition and makes it much more user-friendly.
The Basics of License Plate Recognition Systems
License plate recognition systems use optical character recognition to read license plate data and match it to an existing database. These systems combine several components to include:
- Surveillance cameras. Cameras capture an image of the vehicle and focus in on a plate. These cameras are capable of obtaining a clear image even at high speeds and providing sufficient detail for identifying the vehicle.
- OCR algorithms. Complex optical character recognition algorithms determine if there is a license plate, and then parse out the plate’s issuing entity and characters. This process takes only seconds despite its complexity, thanks to technology enhanced with artificial intelligence and big data capabilities.
- Databases. The system finds a match between available records and the collected data. Law enforcement and government entities may use DMV records for this purpose, while private businesses will need to use their in-house systems.
One thing many organizations don’t realize is that license plate recognition systems don’t require specialized cameras. In many cases, existing surveillance cameras are fitted with the software and other video analysis programs. This process makes these programs much more cost effective than most would expect.
Common Uses for License Plate Recognition Systems
Law enforcement is probably the most common reason for license plate recognition systems. Police use these systems to seek out fugitives or hunt down cars involved in Amber Alerts, as a few examples. However, law enforcement isn’t the only application for these programs. In fact, public and private entities use license plate recognition in ways that could benefit your enterprise, including:
- Toll management. Toll plazas are highly dependent on license plate recognition systems to monitor traffic and ensure tolls are collected. Such systems streamline toll collection by eliminating the need for staffed booths and barriers.
- Gas station surveillance. Drive-offs are a common issue for gas stations, so monitoring is critical for preventing gas theft. Visible cameras can also work to deter drive-offs, making surveillance at the pump worth the investment.
- Drive-thru monitoring. Bank and restaurant drive-ups make use of license plate detection systems to monitor traffic and protect employees. It’s not unheard of for employees at drive-thrus to be the victims of assault. Monitoring with license plate recognition ensures those perpetrators can be caught and prosecuted for their actions.
- Border control. Border control license plate management helps to deter illegal entry but it also serves another need. These systems can be used to track down individuals who cross borders frequently without good reason. Delivering this data to law enforcement aids efforts to catch smugglers.
- Parking lot management. Private entities can use license plate recognition systems to improve safety in their parking lots. These systems can work with building access control and employee credentials to manage who is allowed in the parking lot and limit issues with vandalism or hit and runs.
License plate recognition systems are not limited to those in law enforcement and homeland security. Enterprises can also use them as a means of deterring and prosecuting crimes across enterprises and industries. While these systems are complex, their complexity is driven by their algorithms, not by new expensive technology. As such, it’s possible to establish a license plate recognition program without a substantial investment in new hardware. Public and private sector businesses can both enjoy the benefits of these programs to improve customer service, prevent crime and protect employees and assets.
3Sixty Integrated is exploring options in license plate recognition systems and intends on offering this as an additional service to both public and private entities. Our integrated approach to security makes these programs a natural addition to our portfolio of services designed to automate security and improve safety. For more information, call (877) 374-9894 or fill out our contact form.