Traffic & transportation

June 27, 2022

What Can You Use an ALPR System for?

ALPR is considered a building block of many intelligent transportation systems—from simpler ones to complex “ecosystems.” We show you these application areas through some examples, proving how versatile ALPR can be.

Ever since optical character recognition (OCR) started including the reading and recognition of vehicle license plates, a wide variety of intelligent transportation systems have seen the light of day. Many processes that once were painstakingly done via manual labor can now fully be automated thanks to ALPR technology.  

In this article, we take a closer look at some of these application areas and provide examples of ALPR-based solutions offered by Adaptive Recognition.

Versatility at Its Best

Although the two major added values of a system relying on ALPR technology are automation and security, there is one more thing that is expected from an ALPR-based system: versatility. Thankfully, ALPR can easily surpass that expectation by complying with the following criteria:

Being a Component

One major rule of any intelligent transport system is that ALPR is only a building block, not a separate solution. This guarantees that the final result will be something that incorporates all benefits coming from using license plate recognition and perfectly adapts to the end user’s unique needs. Though an ALPR solution can be the core of a whole system, it usually is an equal component in a complex ecosystem.

Multiple Forms

Since ALPR is merely a part of a bigger picture, developers and end users have plenty of options to choose from when creating their ALPR-based system. In that regard, ALPR software SDKs, such as Adaptive Recognition’s Carmen® ANPR Image, are the most sought because they are akin to assembling furniture from IKEA: you get all the building blocks, and the final result will be license plate recognition. However, the final assembly and the software’s purpose are entirely up to the end user.  

Integrators not wanting to spend too much time with the integration process aren’t left in the dark either. Thanks to its versatility, ALPR software is also available in various shapes and forms without compromising its overall functionalities. The best examples are turnkey solutions like Carmen® ANPR Stream, cloud-based SaaS such as Carmen® ANPR Cloud, and, quite recently, mobile applications in the likes of Carmen® Mobile.

Examples of ALPR-based Systems Around the World

Since ALPR software is so versatile, it’s no wonder that it has been incorporated into many different intelligent transportation systems. To demonstrate what ALPR can give to the world—and, in the process, give ideas to those thinking about similar projects—we provide some exemplary ALPR-based systems in which our company, Adaptive Recognition, participated via ALPR software or smart ALPR cameras.

Tolling via Pay-by-Plate

Long gone are the days of waiting for your turn in seemingly endless lines at tolling plazas. Nowadays, all it takes is an elaborate network of cameras placed at different sections of the highway—usually near the entry and exit points—to capture vehicles’ license plates and check whether the owner has paid their dues. It’s fast, automatic, reliable, convenient, and cost-effective. 

In most of Europe, highway fees are prepaid, indicated by a windscreen sticker. However, highway users don’t need stickers at all in more advanced tolling systems such as at the Crown Prince Mary’s Bridge in Frederikssund, Denmark. They can register on a website, providing their credit/debit card details, and the system only deducts the necessary amount when their vehicles are captured on the highway. 

An advantage of the pay-by-plate technology used by such tolling systems is that they can be adapted to other application areas. For instance, who hasn’t dreamed of stopping at a fuel station, refueling, and then leaving while the payment is automatically made? The fast fueling lanes at certain New Zealand fuel stations made that dream a reality.

How Z Energy Pay-By-Plate Works
The working principle behind Z Energy’s Pay-By-Plate fast fuel lane system in New Zealand.
Image courtesy of Z Energy.

Process Automation and Acceleration

Imagine that you don’t have to leave your car for your groceries; they are delivered to your car. You arrive at the ferry port and can board the ship immediately without waiting a single second.  

How is it possible? Simple: the combination of ALPR technology and a pre-booking system that records license plate data and, optionally, credit/debit card details for immediate payment. There is no need for extensive staff to monitor and register vehicles one by one; the ALPR-based system does that automatically.

Grocery delivery combined with ALPR as demonstrated by the StrongPoint grocery chain in Scandinavia.

Monitoring and Analysis of Traffic

What’s a common denominator in any major city? Traffic jams. Basically, all big cities can put out the “full” sign at this point. This is where intelligent transportation systems using ALPR can help: by monitoring traffic, city officials can determine peak hours and divert traffic to lesser used roads to eliminate or, at least, ease traffic jams. 

In addition to making cities more inhabitable, the acquired data can be used for additional purposes, such as creating statistics or even filtering out vehicles of interest, like in the case of our project in Cairo, Egypt, in cooperation with 6SS.  

ALPR data can also be used for creating car-free zones for pedestrians to finally enjoy their cities.

The Interface by 6SS Using Carmen® ANPR Image for Arabic License Plate Recognition
Created by 6SS, the system in Cairo, Egypt, can effectively recognize countless license plates with ALPR technology.
Image courtesy of 6SS.

Weighing Systems

Weighting a vehicle, especially a huge truck, is never easy. However, there are multiple options to automatically weigh vehicles, whether they are stopped or on the move. When on-the-move weighing is needed, weigh-in-motion sensors are the key. If the vehicle has to stop—at a gate, for instance—weighbridges are used.  

Either way, when ALPR is added to the mix, the complete weighing process can be partially or even fully automated like in the case of this stop-n-go pay-per-weight system at a New Zealand landfill site.

Weighbridges combined with ALPR cameras at the entry/exit points of this New Zealand landfill site can accelerate the dropping off of waste, creating a more pleasant customer experience.

Advanced Parking and Access Control

As ticketless solutions become more common—especially in a post-COVID world—it’s not surprising that the application areas thriving the most from ALPR technology are parking and access control systems. By acquiring license plate data with appropriate tech, entering it into a designated system, and comparing the new data according to the system’s main purpose, complete procedures can be fully automated and made virtually touchless.  

No more hiding from unpaid parking fees; all it takes is a surveillance car with a MicroCAM ALPR camera—or, alternatively, a mobile phone with the Carmen® Mobile Android app, which can be used inside a car, on a bike/scooter, or on foot—circling around the parking area to check if fees have been duly paid. In the case of fixed access control systems, vehicles can be easily filtered out based on various criteria, such as whether they can enter special commercial areas or exhibitions. In fact, ALPR-based access control systems can go as far as being combined with under-vehicle scanning units to halt cars with bombs attached from entering governmental premises.

UviScan Under Vehicle Detection With FreewayCAM in Brussels, Belgium
An ALPR camera and a UVScan under-vehicle scanning unit ensure the outstanding security of EU buildings in Brussels, Belgium

Theft Prevention

Although ALPR-based traffic monitoring, tolling, and access control systems can indeed be a blessing, some question the overall safety of such systems. After all, how can theft be thwarted if there is nobody standing guard at parking lots or fuel stations? 

Thankfully, ALPR can take care of that as well. All you need is the combination of good license plate recognition technology and a database that sends an alert when something is off, i.e., an unknown driver trying to steal the vehicle from the garage. Our partner in New Zealand, Focus Digital Security Solutions, created an effective system that virtually eliminated the phenomenon known as drive-off fuel theft by creating an alert system based on the database of a well-known retail crime intelligence platform.

The Schematics of the System That Prevents Drive-Offs
Drive-off prevention combining the Auror retail crime intelligence platform and ALPR technology.
Image courtesy of Auror.

Law Enforcement

Road security is a top priority in every country. Accidents caused by those committing a road offense—including but not limited to speeding, bus lane use, forbidden turns, and expired insurance—have to be stopped before they happen. However, police officers are unlikely to jot down an offender’s license plate while chasing them. It’s best to have a solution that is fast enough to capture license plates and, if needed, can be hidden to perform covert operations, such as speed measurement. 

The versatility of ALPR technology allows law enforcers to quickly move around the country and perform license plate recognition and speed measurement with highly accurate mobile ALPR units. In fact, ALPR can be the base of super-complex systems comprising fixed and mobile cameras combined with license plate recognition, such as Adaptive Recognition’s crowning jewel, the VÉDA traffic monitoring and speed enforcement system of Hungary.

Nation-wide traffic enforcement in Hungary
The Hungarian VÉDA system consists of a network of ALPR cameras monitoring traffic and vehicle speed.

Endless Possibilities

The application areas and projects listed above give only a small taste of what an ALPR-based intelligent traffic monitoring system can do. However, since ALPR is such a versatile tool, it’s safe to say that no ALPR-based system is the same, even if core components have similar features. And that’s the beauty in it: no matter what your system is, ALPR can be shaped in such a way that it seamlessly integrates into it. 

If you are interested in other application areas we haven’t mentioned in this article, you can visit our dedicated page or contact our experts directly. For further use cases of our ALPR products, check our case study page.