What Is An ANPR Camera System?

So for starters, what is ANPR? Short for “automatic number plate recognition,” an ANPR system is exactly what it sounds like – a sophisticated camera that can accurate read license plates not only from a live video feed, but from still images that have been captured as well. For this reason, they are also known as “automatic license plate recognition” systems, or ALPRs.

These systems depend on a type of technology called optical character recognition in order to function. OCR is a subset of both artificial intelligence and computer vision – two concepts that allow computers to “learn” and get better at tasks that formerly required human intervention.

In other words, the hardware part of the equation (the camera) captures an image of a car as it pulls into an environment like a parking lot. Then, the software component (the application that acts as the “brains” of the system) scans the image, identifying any license plate or other numerical data that may be present.

If you’re a business owner who wants to be able to know who is coming into your parking lot and when, an ANPR camera system would absolutely be how you do it. Having said that, there are a number of fascinating applications for this type of technology that are more than worth a closer look. 

Who Commonly Uses ANPR Camera Systems?

Probably the biggest user of ANPR camera systems takes the form of the various law enforcement agencies around the country. As is true with most types of technology in this context, the primary function of such systems is to detect and prevent criminal activity.

If you’re a police officer who is looking for a particular car, finding it is like looking for a needle in a haystack with so many vehicles on the road. But if that car happens to drive by an ANPR camera system and its license plate gets scanned, it can be added to a database complete with location and time information. This makes it easier to find people not just at the local level but also at the regional and national levels as well.

According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, there are more than 13,000 ANPR camera systems in use by law enforcement agencies alone around the country. Not only that, but about 55 million “read” records are submitted to national systems on a daily basis. 

ANPR camera systems are also commonly employed through a lot of private companies, both for the purposes of access control and for overall security. If you run a business and just fired an employee, the chances are high that you don’t want them returning to your location without warning. With an ANPR system, you can get notified as soon as they pull into the parking lot. Simply having such a system in your parking lot can also help deter other types of illegal activity too, like illicit transactions.

Another study indicated that globally, the market for ANPR systems is expected to grow at a rate of 9.2% every year. In fact, the value of the market is anticipated to climb to $4.8 billion by as soon as 2027 – pointing to one trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

Additional Considerations About ANPR Camera Systems

With all of this in mind, it’s important to note that an ANPR camera system is not a “silver bullet” – there are a number of factors that will impact a system’s accuracy and overall ability to function, all of which people need to be aware of.

Maybe the biggest of these factors has to do with the camera itself. If the resolution isn’t of a high enough quality (at least 720p high definition), the system won’t be able to “see” the license plates in question because the necessary visual information just isn’t there. The same is true if the camera lacks IR capabilities – it won’t be able to identify anything in a particularly dark area.

The camera setup also plays a big role in the success of the system. It needs to be in the right position and at the appropriate angle to collect as much information as possible. This also allows operators to zoom in on certain cars, pan around a parking lot and more.

Finally, you have the ANPR engine itself. These systems need to leverage the right algorithms to identify not just numbers, but specifically license plate numbers. Optical character recognition alone isn’t enough to accomplish this – the software that powers the ANPR needs to be built with this specific purpose in mind.

In the end, it’s clear that ANPR camera systems are the way of the future. Not only is the technology itself versatile, but it’s also nothing if not powerful – it can be just as useful in a manufacturing environment as it can outside a retail store, albeit for different reasons. Based on that, it’s easy to see why it’s a type of technology that has become so popular over the last few years in particular.

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