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Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration plates. They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task.
They are used by various police forces and as a method of electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and cataloging the movements of traffic or individuals.
ANPR can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license plate, with some configurable to store a photograph of the driver. Systems commonly use infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of the day. ANPR technology tends to be region-specific, owing to plate variation from place to place.
The UK has an extensive (ANPR) automatic number plate recognition CCTV network. Effectively, the police and security services track all car movements around the country and are able to track any car in close to real time. Vehicle movements are stored for 2 years in the National ANPR Data Center to be analyaed for intelligence and to be used as evidence.
In the UK, public budget cuts over the past two-to-three years have caused a number of suppliers, that had previously focused on law enforcement, to diversify into parking. Even as the EMEA market as a whole declined in 2011, the parking segment increased by 4.1%.
The car park segment in Europe has evolved into a different business model than simply selling equipment to the end-user. Typically, management companies will approach large retailers and agree to provide ANPR systems with on-going management of parking lots in exchange for a percentage of the fees collected from tickets.
This commission-based model has been well received by retailers who might have been otherwise skeptical of the benefits of ANPR, or who are limited in funds to invest into non-core operations.
The adoption of automobiles across Europe is expected to increase in the future, driving the need for effective traffic management and vehicle surveillance for security. Moreover, ANPR solutions facilitate the easy and swift movement of traffic across and within countries by providing journey times and other traffic details. This reduces overall travel time, facilitating more efficient logistics.
For more information on the European ANPR market, see the latest research: European ANPR Market
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