License Plate Recognition Technology Aces Security Test on Campuses

Arguably the most effective video analytic technology on the market today, ALPR brings far better security for college campuses, particularly with its “new school” methods.

MAINTAINING safety on a college campus is no insignificant task. In addition to often containing a population of sufficient size and diversity to make it effectively its own city-within-a-city, the campus also represents a substantial investment in the future. To create an environment that fosters high-level learning, academic institutions must use every means at their disposal to keep out individuals who may wish to do harm to students and/or faculty.

Educational institutions typically either partner with police in the municipality where they are located or, if they are sufficiently large and well-funded, establish their own police departments. In the former, local police are usually supplemented by on-campus security personnel. But as with any security force, these people are subject to the limitations of all human beings – they can’t be everywhere at once, they are subject to mistakes and they get tired. They are also guarding against more threats than ever before.

What is increasingly clear is that the security issues educational institutions face today cannot be solved simply by adding more personnel. This is why more and more campuses are turning to advanced surveillance technologies and video analytics to help detect, record and warn law enforcement and security agencies about potential threats outside or within their perimeter. Of all the video analytic technologies currently available, arguably the most effective is automatic license plate recognition (ALPR). Let’s take a closer look at the increasingly attractive benefits and features ALPR technology can bring to ace the security sales test with higher education end users.

No Longer Limited to Mobile
Also known as automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) in Europe and elsewhere, ALPR technology is commonly referred to as “license plate readers” or “license plate scanners.” It instantly “reads” the license plates of all vehicles that pass before cameras connected to it. It then compares those numbers to various databases for active wants or warrants (the databases employed depend on which ones the agency using the technology can access legally).

For years, that was all ALPR did; however, this simple scan-and-check functionality was only scratching the surface of this technology. The cutting edge of ALPR provides enough data analytics – including plate number, state jurisdiction, vehicle make, vehicle color, time, date and location – to solve crimes, prevent terrorist acts and find missing persons with unprecedented speed and efficiency.

Originally, ALPR was available primarily in one configuration: a patrol vehicle-mounted mobile system, consisting of a laptop, some processing hardware and anywhere from one to four cameras specially designed for reading plates using both white and infrared (IR) light. Because of the tremendous cost of the cameras and processors — and the fact that these were closed systems, only capable of functioning with the company’s own hardware — ALPR remained extremely limited in its deployment. This meant its coverage was equally limited; mobile ALPR units could be defeated easily simply by avoiding them.

In recent years, the “old school” thinking on ALPR technology has begun to give way to a “new school,” aided by advances such that ALPR no longer has to be confined to a closed system and specialized cameras. Readers can work with practically any surveillance camera on the market, including low-cost off-the-shelf models. In addition to making the technology available to more organizations, it makes possible the mass deployment of ALPR for only a nominal cost and adds many more options for deployment beyond mounting on patrol vehicles.

As a result, one of the main ALPR trends is the migration from primarily mobile to predominantly fixed-location systems. Such systems provide the comprehensive, effective coverage that mobile systems could not achieve and yield significant savings as well. Furthermore, they are easily scalable, as the technology can be connected to new cameras almost instantly once they are installed.

The most effective ALPR is also open architecture, which enables it to interface with the wide variety of video management systems (VMS) currently driving fixed-location surveillance solutions; adding license plate reading capabilities is usually a simple software installation. Additionally, newer ALPR employs advanced video analytics for more than just scan-and-check. Now, robust systems can detect suspicious vehicle movements, keep parking lot counts, function as access control without the need for ID cards or parking stickers, and much more.

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