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What are ANPR Cameras?

What are ANPR Cameras?
What are ANPR Cameras?

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are an advanced form of security surveillance technology that can register vehicles against a database or capture the identity of a car that has been recorded breaching a perimeter or committing a driving offence.

As the security sector evolves, the use of AI-enabled CCTV has become more widely adopted. It is no longer reserved for cameras installed by the police on major roads and motorways to provide always-on oversight of speed limits or dangerous driving.

The camera can read and register the number plate on any vehicle, even during heavy traffic, or verify whether the number plate is included on a pre-approved database and is allowed entry.

Uses for ANPR Cameras

ANPR has been used by law enforcement and local police forces for some time. The primary use is to measure speeds travelled and snap an image of any vehicle driving over the speed limit.

The police and DVLA can also check information captured through ANPR cameras to:

  • Check whether the driver holds valid insurance.
  • Verify if vehicles are appropriately taxed.
  • Issue driving penalty notices or summons.
  • Confirm whether drivers are using hard shoulders or bus routes.

ANPR cameras act as a deterrent, causing drivers to double-check whether they are travelling at the speed limit to avoid fines or even prosecution.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) also use ANPR technology to address and identify driving behaviours and other activities, including congestion, driving through red lights and even organised crime.

Police forces may issue an alert on a specific number plate for a wanted criminal, to locate a stolen car, or to capture a particular vehicle that has been involved in an accident or incident – relying on ANPR cameras to keep a continual watch on their behalf.

ANPR for Commercial Use

While ANPR for police forces may now be commonplace, it has multiple applications for other security industries and sectors. It can be an excellent way to improve the efficiency and reliability of security controls, such as access management solutions.

Businesses, organisations, educational facilities and car park managers use ANPR to streamline visitor access, for example issuing ticketless parking, tracking whether there are vehicle spaces available, and allowing customers to pay for parking through an app.

ANPR can record each vehicle as it enters and exits, calculate the duration of the stay to apply the relevant parking fee, and allow an automatic exit once the amount has been paid – without the need for a security guard or staffed payment station.

As a security protocol, ANPR can prevent ticket fraud by matching a number plate to a parking permit or ticket issued, storing timed captures of vehicles, flagging a potential issue such as a dumped car, and preventing thefts.

ANPR Cameras for Site Security

Access control systems are an excellent choice for high-security sites and businesses that need an effective and efficient way to verify that every vehicle entering or leaving the premise is authorised and legitimate – this may include staff, contractors, delivery drivers and consignments, as a few examples.

Site managers can log staff number plates and add or remove approved vehicles at any time through a remote system or control dashboard. If a delivery is scheduled, the courier or haulier can provide the registration of the assigned vehicle to prevent delays.

When a vehicle approaches the entrance point, the ANPR camera scans the number plate, cross-checks it against the database, and automatically lowers bollards or lifts barrier gates to permit entry – and vice versa when the vehicle leaves.

However, if a vehicle is not expected or approved, the system will raise an alert to allow security personnel to intervene and clarify the reason for the visit – rather than permitting anybody to enter a controlled site without inspecting their credentials.

There are multiple benefits, not least reducing the burden on security guards who may not have the capacity to inspect every vehicle and ensuring a smooth traffic flow during busy periods without compromising site safety.

Other ANPR Camera Applications

ANPR cameras are being rolled out in multiple scenarios, and Highways England has installed over 1,000 cameras across more than 500 motorways and major roads. They use the information captured to calculate travelling times and issue warnings about backlogs, congestion, or traffic jams. Prisons and other high-security sites also use ANPR, as explained above, to ensure that every vehicle entering the site has been cleared through a pre-approved list.

Cameras can check for almost any information available in a connected database, whether to record average data or look for specific metrics related to each vehicle, such as:

  • Approved or unapproved vehicles
  • Speeds travelled
  • Tax, ticket or insurance status
  • Stolen vehicles
  • Traffic flow and congestion
  • Box junctions and bus lanes
  • Car parking durations and ticketing
  • Use of toll roads and congestion zones

The major advantage of ANPR cameras is that they can be instructed or programmed to measure or record any relevant data, converting each number plate into encoded text which is then stored in a protected log. ANPR operators can go back in time to review the log, filter results to find individual vehicles, or average the metrics to help with site traffic management or route planning.

Managing Data Recorded Through ANPR Cameras

Like any CCTV surveillance, site visitors should be aware that there are live cameras recording movements, just as we see a speed limit sign on a major road when we are approaching a speed camera. However, there are countless uses for ANPR data as an information collation exercise, security protocol or way to manage limitations on the number of vehicles on-site at any one time.

The information recorded should normally be stored for up to one month as a maximum, although much depends on the nature of the video footage or still images and what they are required for. If a criminal activity or security breach has been recorded via ANPR, private commercial site managers may share this with the police or emergency services to assist with tracking down and apprehending the perpetrator or returning a stolen vehicle to the owner.

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