Automatic number plate recognition is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read the licence plates on vehicles. As of 2006, systems can scan number plates at around one per second on cars travelling up to 100 mph (160 km/h). 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 monitoring traffic activity such as red light adherence in an intersection.
ANPR can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the licence 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 day. A powerful flash is included in at least one version of the intersection-monitoring cameras, serving to both illuminate the picture and make the offender aware of his or her mistake. ANPR technology tends to be region specific, owing to plate variation from place to place
The ANPR was invented in 1976 at the Police Scientific Development Branch in the UK. Prototype systems were working by 1979 and contracts were let to produce industrial systems, first at EMI Electronics then at Computer Recognition Systems (CRS) in Wokingham, UK. Early trial systems were deployed on the A1 road and at the Dartford Tunnel. The first arrest due to a detected stolen car was made in 1981.
Massive integration of information technologies into all aspects of modern life caused demand for processing vehicles as conceptual resources in information systems. Because a standalone information system without any data has no sense, there was also a need to transform information about vehicles between the reality and information systems. This can be achieved by a human agent, or by special intelligent equipment which is be able to recognize vehicles by their number plates in a real environment and reflect it into conceptual resources. Because of this, various recognition techniques have been developed and number plate recognition systems are today used in various traffic and security applications, such as parking, access and border control, or tracking of stolen cars.
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