ALPR cameras are playing a pivotal role in transport management and ‘big data’ collection systems. Continual development of this technology provides further opportunities for efficient and effective uses for ALPR as a sensor input to smart highway infrastructures.
The emergence of a new breed of ‘Intelligent ALPR cameras’ such as the MAV IQ range has opened opportunities that previous generations of ALPR precluded. Through such technological advancements, successful partnerships between ALPR camera manufacturers and data back-office system providers have been forged to offer solutions of superior performance. The advancements in intelligent ALPR cameras have addressed the restrictions that were previously faced and allowed ALPR to be used where previously it would have been impractical.
Intelligence at the Edge
Many systems are using IP streaming to support their data processing needs and questions have been raised as to the benefits of choosing Intelligent ALPR cameras as a replacement. Intelligent ALPR cameras, such as MAV’s IQ range, provide the opportunity to process ultra-high quality images without any triggers by constantly monitoring vehicle movements to provide higher levels of accuracy and only sending required data rather than constant streams. Edge based technology, as found in the MAV IQ, ensures the processing power is instant and allows for the distribution of computing power to where the system requires it. Creating an intelligent ALPR camera with this level of quality ensures the highest levels of efficiency and performance. These benefits can be enhanced for even smarter systems, meeting the needs of Smart Cities, with the addition of pollution profiling, traffic occupancy modelling, and real time journey time analysis to name but a few.
Flexibility is essential and as such the new generation of ALPR cameras has been developed to support dynamic systems by providing remote control over networks. The MAV IQ range includes zoom lenses, image targeting, iris control, directional traffic reporting, pan and tilt control through an optional expansion module and much more. All these features can be accessed and controlled remotely via an online portal, allowing for carefully controlled configuration for each camera location. All these remote facilities avoid the need and costs associated with lane closures or traffic disruption caused if site visits are required.
Communication is Key
Many ALPR cameras only offer limited metadata outputs, even the commonly specified UTMC is a ‘lowest common denominator’. It is also usual for cameras to only have one usable channel for data extraction. This limits the analysis options and efficiency of data management by placing restrictions on system operators access to the underlying intelligence that has been collected. Advancements in technology found in Intelligent ALPR cameras like the MAV IQ range have overcome these limitations with the inclusion of JSON outputs which increases the analytic capabilities of the system and supports developer adaption and data management. Furthermore, the IQ supports a number of parallel data extraction channels which allows for efficient and simultaneous export of differing data to meet each objectives and requirements of multiple systems. Such advantages allow for metadata retrieval without plate image to meet immediate data processing needs whilst images are stored for later export. This, along with many further bespoke instructions, are the reason the IQ Intelligent ALPR cameras is chosen for use in next generation systems.
Storage capacity and export selection
System partners who choose Intelligent ALPR cameras such as the MAV IQ are benefiting from storage capacity of more than 1,000,000 plate reads and can also access a selection panel via their camera’s portal to choose the parameters that will be exported and what specific date range it is retrieved over. Allowing such control and providing this level of storage ensures reliability, accuracy and timely integration of full ITS management requirements.
Powerful but not power hungry
The latest generation of Intelligent cameras has been designed to improve all aspects of performance including the level of power consumption required. The MAV IQ range requires a nominal 14W to run all features and perform to the highest standards. Many previous generations of intelligent cameras consumed up to four times as much power with lower performance. As a consequence, older technology was more prone to overheating and cannot show levels of reliability seen with the MAV IQ. This means cost of ownership is reduced and also allows for deployment with a battery pack for extensive periods of time ‘off-grid’. Power consumption is an important aspect that is often overlooked but has an impact on cabling, installation costs and the environment, as well as system operator budgets, especially over a longer period of time.
One size does not fit all
You may find that many businesses claim their ALPR cameras can be all things to all people but those with true knowledge of ALPR know that this is not the case. Each project, site and system has specific requirements that are never the same. Choosing ALPR cameras which do not offer multi-level control and remote management restricts the performance and longevity of any system. Providing such levels of control and offering tailored options are why Intelligent ALPR cameras, such as the IQ, are increasingly being chosen. Supporting system partners with multi-lane/single lane options, expansion boards for peripheral devices such as radar, pan and tilt and barrier control, image masking for concentrated capture and a fully configurable Intelligent camera portal is why the IQ is setting new benchmarks for performance. The ability to define your own parameters and configure set up in line with each location requirements is of paramount importance to the accuracy, efficiency and overall effectiveness of data management systems. Accurate In, Accurate Out is the new paradigm.
The evolution of ALPR cameras ensures that the technology is always moving forward to offer partners more options and opportunities. The current generation of Intelligent ALPR cameras is quickly becoming an imperative inclusion or upgrade of older systems that increasingly restrict the use of meaningful ALPR data across multiple platforms. This, however, is just a snapshot in the ongoing development of such cameras. There are more challenges to overcome which will provide system partners with even greater control and functionality. This is why market leaders in ALPR, like MAV Systems, are constantly investing in research and development that explore new techniques and widen the market for Intelligent ALPR cameras.
What are we missing?
The biggest opportunity in the market today is for system integrators to make better use of Intelligent ALPR cameras to achieve their full potential rather than working with what they have. Beyond the obvious applications, intelligent cameras, such as the IQ, provide a wealth of prospects which are largely untapped. Further applications include:
• Speed detection through combined radar interface
• Modelling of junctions for deeper congestion analysis
• Vehicle make identification and model classification
• Enforcement of traffic regulations
• Combined solutions with People Counting sensors
• Vehicle weight/dimension analysis through secondary sensor interfaces
• Vehicle impact studies on the local environment
Beyond these and many further applications, MAV’s roadmap will soon launch an IQ that acts as a computing platform for third party applications to be loaded onto the camera that meet the precise needs of any given project or site.
The renowned 20th century inventor, Charles F Kettering once said “Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future”. This is true in most aspects of life and especially in the use of Intelligent ALPR technology. Through collaboration of open-minded professionals, there are no limits to what can be achieved, we can increase the IQ of Smart cities and smart systems.
As feature in SMART HIGHWAYS MAGAZINE
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