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What Is ANPR and Why Is It Used?

ANPR systems are now a familiar sight on roads and car parks throughout the UK, but how many people actually know what ANPR stands for and indeed what it is used for. ANPR stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition, and it is a technology that is designed to read the number plates of vehicles and provides location data to interested parties. The appropriate information is recorded using scanners or cameras, and the results can be used as a reference for both traffic and law enforcement. So, for the uninitiated, we thought we would look deeper into ANPR systems and provide you with some information about how it operates and some of the people and organisations for which ANPR have become an essential part of their operation.  

How ANPR Works

ANPR technology operates by converting an image of a number plate into a machine-encoded text, which is known as optical character recognition. This technology is then able to be used on CCTV in city centres, traffic enforcement cameras and cameras designed specifically for ANPR purposes. Infra-red illumination is often used to make sure the cameras capture a clearer, more recognisable image. 

How is ANPR Used and Who Makes Use of it

You can usually divide the people who use ANPR into two distinct groups. The first of these are law enforcement agencies such as the police and the other group includes private companies, local authorities and the Department of Transport. 

How are ANPR Cameras used in Law Enforcement?

The police use ANPR cameras as a way of deterring, detecting and disrupting criminal activity. This includes anything from identifying uninsured and untaxed vehicles, finding stolen vehicles as well as helping break up large drug-dealing rings and solving other major crimes including murder. The value of ANPR cameras in law enforcement cannot be overestimated, it is estimated there are around 11,000 ANPR cameras throughout the UK that create 50 million ANPR records every day. 

How ANPR is used for Traffic Monitoring

There are approximately 1,100 cameras across around 500 sites currently being used by highways England for the purpose of calculating journey times. ANPR cameras are now an integral part of the new smart motorways, where they are used to help control the flow of traffic through the various speed limits. When a vehicle travelling through that part of the motorway the camera reads its number plate and converts it into a non-unique reference number known as a tag. That number plate will generate the same tag every time it goes through one of the Highways England ANPR cameras. This allows them to calculate journey times by cross-referencing the tags. 

How do ANPR Cameras Help with Car Park Management

Many car parks both privately owned and local authority operated now use ANPR technology. This is because it makes the payment process, visibility of spaces and using the car park easier. This improves the parking experience for drivers and makes operating the car park easier and more cost-effective for the company concerned. Number plates are read on entry and exit, and accurate recordings are used to determine how long drivers have been in the car park. ANPR cameras also allow cars to leave and re-enter the park within the allotted payment period. ANPR cameras also remove the need for mobile parking patrols and reduce the number of staff required on site. 

There are other uses of ANPR cameras however, the ones we have outlined above are the core uses of ANPR and hopefully, the information we have provided above has given you a greater insight into why and how they are used.