- Colorado Killer's Reprieve Sharply Criticized
- Czech Police Seek US Man Suspected of 4 Murders
- Washington Deputy Injured in Off-Duty Motorcycle Crash Dies
- Woman’s Life Saved using Vigilant Solutions’ License Plate Recognition (LPR) Data
- Morphix Technologies Chameleon Cassette for Ammonia
- PROTECH Tactical Debuts New NIJ-06 Stand-Alone Type IV Armor Piercing Threat Plate
- Remington Introduces the Model 1100TM 50th Anniversary Knife
Today’s license plate readers (LPR) are far more efficient and effective than the readers from just a few years ago. LPR, which is capable of gathering and checking plate numbers hundreds of times faster than an officer could, is one of the most powerful force multipliers ever offered to law enforcement. Properly used, LPR has the potential to be one of law enforcement’s most important and beneficial tools. Because this is a Buyers’ Guide issue, this article focuses on the major vendors and their latest features. These aren’t just recycled press releases. I know these companies and their products, and you’ll benefit from that insight. Note: You can find past articles about LPR on our Web site. Type LPR into the search bar at LawOfficer.com.
Autovu is part of the much larger Genetec, which is well known for producing outstanding video surveillance systems. The company incorporates LPR in its Omnicast video management software, creating a powerful, integrated system. The Autovu Sharp LPR camera provides a number of user options. The units can be configured with strong magnetic mounts that permit the LPR cameras to be positioned for use in different environments (e.g., parking lot vs. oncoming traffic). I’ve had the opportunity to use the Sharp and found that, after a little practice, the unit can be moved from one car to another in just a few minutes. Many departments embrace this approach because they can keep the units in use longer. The built-in processor makes the Sharp more portable.
Available with a variety of focal lengths, the Sharp can be used as a mobile or fixed unit. The unit’s infrared (IR) emitters are sufficient to illuminate a plate at more than 80 feet. The camera has dual streaming capability, meaning the data capture can be simultaneously sent to two IP addresses. By the time you read this, it will have a built-in GPS option.
I’ve had the chance to meet several Autovu employees, including Business Development Director for AutoVu, Pierre Hubert. I was impressed by their willingness to listen to the practitioner and commitment to continuous improvement. During a discussion on the Autovu Sharp, Hubert picked up his phone, called the factory and asked engineers if a particular capability/feature could be provided. He then authorized the effort— impressive. One of the more recent developments is SkyCop, a car that combines the best of LPR, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and a patrol video camera. The package was put together by Autovu integrator, ESI. I spent several hours in this car, and it approaches LPR mounting in a non-traditional way: The camera sits on a ruggedized pan-and-tilt mechanism that allows for maximum use, whether cruising slowly through a parking lot or driving at high speed on the roadway.
For more information, visit www.genetec.com.
The top offering from Citysync’s fixed product line is the JetCam Fox HD, a high-definition IR camera capable of delivering a wide field of view capture at a claimed distance of 130 feet. The Fox HD is particularly effective when there’s a strong “look-down” angle that would normally degrade accuracy by causing a greater angle of capture. Citysync claims the increased HD resolution mitigates this distortion factor.
The company offers two other fixed units: The JetCam Club is suitable for situations in which a narrower capture field is acceptable and supports capture distances up to 60 feet. The JetCam Fox adds a contextual image-capture feature and, using a variety of focal length options, supports a capture distance of up to 164 feet.
Citysync is a relatively new name in the U.S. but has had a product in the U.K. for quite a while. The company has taken a dual approach to LPR technology, producing units that use IR lighting and a mobile system that relies on a standard video camera and can be used with in-car video systems. The company is currently developing relationships with some in-car video manufacturers to explore the possibilities. It remains to be seen just how viable this approach will be, but it certainly warrants watching.
For more information, visit www.citysyncamericas.com.
If you’re talking to an LPR agency east of the Mississippi, there’s a good chance they’re using ELSAG units. And if you’re in New York, you also won’t have to go far to find an ELSAG LPR because there are more than 600 cars using the company’s popular Plate Hunter model. Used by agencies of all sizes,
ELSAG recently announced a new lower profile camera that will minimize lightbar obstruction and integrate more easily to covert applications.
In case you missed our March cover story, “Stolen Car King,” I had the chance to ride with Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Dave Callister as he worked a patrol car equipped with an ELSAG LPR. The cameras are ultra reliable and have aided in the capture of hundreds of bad guys—including one that rammed Callister’s car while I was with him.
ELSAG’s Operations Center is the support software that allows an agency to collect, manage and analyze all of its LPR capture data. Operations Center can also be used to perform intelligence analysis and even monitor the “health” of the LPR units reporting to the system.
One of the company’s newest offerings is the DRT-1000, an LPR system incorporated into a speed radar trailer that provides a covert LPR function while serving as a deterrent to speeding drivers. The unit is even available with an emergency power source option, providing the use of 4,000 watts of stored solar power during emergencies.
For more information, visit www.elsagna.com.
For the past few years, NDI has combined LPR hardware from another manufacturer with its own proprietary analytic and support software. A few months ago, NDI acquired the assets of Appian, a company with a long LPR history and a widely established user base in Europe and the Middle East. I talked at length with NDI President Alan Quinn, who told me the Appian acquisition will result in a superior product and improved customer support. “We’ll have an end-to-end solution that will be truly best of breed,” he says.
Quinn explained that the Appian camera’s variable lens permits it to be configured for different uses. And the supporting software is a neural network, meaning it’s capable of “learning” what works and improving over time.
“We believe within a year we’ll be able to combine our existing strengths with an incredible camera and software engine,” Quinn said.
In the current offerings from NDI, Live-Check is one of the most powerful features, permitting a single click capability for accessing live data. (Most LPR systems check against a static database, and, after a “hit” is obtained, the user initiates a traditional query through other systems.)
NDI stresses integration with existing CAD systems by using its VeriPlate system, allowing a more seamless interaction. The company’s VISCE back office server provides a strong communications platform and intelligence database. It also supports GPS mapping capabilities.
NDI is in a state of transition. Having firmly established itself as an LPR player in the Southeastern U.S., the recent purchase of Appian will permit it to offer LPR capabilities at an all new level. Keep an eye on NDI.
For more information, visit www.nditech.net.
When it comes to LPR on the borders of our country, Perceptics is the sole provider to U.S. and Canadian border agencies. With hundreds of deployments along incoming and outgoing lanes of the U.S. border, Perceptics has demonstrated its ability to meet tough government requirements. It claims a 95% accuracy rate on both the alphanumeric read and the identification of the state or country of origin of a plate.
Although Perceptics doesn’t currently offer mobile LPR units, its fixed deployments could be termed “industrial strength.” The units along the border capture multiple images of every vehicle, using a sensor to trigger the unit even if a paper or non-reflective plate is displayed. Some installations include additional cameras that gather such information as a photo of the driver and multiple angles of the car.
I met John Dalton, president of Perceptics, and found him to be forward thinking and extremely supportive of public safety practitioners. He is proud of the role Perceptics plays in protecting our country’s borders and looks forward to expanding his company’s equipment to other fixed installations. Although not promising any specifics, Dalton made it clear that he’s interested in the potential for a mobile product. We’ll have to wait and see what develops on that front.
For more information, visit www.perceptics.com.
If you’re talking to an agency using LPR west of the Mississippi, there’s a good chance they’re using PIPS. The company, now part of Federal Signal, has products in wide use in both patrol cars and at fixed installations. Its mobile cameras have proved ready to handle tough challenges. I recently examined a unit that had been salvaged after the patrol car on which it was mounted flipped over. The camera, which was caked in dirt, was still operational. Now that’s tough.
PIPS recently announced its next-generation mobile camera: the Slate. The low profile (1.65") should minimize liability concerns regarding the obstruction of emergency lighting equipment. The company also announced BOSS 3.0 (Back Office System Software), which manages users and data from fixed and mobile applications.
If you’ve taken a look at the new patrol car proposed by Carbon Motors (see “Proof of Concept,” December 2008 LOM ), you may have seen LPR units made by PIPS. It has integrated PIPS readers into its low-profile design in a way that would make any race car driver proud.
PIPS has two fixed LPR cameras available, the 372 and the 382, which has a longer reach and covers a wider field of view, particularly effective when full lane coverage is a must.
I’ve spent a few hours in the factory and a good deal of time with the company’s employees. When it comes to LPR, the company understands the needs of our profession and is producing quality products that enhance officer capabilities.
For more information, visit www.pipstechnology.com.
Since its debut in North America early this decade, PlateScan has relied on a system that was developed in the U.K. in the mid-1990s. As time passed, PlateScan reengineered its system to take advantage of technology advances, and it has expanded its presence in the federal market. Some of this is in conjunction with In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. Multiple federal agencies are using the systems, primarily in operations that take advantage of PlateScan’s covert and transportable capabilities.
PlateScan has begun to install systems in conjunction with Redflex Traffic Systems, a provider of photo enforcement systems. PlateScan’s systems “piggyback” on the Redflex sites, allowing information to be easily shared across jurisdictions.
PlateScan’s data management system, PS Connect, is used by individual agencies and to support multiple jurisdictions. The latter enables a more robust data analysis. PS Connect also accepts and integrates the plate reads of other manufacturers into its back office system, offering the potential for networked use and improved analysis.
For more information, visit www.platescan.com.
I became familiar with Vigilant Video approximately a year ago. The company is coming on strong in the law enforcement market, but it also has a huge customer base among asset recovery companies that focus on vehicles. Using “scout” cars,
Vigilant Video has a database of nearly 50 million LPR scans from all major areas of the country. When an agency signs on to Vigilant Video online, it has access to this powerful
database, but law enforcement data is kept segmented from data provided by private contractors. The company specializes in applications based on digital signal processor applications and the development of video algorithm libraries and data mining technologies. Much of its LPR capability is designed to effectively “extract” LPR data from existing video feeds. This can provide a viable approach in environments in which existing closed circuit television already provides quality video images. It’s also an area primed for significant law enforcement growth.
In terms of IR technology, Vigilant Video’s C Series LPR camera supports both fixed and mobile applications and is relatively compact—7" wide and 3.8" tall without a mount. The camera can effectively capture a plate at up to 100 mph and 60 feet away, depending on specified configuration.
CarDetector is the video analysis engine. When the system detects a plate, an adaptive optical character recognition engine extracts an image of the plate, enhances it and then analyzes each identified character. Using artificial intelligence, CarDetector scans and captures plate information, then automatically compares that data. The software provides a common interface that enables event viewing from all linked cameras. A CarDetector server can interface with Vigilant’s Law Enforcement Archival Reporting Network (LEARN), providing the ability to establish a large scale system.
This is a company to watch, because it’s working and thinking way outside the traditional LPR box.
For more information, visit www.vigilantvideo.com
Contact Editor-in-chief Dale Stockton at email@example.com.
Implement Your Own LPR Program
Tune into our free LPR webcast, Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 2 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Pacific. Capt. Scot Haug will discuss LPR technology and provide valuable information regarding the purchase and implementation of LPR systems.