Every Other Booth

Well, at least it seemed like it. We attended the NPA annual convention and as usual, they did a great job and had well over 125 exhibitors. As I walked around the floor, I noticed that practically every other booth had some type of License Plate Recognition (LPR) system on display.

All the PARCS Systems had integrated LPR. This allowed you to use the license number as a credential for monthly parkers, plus use them for parking reservations, and capture the plate and connect it to the ticket issued on entrance. That way, when the person paid at a central location, the system would recognize the plate on exit and allow the exit without stopping. Neat huh.

Then there were the parking guidance systems that used cameras to locate empty spaces and change lights above them from red to green. The cameras also captured the license plates and on some systems would report those plates and if you forgot where you parked your car, you could key in your license plate and the system would tell you the floor and space number where you left it. Now that’s a feature I could use daily.

LPR is used in enforcement both on and off street. A camera equipped vehicle is driven down the street and each license number is checked for payment. If none is found, some systems let the officer know and a ticket can be issued. In other cases, the citation can be mailed to the offending driver.

Data, and using it to understand your parking operation is important, and LPR and video is a key to capturing that data. Cameras can survey large portions of a surface lot or a street and tell the parking operator just how many spaces are available at any point in time. This can be key to dynamic rate setting and communicating to drivers just where parking is available.

The curb has become an important aspect of parking control in most cities. Video and LPR can give PEOs a grasp of just what is going on at the curb and enable them to enforce curb regulations.

Always a skeptic I asked many of the folks in the LPR booths just what their valid read rate was. The answers were substantially different from those received even five years ago. Virtually all claimed valid read rates in the very high 90s. AI, extremely fast processing, high end cameras, and excellent programming have made a considerable difference. Some systems not only read the license plate, but also captured the vehicle make and model. Pretty fancy.

Most systems had a back up in case of a misread. But they were seldom used.

Considering all the options, it seems to me that this is a most reasonable approach to parking control. Technology has moved in. Trailer hitches, bicycle racks, mud, snow, ice, and missing plates make 100 percent reads impossible. However there are work arounds for those issues.

The LPR portion of our industry has made great strides. The marketplace is reflecting those advances.


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