How ANPR Systems Have Evolved Over the Years

camera for parking

Today's Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems are incredibly sophisticated, with dozens of steps and processes involved in how they work. But it hasn't always been this way. The first ANPR systems were simple and unrefined, failing to register plates in all but the clearest conditions. It wasn't until technology improved and the demands of law enforcement and traffic management increased that ANPR systems became the intricate, multi-step systems we use now.

At Britannia Parking, we have decades of experience working with all kinds of ANPR systems. Join us as we take you on a journey through the evolution of ANPR technology, from simple setups to the advanced security systems found all over the world today.

1970s-1990s: Early ANPR Systems

You might think that ANPR technology came about during the tech boom of the 90s to 2000s, but it actually had its start way back in 1976. It was invented by the UK's Police Scientific Development Branch (now known as the Home Office Scientific Development Branch) and involved the use of basic Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to capture and recognise licence plate characters.

ANPR was initially created to assist law enforcement agencies in identifying and tracking vehicles involved in criminal activities. The earliest trial systems were put into action in the UK on the A1 Road and at the Dartford Tunnel crossing on the M25 motorway, with the first arrest attributed to ANPR taking place in 1981.

Despite being a significant step forward in remote policing, these early systems were limited in accuracy and efficiency. This was due to the quality of cameras, limited processing power, and the difference in licence plate designs.

1990s-2000s: Technology Advancements and Data Centralisation

ANPR systems began to use more advanced technology in the 1990s, which allowed them to handle a wider range of lighting conditions and angles compared to their earlier versions. Not only did this lead to more accurate results, but it also reduced the chances of mistaken identifications.

In 1993, ANPR technology was deployed for the first time as part of a "Ring of Steel" camera network surrounding the City of London. This project broke ground as the largest of its kind at the time.

Four years later saw the establishment of the Police National ANPR Data Centre (NADC), an important extension of the Police National Computer service. Prior to the NADC's creation, data collected from ANPR systems was limited to the jurisdiction of the respective police force operating the cameras. The National ANPR Data Centre changed the game by centralising all Police ANPR data from across the UK. This breakthrough allowed for easier collaboration and analysis across different police forces' boundaries.

2000s-2010s: Parking Management Implementation

Thanks to lower costs and greater advancements in technology, ANPR cameras became commonly used in both public and private car park management. Parking operators used these cameras to automatically monitor vehicles entering and exiting parking areas, track how long they stayed, and spot any vehicles that shouldn't be there or have overstayed their welcome. This made enforcing parking rules easier and more cost-effective than traditional methods like Pay and Display.

2010s-2020s: Advanced Image Processing, Machine Learning, and Remote Payment

In the 2010s, deep learning (specifically convolutional neural networks) became a game-changer for licence plate recognition. When paired with high-resolution cameras, advanced image processing techniques, and infra-red technology, systems could handle a wide range of fonts and backgrounds with higher accuracy. Modern ANPR systems are also often cloud-based, allowing for centralised data storage, easy scalability, and remote access to ANPR data.

Finally, the growing popularity of mobile payment options made it easy for drivers to pay their parking tickets with their smartphones. These payment systems could be linked to ANPR systems, making parking enforcement even more simple.

2020s-Future: Faster, Better, Smarter

ANPR technology continues to evolve to this day, driven by improvements in hardware, software, and machine learning capabilities. As it becomes more accurate and versatile, it's likely to find even broader applications in law enforcement, transportation, and urban planning in the future.

Upgrade Your Car Park With ANPR and Car Park Management by Britannia Parking

At Britannia Parking, we're big believers in the benefits ANPR technology can bring to your car park. With over 25 years of experience and a long list of successful projects, we're well-prepared to create an affordable, fully optimised ANPR solution that will increase your park's earnings, security, and useability. We also offer a wide range of car park management services, including real-time tracking, manned patrols, analytics, and more.

If you're ready to take your car park to the next level, we're here for you. Book a consultation and take the first step today!