Beyond ALPR: New technology can detect and analyze vehicle characteristics day or night and in challenging weather

The powerful search capabilities of a vehicle-centric investigation system can provide critical insight to solve investigations


By Larry Legere

With advancements in technology, law enforcement agencies can now have the best of both worlds – gathering clear vehicle evidence as well as easy-to-deploy, solar-powered automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) technology.

Law enforcement agencies know the value of using ALPR systems on strategic roadways or crime hotspots to track suspect vehicles and compare plate information to various hotlists. While license plate identification is a critical tool, it’s not always enough. Eyewitnesses often can’t remember full license plate information, but they can remember vehicle characteristics, such as “a red pickup truck” or a “four-door sedan.” These observations, combined with the powerful search capabilities of a vehicle-centric investigation system (VCIS), can provide critical insight to solve investigations.

New solar-powered ALPR cameras connected to a VCIS can even capture high-quality images day or night and in challenging weather conditions, making it easier and faster to solve crimes.
New solar-powered ALPR cameras connected to a VCIS can even capture high-quality images day or night and in challenging weather conditions, making it easier and faster to solve crimes. (Photo/Genetec)

Furthermore, new solar-powered ALPR cameras connected to a VCIS can even capture high-quality images day or night and in challenging weather conditions, making it easier and faster to solve crimes.

Faster vehicle identification through VCIS

Law enforcement agencies can now go beyond license plate identification to capture and analyze vehicle characteristics to aid in investigations. Using a VCIS, the vehicle characteristics such as the color, make, model or speed of a vehicle captured by the ALPR camera can be searched and analyzed to identify vehicles using a variety of attributes, not just the license plate number. The querying capabilities and customizable reports of a VCIS allow investigators to see relevant vehicle images quicker and more accurately for faster response times and investigations.   

For example, investigators can run a query for a “red truck going faster than the average speed with a license plate that begins with 900.” A VCIS with an intuitive design allows for easy filtering and searches which help investigators narrow down their suspect pool based on the vehicle characteristics they specify. Applying these filters reveals only the vehicles relevant to their investigation, saving time and resources. If needed, these can be further narrowed down based on additional identifying information.

When the suspected vehicle is identified, high-quality images allow the investigator to validate the license plate number that was read and search for other instances where the vehicle was in the area. This can be enhanced with hotlist notifications and live monitoring capabilities that can even help officers locate suspects on the move.

Solar-powered ALPR cameras provide ease of deployment

Previously, law enforcement agencies had to choose between highly accurate images of wired ALPR cameras and the ease of deployment found in solar-powered ALPR cameras. The added requirements associated with wired ALPR cameras increased installation costs and made it challenging to relocate them.

Due to advancements in solar-powered ALPR cameras, they are now a viable solution for gathering accurate data and offer an easy-to-deploy option for areas where additional wiring is costly or isn’t feasible. Modern, solar-powered ALPR cameras can provide high-quality images day or night and in inclement weather such as rain, snow, or fog.

Since no additional wiring is needed, these solar-powered ALPR cameras can be deployed, set up, and maintained without the need for specialized expertise. A service technician can set up a pole, mount a camera to the pole, and call in for remote configuration. If the crime hotspot changes, the solar-powered ALPR camera can be moved to the new location and deployed without a lengthy installation process.

Connected to the cloud

To aid in investigations involving multiple ALPR cameras, data collected by these cameras can be stored in the cloud and immediately available for querying from any location connected to the VCIS. Vehicle images are uploaded from the camera to the cloud via wireless connections over cellular networks. To avoid saving poor-quality photos, advanced ALPR cameras with built-in deep neural networks can determine when an image contains a vehicle and only store relevant images. This image validation process avoids artificially expanding cloud storage and slowing down the analysis process.

Furthermore, if the ALPR cameras are connected to the cloud, updates and troubleshooting can also be handled remotely. With cloud-based systems, software updates are made at the server level, eliminating time-consuming camera updates on an individual basis. Cameras can also be calibrated and optimized remotely for the best possible image capture.

Better evidence to solve crimes faster

Advancements in security technology are making crimes involving vehicles easier to solve. Using solar-powered ALPR cameras and a VCIS, law enforcement agencies can now go beyond license plate identification to capture and analyze vehicle characteristics to aid in investigations whether these crimes happen during the day or night, or in challenging weather conditions.

The combination gives law enforcement agencies an important tool to solve challenging cases faster and keep their communities safer.

Tips for getting the most from VCIS technology

When evaluating VCIS setups, check for these capabilities:

  • Cloud-based image analysis and storage at the server level with fast access to comprehensive dashboards.
  • The ability to visualize and analyze images from virtually any location using a standard web client with wireless access to the internet.
  • Functionality within the camera to detect valid vehicle images before sending them to the server for efficient storage utilization.
  • A customizable interface to search, sort, and filter data based on an organization’s needs for different types of vehicle information.
  • Cameras that are easy to place, relocate, and maintained remotely with no on-site technical expertise.
  • Compatibility with third-party ALPR systems to share data from existing ALPR cameras.
  • Privacy and cybersecurity features that follow best practices for cloud deployment.

About the author

Larry Legere is the commercial director for AutoVu at Genetec. He joined the company in 2009 and has over 30 years of experience working in security and access control. Larry oversees the regional sales management, sales engineering, and channel sales support teams for AutoVu, ensuring these departments work effectively and provide customers with an exceptional experience.

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