In today’s day and age, we are surrounded by Artificial Intelligence without even being fully aware of it.  It’s coming to a point where it is hard to imagine our world without AI. We see human intelligence getting replaced by artificial intelligence almost every day. The question is, can we use this replacement to our advantage? 

How Does AI Change the License Plate Recognition Game?

Before AI, you had to do things in the old-fashion way. A person or multiple people had the job to monitor various surveillance footage. With so many cameras at every single corner, it’s not even possible for it to be a job for humans anymore. There is only so much humans can see with their eyes and remember with their brains. But that’s not the case with AI. Computers can’t get tired, nor is it likely for them to forget something. 

But how is this helpful when it comes to license plates? Is there something that AI can improve?

If a particular building or apartment complex has a parking space where people who live there can park their cars, there has to be a system to determine which cars are allowed to get in and which cars are not. Usually, you can do this by scanning certain kinds of cards or typing in a code that will let cars get in. 

It could also be possible for a person to monitor the vehicles that go in and out. When you think about it, this does require more work. There needs to be a worker who will scan a card or track which car is allowed to go in. 

What if all of this could be done even faster and didn’t require extra work? 

That’s where AI comes in. AI-powered video surveillance systems would scan the license plate and automatically determine if a particular car has the pass to go through or not. It can save a lot of time for the driver in the long run, and it doesn’t require a person to work at the gate. So it saves money and resources too. 

People living in that building would have their own parking space, so they wouldn’t have to fear not finding one. If a car with a license plate doesn’t belong to that building, an alert could be issued to investigate it further. 

Do Businesses Need AI-Powered LPR In 2021?

Businesses have gone a long way in the last few years (even decades) by implementing technology into their daily routines and digitizing many aspects of their operations. As a result, technology has become a necessity -  it’s not luxury anymore, and it hasn't been for some time now. To continue growing and stay competitive, businesses need to follow the trends, and now it is all about more advanced technology and artificial intelligence. 

Our world is moving very fast. Everything is happening within seconds, and human abilities are limited when compared to machines. But possibilities for AI are limitless. The human eye can’t track things as fast as AI can. Does this mean businesses today need AI-Powered LPR? Has it become the new thing everyone has to use?

When you think about it, every business's goal is to be as successful as it can be. That means it needs all the optimal help it can get. And that help is usually technology. In 2021, one of the most useful things technology can offer is artificial intelligence. There are hundreds of ways businesses can use AI-Powered LPR  today. 

We mentioned earlier how AI could help with parking spots in an apartment complex. Businesses can use the same thing for their parking. AI would scan the license plates of incoming cars, and if they are the employees, the gate will open for them. This also saves time for the employees since they don’t have to look for a parking place. 

How Do Businesses Benefit from ALPR Now?

Most fast-food restaurants (and even some stores) use drive-throughs. The way these drive-throughs work is pretty basic - a person makes an order, pays for their order, and finally, they pick it up. Consequently, to make this work, this kind of operation requires at least two people. For example, a typical drive-through needs a person who takes the order and processes payment and a person who actually hands over the order to the customer. Using AI-powered ALPR drive-throughs could automate this process and divert their resources towards delivering better quality food and services to their customers. 

In 2019, McDonald’s started replacing some of its human workers with AI technologies in the US. McDonald’s planned to hire more engineers to make these AI replacements more common and possible. Some new features included AI giving customers recommendations to customers what they were able to order. This new implementation would replace human workers in the drive-through with voice-based technologies. This technology would be able to understand and process the customer’s order. Based on the weather that day, the AI would give suggestions to the customers regarding their orders. For example, if it’s very hot outside on a certain day, the AI would recommend McDonalds’ ice cream or a cold drink. Even though this seems like a great improvement, many people raised concerns that AI-powered automation can make a lot of jobs obsolete. 

With everything today being on a screen and in the internet, even the shopping malls started to turn to technology to increase their sales. We got used to the same old shopping style: go into a store and look around until we find what we like. Even if we find what we were looking for, we still need to try it on to make sure that it fits us.

But that’s not the only way shopping malls wanted to use AI. Shopping malls have also started using AI-enabled ALPR. For instance, some of the shopping malls in California started sharing the license plates that their cameras scanned with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). This way, it would be easier and faster for ICE to track down certain vehicles. Not only is this data shared with ICE, but it is also shared with other law enforcement. 

On a different note, malls have also started using license plate scanning for parking spaces, just like some buildings have for their parking. It is so much easier for customers to see on their way to the mall if there are free spaces, and if so, how many free slots there are. 

Without a doubt, we can say that the trend is to use AI more and more. It seems AI isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon. It is a new trend and a new standard that is growing every day. 

Can ALPR Help Logistics?

By using ALPR, things can be more organized. For instance, if a building has built-in AI technology for its parking, only the building employees would be able to go in and park. There won’t be any crowded places, as everyone has their spot. Drive-throughs can speed up with delivering their orders, which also means less crowded places and faster deliveries. Generally, AI can help with delivering orders faster and finishing tasks optimally. 

With bigger businesses having so much transport going on all the time, ALPR would definitely make things easier. If a certain company is having trucks going in and out all the time, a lot of time would be lost on checking the truck, the cargo that it holds, the driver, etc. ALPR can scan the license plate, determine if the truck is supposed to come in (or open the gate when the truck is leaving), and point the driver where the truck should go. 

By using ALPR the company is able to: 

  • Give access to vehicles that are allowed to enter
  • Keep track of vehicles that are temporarily allowed to enter
  • Regulation of all the vehicles inside 
  • Get information about any vehicle needed

Tracking Stolen And Uninsured Cars

With so many cameras within cities, the AI-Powered LPR would greatly help the local authorities. Not only would it be possible for them to track down suspects by scanning the license plates, but it would also be helpful to find stolen vehicles. In every on-going investigation, the investigators are relying on witnesses and hundreds of hours of surveillance footage. Imagine if the license plate they are looking for in that hundred-hour-long footage is available within seconds. The time the investigators would save relying on AI would probably help their on-going investigation. 

Unfortunately, so many cars are stolen every day. Sometimes it is very hard to track down every vehicle that has been stolen. With authorities relying on hour-long footage, it can slow down the process or even decrease the chances of finding a stolen vehicle and decrease the chances of even finding the vehicle. By using the help from AI, it could change the game when it comes to finding stolen vehicles. The AI would be able to analyze footage and see if it has scanned a certain license plate. In case that it has, it would be of great help since it would give some crucial information such as the time and place where the vehicle was last seen. 

Can AI-powered ALPR Intrude Our Privacy?

With everything being said, there is one important question that comes with all of this. Will AI-powered ALPR intrude our privacy? Today’s society has intruded on privacy in the first place with the usage of social media and the internet. Would AI only fuel this privacy intruding? 

As we’ve seen, ALPR can help with drive-throughs, malls, it can help law enforcement. But it does gather a lot of sensitive data. Law enforcement uses it to find suspects, but what about people that have nothing to do with crime? It’s not always transparent with who this information is being shared, so is our privacy really respected?

With cameras being all over the place, there is not that much privacy, to begin with. It’s true that this way our information is easily collected, but we have to remember that we also gain a lot of benefits with that. Besides, there are always inevitable rules that have to be followed when it comes to using sensitive information.  

In the end, ALPR is a pretty useful tool. Not only does it help the authorities do their job faster, but it also provides a lot of new benefits that can be very helpful. Like every other tool, you have to use it carefully and properly.  It’s true that it does help the authorities, but it can also help in growing businesses, which directly stimulates the economy's strength. You do, however, have to set the goal of using ALPR clearly and precisely so that you can avoid any malversation.  With time this will become the norm where the usage of ALPR will be planned precisely and properly implemented. 

Michael Yurushkin
CTO & Founder
Expert in Deep Learning, specifically its application in Computer Vision NLP Reinforcement Learning

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Why Do Businesses Need AI-enabled ALPR?