Unwanted Travel Companions
According to the AAA some 37 million of us will be hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend. That is a 6.7% increase from a year ago. It's great that we can get out and travel. It's fun to be together as a family, and head to our favorite get away places. We enjoy our recreation and the opportunity to escape from the daily routine.
But are we really escaping?
Maybe, but it's very likely we are being watched.
License plate spotting, also known as license plate recognition (LPR) or automatic license plate recognition (ALPR), is a technology that uses optical character recognition (OCR) to identify and read license plates on vehicles. It involves capturing images of license plates using cameras and then processing those images to extract the alphanumeric characters present on the plate.
License plate spotting systems are typically used for various purposes, including law enforcement, parking enforcement, toll collection, and traffic management. The technology has advanced significantly in recent years, with improved accuracy and speed in reading license plates.
Generally, here's how it works. High-resolution cameras are positioned strategically to capture images of vehicles and their license plates. These cameras can be fixed at specific locations, such as intersections or toll booths, or mounted on vehicles for mobile applications.
The captured images are processed using specialized software and algorithms designed to locate and isolate license plates within the image. This process involves various techniques such as edge detection, image enhancement, and noise reduction to improve the quality of the license plate image.
Once the license plate is isolated, the software performs OCR to extract the alphanumeric characters from the plate. The OCR algorithms analyze the image, segmenting the characters and recognizing them based on predefined character templates or machine learning models.
The recognized characters are then compared against a database of known license plates or specific patterns of interest. This could be a database of stolen vehicles, vehicles with outstanding violations, or a list of authorized vehicles, depending on the application.
If a match is found or specific criteria are met (e.g., a stolen vehicle), the system can trigger an alert, notify law enforcement or relevant authorities, or perform an action such as raising a barrier at a toll booth or capturing the vehicle's information for further processing.
License plate spotting systems can be highly effective in automating processes that involve identifying and tracking vehicles.
However, it's important to note that privacy concerns can arise when deploying such systems, as they involve capturing and processing personal vehicle information.
I, for one, have not been a fan of us as a society inviting invasive devices in to our lives. If I can look at an app to see if I have milk in my refrigerator, can't someone else? I'm not of fan of Alexa always listening in our household. (Don't kid yourself, it is listening)
But when government at any level seeks to gather information on citizens as to their travel, or other activity that should be private, we need to be vigilant to make sure our rights are not being violated. Therefore, the implementation of license plate spotting technology should adhere to relevant legal and ethical guidelines to protect those rights.