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Mobile Solutions from ELSAG

Written by Stephenie Slahor

It has been estimated that as much as 70 percent of criminal activity in the U.S. involves a vehicle. In addition, an estimated 40 million license privileges have been revoked, suspended or denied. So it follows that the need for automatic license plate recognition is critical to law enforcement for highway and traffic safety, security, recovery of stolen vehicles and license plates, AMBER Alerts, school traffic and bus safety, hot list monitoring, and access control. 

ELSAGNorth America (now part of Selex ES through the merger with two other U.S.-based Finmeccanica companies: Selex System Integration, Inc. and Selex Communications, Inc.) is dedicated to providing law enforcement agencies with the industry’s leading license-plate recognition systems and technology. 

The advancements made by ELSAG in electronic and information technologies not only for law enforcement, but also military, air traffic control, communications, and energy efficient buildings, give strength to Selex ES’ product development and commercialization and make possible solutions that address changing high technology needs.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology for Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies is offered under the brand name of “ELSAG North America” until the fourth quarter of 2014 when the name will officially change to Selex ES.

Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology is image-processing technology to identify vehicles by their license plates. Optical character recognition uses algorithms that “read” a license plate by transforming the image pixels of the digital image into the text of the license plate. This can take place under varying lighting conditions including darkness (using infrared lighting). The license plate is identified by the sequence of its number and letters. 

The State from which the plate originates is determined based on the configuration and sequence of the numbers and letters. (ELSAG works with States to understand how plates are issued, and then the company keeps up to date on the sequences.) End users have the option of turning on or off the State recognition capability. Geographical protocols for the highest concentration of plates within an area are developed. 

For example, in New York City, the State identification is for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. ELSAG’s “read” rate is 15 per second at vehicle speeds up to 150 mph. The character images of the plate are translated into letters and numbers, and time-date stamped with GPS coordinates in real time. This data can then be automatically compared to a variety of law enforcement databases. 

Any match between a license plate that is read by the ALPR system and one in the law enforcement database will trigger an alert to the officer or the remote command center.  The applications for such readers include identifying vehicles connected to a crime or infraction, access control, traffic management, parking management, and tollbooth operations. ALPR cameras can be mounted to police vehicles, or on such stationary structures as a bridge, pole, overpass, gate or other fixture.  

 

ELSAG Mobile Plate Hunter-900

The Mobile Plate Hunter-900® (MPH-900®) is designed for investigation of stolen vehicles or plates, wants/warrants, watch lists, suspended plates, and such after-action analysis as pattern analytics or other intelligence. Cameras, a processing unit and proprietary software capture images of the plates and compare them with records to identify any vehicles of interest. 

The system can read plates from all 50 States, Canada, Mexico and most foreign countries. The MPH-900 system can be combined with the Fixed Plate Hunter-900® (FPH-900®) to create a “network” of ALPR systems that can be flexible or easily adaptable for temporary situations such as sporting events. 

The MPH-900 is attached magnetically to the patrol car so the camera can read plates from fast-moving vehicles, capturing their locations and times. An infrared camera captures the image of the license plate and a computer then reads the plate characters and compares them with a crime database. Officers are alerted if there is a match.

The Mobile Plate Hunter-900 can be mounted to a patrol car and connected to an onboard computer running ELSAG’s latest user interface, CarSystem 6™. When a plate that is “read” matches a plate listed on a hot list, an audible and visual alarm will alert the officer in real time, giving the officer views of the plates being read and information about the reason for the alert. 

The CarSystem 6 can be installed on the Fixed Plate Hunter 900 and be reviewed remotely. CarSystem 6™ makes possible a more intuitive user interface, flexibility in hot lists, expanded mapping, officer’s notes/real-time information, enhanced reporting, image zoom, and easier referencing.  

Digital images from the Mobile Plate Hunter-900 capture nearly twice the physical area of an analog camera, thus revealing not only the license plate, but a significant portion of the car and the car’s surroundings—views that can enhance an investigation. The unit takes progressive scan digital images for better quality and clarity, detail and larger image area through interlacing. It can be configured with a variety of different camera ranges, updated quickly, and prioritize multilevel alarms. 

In addition, the MPH-900 helps eliminate some guesswork associated with suspect vehicle identification by indicating the nature of the crime or infraction associated with the specific suspect vehicle. This allows officers to prepare for safe interdiction.

The unit can process both parked and moving vehicles across up to four lanes of traffic, day or night, in any weather. It can capture thousands of license plates during a shift. The data record will include the date and time stamp, photo of the vehicle and its immediate surroundings, and GPS coordinates of the vehicle’s location when the photo was taken.  Such information can lead to witness identification, watch list development, the placing of a suspect at a particular scene, and pattern recognition. 

The MPH-900 can also be useful for identifying a vehicle associated with an AMBER Alert when only a partial license plate number is available. Advanced algorithms can help fill in the missing characters, which can make a vast difference in situations where time is critical. Yet another capability of the MPH-900 is the capability to set sensitive areas with a “virtual fence” by mapping the perimeter of the area through GPS coordinates. 

If an unauthorized vehicle is identified in the “fenced” area, an alarm instantaneously notifies the officers so they can respond accordingly. This application is useful for permit parking, or for enforcing areas of a community in which sex offenders are prohibited such as schools and playgrounds. The processor unit is small enough to stow easily in a vehicle trunk, and the reader requires less than 60 watts of 12V DC to function.   

 

ELSAG FPH-900 ALPR

The FPH-900 is a fixed camera ALPR solution for mounting on light poles, bridge gantries, buildings and tunnel entrances. It integrates all that is needed for license plate recognition within an IP65 case and includes the sensor, a self-contained, independent infrared lighting system, and a processing unit. ELSAG manufactures custom brackets for DOT compliance and installation. The color camera used produces a wider angle, color context image for every license plate read. 

Its technology can be incorporated in a system that combines the fixed digital camera(s) with a rugged mini computer. It supports both cellular and WiFi connectivity to give seamless integration with the ELSAG Operations Center™ software. The FPH-900 has all the capabilities of the MPH-900, but uses a communication network to transmit the data from the camera to a command center monitoring activity and to the dispatched officers.   

 

ALPR Lightbar         

ELSAG has partnered with Whelen Engineering to create an ALPR lightbar—the first, fully integrated such lightbar on the market. It features the Mobile Plate Hunter-900. The camera is concealed inside Whelen’s Freedom series LED lightbar, a unit that offers 70-percent lower amp draw over comparable strobe modes. The system gives a more covert ALPR option, while providing lightbar length of 50 inches or 55 inches, and any LED color combination. The bar meets or exceeds SAE Class 1 and California Title XIII requirements. 

 

Grant Assistance      

ALPR can benefit a community by proactive traffic and safety measures, assistance with interdiction, and recovery of stolen vehicles, so grant funding may be available to assist an agency seeking to add ALPR technology to its resources. The ELSAG website has links to Federal grant money opportunities including the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. 

The website also links to grant assistance for block or formula grants, discretionary grants, and other funding sources, plus tips for increased funding options. Funding goals can be brainstormed with a company representative by phoning 866/9-MPH-900. 

 

In addition, ELSAG North America LLC has a GSA Schedule 84 contract for Total Solutions for Law Enforcement Security, Facilities Management, Fire, Rescue, Clothing, Marine Craft and Emergency/Disaster Response. 

Visit www.gsaadvantage.gov and search on the whole phrase “ELSAG North America LLC” to access listed products and to contact an ELSAG sales representative. State contract funding opportunities are also listed on the ELSAG website. Click on the “How To Buy” tab, or the FAQs that relate to funding.

 

SIDEBAR:

ELSAG Tactical Operations Center (EOC)

ELSAG’s Tactical Operations Center (EOC) is their newest back-office operations center. This data management software, the EOC 5, continues to manage a fleet of MPH-900 mobile LPR units and /or a network of fixed LPR cameras with enhanced features for data security and access. The EOC 5 uploads and archives both read and alarm data coming from all the vehicles and fixed cameras. 

The EOC 5 software includes a website that allows remote access to data by authorized users. It also manages distribution of the plate database or hot lists to LPR units. EOC 5 is the brain that manages all of these intelligence assets, and provides law enforcement agencies with the flexibility to set parameters that are in line with agency policies regarding automatic license-plate recognition data storage, access and use. 

It aids with multi-level permissions, hot list flexibility, detailed mapping, data merging and extensive reporting, and an audit trial that keeps track of who is accessing the data and what searches are conducted. The EOC 5 includes a number of new features:

Authentication: The EOC 5 allows authentication using Active Director or SQL Server authentication, which gives flexibility in how the EOC 5 is integrated into a network.

Security: The EOC 5 includes a sophisticated and highly granular authorization scheme.  It allows restricting access to both system features and data. For example, a user account can be created that has read-only access to some data, read and write access to other data, and no access to other data. This allows fine-tuning the system to the organization’s needs, and makes it possible to manage separately several agencies or groups on the EOC 5.

Data Mining: Queries are efficient because the data is paged on the database. Slices of data are returned to the application—search and report on historical alarm and LPR data, and hot list data.

Hot Lists: Hot-list management features include managing hot list data and attributes as well as uploading existing hot list data through a simplified interface. Script files (XML) automatically parse the incoming data into a correct format for the database.

Licensed and Integrated Mapping Engine: The EOC 5 uses an integrated and licensed mapping engine to plot data points on a map and manipulate the image. This means that the EOC does not rely on an Internet connection or remote system to map and render data.

Comprehensive Audit Trail: All user actions in EOC are logged for complete visibility into operations on data, and use of the system features. Each entry in the log includes a live link to view the operation performed.

Easy System Administration: A powerful scheduling engine within the EOC 5 allows control when the database and system maintenance tasks run. It also allows scheduling such intensive computing activities as hot list imports and updates for times when the system loads are lower.

Collecting and Exporting System Statistics: The EOC 5 provides seamless integration between multiple EOC implementations. All authentication, authorization and operations work the same whether connecting two EOC servers or more. Searches across multiple linked servers perform at high levels.

Third-Party Integration at Any Point Through Software Development Kits. The EOC 5 is based on the LPR Core System plug-in architecture. This enables third-party developers to develop code for the LPR Core System to process data or to perform other custom operations. Software development kits thus allow third-party application access to any part of the ELSAG system (e.g. camera, EOC) for data input or extraction. This functionality makes the EOC 5 flexible and extensible.

Scalability: Because the system pages on the database directly, and does not load all data from a query into the memory, the system can perform nimbly, even with large amounts of data. As the number of users and the amount of data grow, the system remains responsive. 

Real-Time Data Transfer Using State-of-the-art Data Protocols: The EOC transfers data from LPR cameras and Car System using state-of-the-art data protocols.

Low Total Cost of Ownership: The EOC 5 was developed using technology that allows faster development and reduced problems so the system is more robust and easily and automatically updated. EOC works in all major browsers and requires no additional browser plug-in. That means the EOC does not have to be deployed differently in different browser environments. 

 

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at drss12@msn.com.


Published in Law and Order, Apr 2014

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ELSAGELSAG North America
 

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ALPRALPR (Automated License Plate Recognition)ALPR LightbarAmber AlertAutomated License Plate Recognition (ALPR)Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR)CarSystem 6ELSAG CarSystem 6ELSAG Fixed Plate Hunter 900ELSAG FPH-900ELSAG Mobile Plate Hunter 900ELSAG MPH-900ELSAG Tactical Operations Center (EOC)GPS (Global Positioning System)GPS TechnologyGrant AssistanceMobile Solutions
 

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