As tolling needs to become more intelligent, think IQ

The ITS and Tolling market have traditionally developed technologies such as ANPR in-house in order to preserve a level of competitive differentiation and control. This is from a time when only heavy-weight ANPR cameras and separate computing platforms were able to meet requirements of high speed multi-lane highways. However, technology evolves and the latest ITS/Tolling systems are now multi-sensor solutions that combine a growing number of sensory inputs alongside the ANPR to provide accurate and reliable classification and identification.

ANPR is a critical element of the solution and is now operated alongside radar, LIDAR, thermal, optical, Bluetooth, in-road weight and tyre sensors. The true worth of a modern ITS/Tolling system is based on how these many disparate technologies can be integrated into a homogeneous solution and delivered on-time and profitably.

In this new world, the role of the ITS/Tolling experts is increasingly differentiated by how they combine the mass of information from these multiple sources of data and their delivery of this data to their end customer. Forward thinking companies now embrace collaboration and close partnerships that are available with industry leading sensor experts to take their solutions forward.

The real breakthrough in treating ANPR as a sub-system rather than a core component has been the advent and recent domination of the latest intelligent ANPR cameras. The best of these are not just housings that combine the traditional ANPR system elements into one box. Instead, leading intelligent ANPR cameras take direct image sensor output into DSPs and/or FPGA front-ends and perform ANPR on raw image data with great accuracy.

It is with this background that MAV Systems Ltd, a UK manufacturer and designer of ANPR cameras, offers their core technology as an OEM building block to the ITS/Tolling market. To date, ANPR cameras from third parties have been discrete components having their own physical enclosures, cabling, brackets, power management and communication requirements. However, in an OEM configuration, the partners of MAV can access the core hardware/software of their IQ range and build this within a complete ITS/Tolling solution. Not only does this work at a technical level, but also through the solution’s packaging, it can be provided as a branded device that can be put through approvals and supplied on a long-term basis to meet branding as well as QA aspects.

Outsourcing the ANPR aspects of the ITS/Tolling solution makes sense for the focus of engineering resources. Often, considerable amounts of time and money are spent by development teams on optimising ANPR within their ITS/Tolling system. Choosing quality led ANPR cameras removes this necessity, allowing focus to be centred on effective integration of all components. By partnering with a specialist, wholly dedicated to the ongoing improvement of their ANPR, that element of the solution can be relied upon to offer superior performance and often, when costed objectively, offers lower life-time costs.

MAV Systems produce their IQ range of intelligent ANPR cameras as stand-alone packaged units but, because of their almost unique position as a niche business-to-business supplier, they have the skillset to provide customised versions of their standard products as OEM building blocks.

The IQ range has inbuilt front-end processing of the images on dedicated low-power/high performance chipsets. This means that despite having high resolution/frame rate sensors, the dataflow from the ANPR sub-system can be reduced to a fraction of the raw data needed when ANPR processing is performed using conventional PC based ANPR engines and machine vision cameras. By performing the ANPR at the edge of the system, there are benefits throughout the system with reduced data-rates on communication links, reduced EMC issues, reduced power consumption and, most importantly, a scalable architecture that is truly fit for purpose.

Ongoing product development is inherent within the ANPR sector and driven by competition and customer demands. By tagging onto this development momentum, the ITS/Tolling market can yield immediate benefits in performance. As advances in image sensors, LED lighting or ANPR algorithms are proven elsewhere, ITS/Tolling partners can slot in a new sub-system that inherits all the proven advances without any of the development costs or lead-times that would normally be required. In this ideal partnership, the ITS/Tolling company has essentially gained an ongoing ANPR R&D team for free.

MAV’s IQ range provides ITS/Tolling companies with a golden opportunity to embrace a more modular architecture. The intelligent ANPR camera sub-system provides access to more than just vehicle registration and images. The IQ provides a depth of metadata that can be used to verify and augment the other sensory inputs. For example, plate tracking data can be matched with radar/LIDAR and triggers from other equipment can be used to catch vehicles with no plates or those that have disguised their vehicles in an attempt to avoid detection.

Providing such features in ANPR cameras is the next evolutionary step needed to meet the growing needs of ITS/Tolling Systems. It is only through these technological innovations that current objectives can be met and only through collaborative partnerships can future objectives be identified. The on-going success of these systems is dictated by the quality of the individual elements and their providers. With ANPR playing a pivotal role in system performance it is becoming increasingly important to choose an ANPR partner that has the ability to start the evolution rather than replicating it.