The days of number plates being merely a mechanism to register vehicles are coming to a rapid end.
Now highly sophisticated license plate technology is putting car plates to far cleverer uses – most commonly to enhance security, communication and convenience – in places such as upmarket homes, private schools, golf estates, towns, malls and casinos.
One example is by a South African entrepreneurial company, Visec, who has put this into practice by developing a sophisticated license plate technology which runs over internet protocol (IP).
The technology works by streaming full high resolution video over wireless to record the data from a number plate. The uses for this data are endless: a stolen car can be instantly tracked or the perpetrator of an accident can be traced and caught.
The Cape Town suburb of Fish Hoek used Visec to decrease crime by between 50 and 60 percent and many other South African towns and suburbs are in the process of following suit.
Gary Scagell, MD of Visec, says there are myriad uses for license plate technology in addition to the mainstream law enforcement.
“Residential estates can use the system to increase the effectiveness of security. When residents drive up to the security entrance or exit, a camera will read their plate, which is pre-programmed into the system, and automatically send an SMS to the owner of the vehicle to obtain verification that the driver is, in fact, the rightful owner. If the SMS is replied to, the boom will open. If not, it won’t. So if a car thief has entered the premises and hopes to exit via the boom in a stolen car, he will be trapped and, all going well, detained by security guards or the police.”
Scagell says Visec can even go a step further: “A resident can also programme a range of triggers to happen at his home when he enters the estate. For example, his garage can open, house lights can turn on and, for those who really like things easy, the coffee could even start percolating or kettle boiling.”
The technology is also in use in a number of private schools, allowing parents to know that their kids are safe because only pre-registered plates are given access.
Commercially the sky is the limit, believes Scagell: “Many people don’t know that the highest incidence of car theft is at shopping centres. This technology could help put a stop to that. Shoppers who register for license plate tracking would have their mall experience fundamentally enhanced.”
“Firstly, when they enter the centre, the system would register their pre-registered plate and send them an SMS greeting, welcoming them and telling them about the specials on offer that day. The type of specials communicated could be tailored to that specific person’s taste based on registered data as well as previous shopping habits.”
“Then, upon exit, the system would need a reply SMS before letting the vehicle exit the building, a highly effective deterrent for criminals.”
Scagell concludes by saying that the technology is currently being used in the States in ways which South Africans should definitely think about.
“In the US, take-away diners can order their meals online, register their number plate and when they drive up to the outlet to collect, the system will register the plate and the meal immediately produced.”
“Finally, speed trapping has become a lot more effective with the technology in the US. A license plate recognition camera records each car’s plate at a certain point on the road and then again some time later. If the car reaches the second camera too soon, it was clearly speeding and the vehicle is fined. This would put an abrupt end to motorists slowing down only at speed cameras.”