Ten Factors to Consider when Buying License Plate Recognition (LPR) Cameras

There are two types of license plate recognition (LPR) cameras on the market: true LPR cameras and standard security cameras that are capable of reading license plates.

True LPR cameras usually cost over $1000 minimum, have tested daytime and night-time reads of license plates on vehicles traveling at certain speeds, and have the ability to interface with some type of software database which has some type of reporting function. They are generally able to read license plates on one or more lanes of vehicles traveling at highway speeds and have some type of built-in or optional diffusable infrared to illuminate the license plate but not over-illuminate to the point where the reflection is all that is seen. Popular manufacturers of LPR cameras in this category include Messoa and Vivotek. Dahua offers ANPR (or automatic number plate reader) cameras, but as of the date of this post, Dahua’s offering only includes the reading of license plates (LPs) of vehicles which are stopped at gates; not moving vehicles. Hikvision is currently still working on their offering.

Most consumers and small to medium-sized businesses would rather spend no more than a few hundred dollars per camera to be able to read license plates of vehicles going in and out of their driveways, streets and intersections, or entry/exit points, also known as choke points. Infrared is generally not diffusable at this price range. These “fake LPR cameras” are not designed for LPR, so vehicle speeds have not been tested, nor has the effective range or number of lanes.

Configuration of cameras to be able to read LPs in daytime and night-time include adjusting frame rate, exposure, and lighting to coincide with vehicle speeds. In 2016 eDigitalDeals was asked by an HOA in the upscale neighborhood of Bel Air, CA to install LPR cameras in two intersections leading into this residential neighborhood to help prevent crime in this area, as well as to identify the owners of vehicles used in conjunction with the home burglaries and home invasions. In the summer of 2017, eDigitalDeals replaced three analog SD single-lane LPR cameras with 3MP IP dual-lane LPR cameras by Messoa during an industrial installation in Fullerton, CA. Photos will posted at the end of this article.

Ten factors to consider when researching LPR cameras:

  1. Price or budget. This is the most important factor because if the budget is not at least $1000, then either the end-user expectations need to be adjusted, or the budget needs to be raised.
  2. Reporting and integration. In addition to using some kind of DVR or NVR, there are LPR or ANPR software options on the market that compile a database of vehicle license plates that allow for reporting. Standard reporting features typically include the ability to list or filter license plates beginning or ending with certain characters, blacklisting certain license plates (for example former employees at a company or expelled students at a school), and counting or listing the number of times a vehicle plate has been identified in a given period of time. Our preferred choice of reporting is Milestone XProtect’s LPR.
  3. Output format. There are several types of camera formats on the market: Analog SD (standard definition), HD-SDI, EX-SDI, HD-TVI, HD-CVI, AHD, and IP are the most common. There are several variations of the analog HD formats (TVI, CVI, AHD), separating the various resolution options. For example, HD-TVI 4.0 identifies HD-TVI cameras up to 5MP, while HD-TVI 3.0 identifies HD-TVI cameras up to 3MP. Choose the format that is compatible with your recorder and/or LPR software.
  4. Angle, distance, and installation location. It is important to install the camera as close as possible to being perpendicular to the vehicle’s license plate. This means a head-on angle. The more off-to-the side the LPR camera is installed, the lower likelihood of getting a clear reading. If a plate is not read clearly, then it is of little to no use. The most effective horizontal angle is no more than 15-degrees. The maximum vertical angle should be no more than 30-degrees. If the camera needs to be installed higher, for example on a highway or road, it should be capturing plates at a farther distance. If capturing plates at a vehicle stopped at a gate, it’s a best practice to install the camera(s) as close as possible to vehicle license plate height (while considering environmental conditions mentioned below in numbers 8 and 9).
  5. Lighting and exposure. For the highest chance of LP readings, LPR cameras should be configured in black and white. The faster the vehicle moves, the faster the exposure. For vehicles moving up to 35 MPH, the exposure should be lowered from a default of 1/30 to 1/500. Keep in mind, when the exposure time is lowered, the less light passes through the camera’s lens, and the more infrared light is required. For “fake LPR cameras,” the amount of light passing through to the camera is so low at 1/500 exposure rate that the camera will be nearly black after the sun sets. It would be best to keep a fake LPR camera in night or infrared mode to achieve best captures throughout the day and night. In addition, if a fake LPR camera has HLC or WDR, both should be enabled. HLC or head-light compensation (also known as HLM or head-light masking) helps to block bright headlights so that a license plate can be read more easily. True WDR or wide dynamic range can help to equalize exposure of reflective surfaces, e.g. sunny asphalt, wet asphalt, etc. Do not confuse WDR with DWDR (digital WDR), as DWDR is not nearly as effective as true WDR.
  6. As of 2016, a lot of people are using starlight technology for fake LPR cameras because no additional infrared light is required and LPs are displayed in full color. Starlight is more ideal for vehicles traveling at lower speeds. In order to see with Starlight, the camera must have infrared mode disabled.
  7. Speed and frame rate. For moving vehicles, the frame rate of the camera should be set to 15fps (frames per second) or more. For stopped vehicles, 5fps is more than enough. The faster the vehicle speed, the higher the frame rate.
  8. Number of lanes. True LPR cameras post the tested number of lanes in the features or specifications. Fake LPR cameras don’t post this information, as they are not designed for LPR purposes. It would be best to test the effective range and angle on a fake LPR camera before deploying it.
  9. Weather conditions. Over time, there may be a need for a new front cover due to environmental damage from the sun, salt (in marine environments), or wind/water from heavy storms. To help protect against environmental maintenance issues, sun-shields are highly recommended, and you can opt for an IP67 or better water/dust-proof rating. LP readings in wet or snowy conditions will be more difficult to achieve than on clear days.
  10. Vandal-proofing. Cameras should be vandal-proof (also known as vandal-resistant, impact resistant, tamper-proof, or IK10) whenever possible, especially if installed near arm’s reach. DahuaACTi and Uniview have various vandal-proof bullet camera options. Vandal-proof dome cameras should not be used for LPR purposes, as the curved dome cover slightly skews the image enough to result in an LP read that is not as clear as the read from a bullet camera with a flat polycarbonate lens cover.
  11. Maintenance. Over time, it’s possible that a camera with varifocal adjustable lens may need to be re-focused. It’s a good idea to use a remote focus camera (also known as motorized lens) so that you don’t have to go to the camera to re-focus it. If using a motorized lens camera with Internet access (either to the camera or DVR/NVR), you should be able to login to the camera remotely so that you wouldn’t even have to go to the site to refocus the camera. Ensure ports are forwarded to achieve proper remote access. Additionally, the camera may need cleaning from spider webs or bird nests. An ideal solution is the DotWorkz dome cleaner.

Here is a sample video of a fake LPR camera (ACTi E413) in action. This is a 5MP IP Camera with DWDR. Note that there is no true WDR or HLM, but the 10x motorized lens and vandal-proof body made it a low-cost alternative to our competition, and that is what allowed us to win the bid. Some of the LP reads are not as clean as they could be, and that is mainly due to the fact that the camera is installed to the far right of the sidewalk of this intersection. The customer was happy with the price and performance of the cameras because they can make out plates well enough in both day-time and night-time conditions.

bel air lpr acti

Here is a sample video of a true LPR Camera (Messoa 3MP Dual-Lane IP Camera, model LPR030A-ORV0750 with LS101 sun-shade). Setup options are explored.

Messoa LPR camera setup

 

Here is a sample video of a true LPR Camera (Messoa 3MP Dual-Lane IP Camera, model LPR030A-ORV0750 with LS101 sun-shade). This is a sample video for day time and night time views on initial configuration. Another video will be created once the camera has been configured properly for night-time LPR capture.

Here is a sample of a 1080p Starlight IP PTZ Camera (Dahua SD59225UN-HNI-OEM) with 25x optical zoom. Daytime mode, shows clear capture of vehicles and people and license plates across two lanes at 400+ feet away.

 

dahua starlight ptz day mode LPRIf you would like assistance in calculating ideal megapixels and focal length for your LPR application, or if you have a video surveillance project to discuss, please contact eDigitalDeals at 1-310-370-9500 or toll-free at 1-877-DEALS-79 (1-877-332-5779) x1 for Sales. You may also chat with a security professional on our website during business hours at http://edigitaldeals.net, or email us at info@edigitaldeals.net.

By Raymond Shadman

Direct/SMS/Fax:  1.310.876.1540

Phone:           1.877.DEALS.79 or 1.310.370.9500 x101

Email:            rshadman@edigitaldeals.net

Web:             www.edigitaldeals.net

Skype:           rshadman

August 21, 2017

Posted In: Video Surveillance

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Using LTS instead of Hikvision

LTS is a Hikvision OEM

Save money, get your order faster, and get better support!

 

Here is a web chat I had with a low-voltage CCTV installer earlier this week:

Aug 14, 2017 1:28 PM
Raymond Shadman: what are you looking for?

Aug 14, 2017 1:31 PM
Visitor: DS-2CE56D5T-IT3-2.8MM hIKVISION

Aug 14, 2017 1:32 PM
Raymond Shadman: and how many do you need?

Aug 14, 2017 1:32 PM
Visitor: 3

Aug 14, 2017 1:33 PM
Raymond Shadman: i can do $139.99 each with free shipping

Aug 14, 2017 1:35 PM
Raymond Shadman: this is a much better camera: http://edigitaldeals.net/lts-platinum-cmht1322w-28-2mp-1080p-matrix-ir-turret-dome-hd-tvi-camera-2-8mm-wdr-20m-infrared-12v-dc-ip66-3yr.html

Aug 14, 2017 1:35 PM
Raymond Shadman: and the price would be $87.95

Aug 14, 2017 1:37 PM
Raymond Shadman: that LTS has 20 meters of infrared, with true WDR. For 40 meters to match the Hikvision, I would recommend this one:

Aug 14, 2017 1:37 PM
Raymond Shadman: $107.95 each

Aug 14, 2017 1:37 PM
Raymond Shadman: we generally use LTS instead of Hikvision because it’s the exact same camera (hardware and software), and the price is less and the support is better

Aug 14, 2017 1:37 PM
Raymond Shadman: shipping is also faster

 

Make your own determination, or contact us for a professional recommendation on your specific application.

 

By Raymond Shadman

Direct/SMS/Fax:  310.876.1540

Phone:           877.DEALS.79 or 310.370.9500 x101

Email:            rshadman@edigitaldeals.net

Web:             www.edigitaldeals.net

Skype:           rshadman

August 16, 2017

Posted In: Video Surveillance

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Add an Onvif IP Camera to an Onvif Recorder

By Raymond Shadman

Direct/SMS/Fax:  310.876.1540

Phone:           877.DEALS.79 or 310.370.9500 x101

Email:            rshadman@edigitaldeals.net

Web:             www.edigitaldeals.net

Skype:           rshadman

In this post, we list best practices for ensuring compatibility between IP recorders and IP cameras.

Unlike analog recorders, NVRs or hybrid/tribrid/multi-format DVRs (also known as XVRs) require compatible makes and models of IP cameras.For example, if using a Dahua NVR, it’s a best practice to use Dahua IP Cameras in order to guarantee compatibility between recorders and cameras. If mixing brands, or if not using a stated make and model of listed IP camera, it’s very possible that the camera’s video stream won’t display on the NVR. In some cases, the camera’s video stream might be displayed, but other features may not work. The same holds true for VMSes (Video Management Systems) such as Milestone XProtect, which are essentially software-based IP management systems that are designed to accommodate numerous brands of IP Cameras, with certain limitations.

If not using the same brand of NVR or IP camera, the best practice is to match each device’s corresponding Onvif profile. Onvif is a standard in the IP/Security world, which allows interoperability between IP security devices, even if they are branded differently. It’s important to note that there are various profiles of Onvif. For example, LTS/Hikvision, ACTi, and KT&C are Onvif Profile-S. And Dahua and Uniview are Onvif 2 or higher. Can an Onvif Profile-S camera be connected to an Onvif 2.x recorder, and vice versa? It’s possible, and the only way to know for certain is to test it. Although the odds of compatibility are going to be much better if the camera’s Onvif profile corresponds to that of the recorder.

Testing the IP camera (IPC) involves:

  1. Is video displayed on the NVR/VMS in H.264, H.265, MPEG4, MJPEG, or whichever other compression streams you are trying to use from the IPC?
  2. If the camera supports multiple streams, are they all detected by the NVR/VMS?
  3. Does the NVR/VMS record the IPC’s stream on motion detection?
  4. If the camera supports audio, does it work with the NVR/VMS?
  5. If the camera supports on-board storage (usually a Micro SD slot), does it work with the NVR/VMS?
  6. If the camera supports electronic optical zoom, or Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ), can the NVR/VMS control the camera’s zoom lens or PTZ mechanism?
  7. If the camera is a panoramic fisheye (180-degree or 360-degree with no moving parts), then will the NVR/VMS support the de-warping of the camera’s lens, so that you can view the camera in panoramic mode instead of standard fisheye mode with the black circles around it?
  8. If the camera is a multi-sensor panoramic camera (such as the Arecont Vision SurroundVideo with more than one sensor inside the camera), will all sensors be displayed by the NVR/VMS?

There’s at least an 30-60 minutes worth of testing involved per camera, after unboxing the camera(s) and properly setting IP addressing for the camera and NVR, not to mention return shipping to the warehouse if it’s not compatible on all the features you want. For those of you who are bold enough to be buying directly from China, good luck returning those products to China, as Chinese Customs does not accept cameras to be returned for any reason be it warranty repair or exchange.

Most Onvif NVRs have list their Onvif profile, and most IP cameras from reputable companies list their Onvif profile. Do yourself a favor and choose compatible equipment. If you have multiple brands of Onvif devices, opt for using a professional VMS such as Milestone XProtect, providing that your cameras are listed in the VMS’s compatibility list. If using a camera that is not listed in the compatibility list, try using the Onvif driver, and if that doesn’t work, try the Universal driver (when using Milestone XProtect).

Here are general instructions to connect an Onvif IPC to an Onvif recorder:

  1. Address the IPC using a unique IP address with the same subnet mask and gateway as the NVR/VMS. You will have to use the IPC manufacturer’s software tool for addressing. For example, Dahua has ConfigTool. LTS uses Platinum IP Portal. Hikvision uses SADP. Uniview uses EZ Tools, etc.
  2. Connect your IPC to a discrete/external PoE switch if it’s a different brand than the NVR. For example, if using an ACTi IP camera, connect it to a PoE switch that is not the built-in PoE switch on the NVR, if one is present. Alternatively, connect a compatible external power source such as 12v DC or 24v AC, depending on your camera’s specifications. In some circumstances, an NVR’s built-in PoE will support other brands of PoE IPCs, but it is a best practice to use a discrete PoE swich to have better odds of compatibility.
  3. For Tribrid LTS or Hikvision DVRs, go to Main Menu –> Setting –> Camera –> Channel Type in order to configure the channel type as analog (CVBS/SD), HD-TVI, AHD, HD-CVI, etc., and IP. IP cameras should be labeled at the end of the range of cameras. For example, on a 16 channel tribrid system, the IP cameras would be labeled as #16 and lower (in reverse order) if the number of IP channels is inclusive in the total number of cameras. If the number if IP channels is in addition to the total BNC inputs, then the IP cameras would be labeled as #17 and up.
    channel type on a Dahua Tribrid DVR/XVR
    channel type on a Dahua Tribrid DVR/XVR

     

  4. To add a brand of IPC that is different than the brand of NVR/VMS, you will most likely not be able to use any of the NVR/VMS’s bulk-adding utilities. Your best bet is to do a manual add, where you would specify the IP address, port number, user name and password. Select manufacturer: Onvif. NOTE: it is important to change the default user name and password of the IPC before you reach this step. If there is an option for TCP or UDP or both, use TCP.

For additional information on IPC integration, please contact your vendor for support.

May 23, 2017

Posted In: Video Surveillance

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ISONAS Access Control Integration FAQs into Milestone XProtect

By Raymond Shadman

Direct/SMS/Fax:  310.876.1540

Phone:           877.DEALS.79 or 310.370.9500 x101

Email:            rshadman@edigitaldeals.net

Web:             www.edigitaldeals.net

Skype:           rshadman

 

Here are my questions to ISONAS regarding replacing a hospital’s S2 control panels with ISONAS IPBridge units so that they can use their existing S2 readers at each of their existing access controlled doors and have integration into Milestone XProtect. The hospital’s intent is to add new ISONAS equipment to the new doors, while to use existing equipment where possible, given their fairly recent investment into S2, which was substantial. S2, unfortunately, does not offer any integration into Milestone XProtect.

 

Q1) Is it the Pure Access Software that integrates with Milestone XProtect?

A1) The Milestone Pure Access integration is expected to be complete in June. This is related to their newer RC04 Pure Access products, because their RC03 integration was complete at least 1-2 years ago.

 

Q2) The Milestone XProtect server will be running Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. Must we have Server2012 R2 or better for Pure Access, or is it better for Pure Access to run on its own server or workstation?

A2) The Manager on-premise version of Pure Access will require a Windows 2012 R2 or newer machine or can be hosted in a virtual environment. I have been told by several manufacturers and various installers that it’s best to have a separate server for the access control, versus installing the software on the Milestone servers. This is because it’s easier to troubleshoot issues, and there could be potential conflicts between the SQL db on Milestone and the access software.

Q3) Does Pure Access Cloud to run in the cloud without a server?

A3) Pure Access Cloud has no physical server requirements.

 

Q4) You recommend RC-04-PRX and R-1-MCT so that they can get an idea on pricing for future doors, right? These are all weatherproof in case any need to be installed outdoors?

A4) Correct the RC04 has a conformal coated board and is much more weatherproof.

 

Q5) What’s the difference between the PRX and MCT? PRX is the 125kHz cards with lower bit strings.

A5) The MCT is the 13.56mHz Smart cards like the Mifare or DesFire cards that create an encrypted two-way signal between the reader and the card. The MCT is more secure. The PRX credentials can easily be duplicated using a $30 prox card duplicator that can be purchased online. It’s still a common request to go with 125KHz cards because of their low price point.

 

Q6) Can we use the PowerNet readers instead of the Pure IP in case we need to reduce cost? Will these still integrate into Milestone?

A6) The RC03 is compatible with Milestone today and in the future. The RC04 will be compatible as soon as the Pure Access Milestone is complete in June.

 

Q7) Why is it called Pure IP if it’s Wiegand-based?

A7) See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiegand_interface. The RC04 & RC03 are edge-based intelligent devices with an IP address on the network.

 

Q8) Is the Cable-10 required for each new reader? Not required for the existing S2 readers, right?
A8) The pigtail Cable 10 is required for the RC04 to connect to the lock hardware. The R1 is a Wiegand reader that can use existing composite wiring (banana cable).

 

Q9) Once they surpass 100 doors, can they just pay the difference to upgrade to the next level? Would they need a valid software support plan to receive 100% trade-in-credit?

A9) When the upgrade occurs they will be credited the unused portion of the subscription.

 

Q10) Are the thin cards printable?

A10) Yes, we will have a full integration with DataCard by the end of 2017. This was suggested during our private webinar regarding printing visitor cards with different colors, and various access levels with their own colors.

 

Q11) What is the Advanced Security Module?

A11) The ASM encrypts the signal between the RC04 and the lock strike, which makes it impossible to hot-wire the lock if the RC04 is removed.

 

Q12) 1-year warranty on all hardware? Or is it more than a year?

A12) Yes, 1-year warranty. Extended warranties can be purchased for up to 5 years, so 6 years total.

 

Q13) For the Milestone access control integration, is it per door or per IP Bridge or what?

A13) ISONAS does not charge any licensing from our side of the Milestone equation. Those fees are directly charged by Milestone.

May 23, 2017

Posted In: access control, Video Surveillance

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Drone Operation with Milestone XProtect VMS

You can use the Phantom 3 Advanced with the HDMI output module connected to the TBS 2216 HDMI encoder (better encoders available) with the universal driver in Milestone to record live video.

In addition, you can the Inspire 1 with the light bridge wireless with an HDMI out that goes into an HDMI encoder and it is recorded into Milestone XProtect with the universal driver.

The two above installations were hardwired into a POE switch directly connected to a recorder. You can also use a wireless bridge connected to a cellular connection.

You can also have helicopter and drone connections using a Rocket Router with multiple cellular cards for increased bandwidth.

 

 

 

 

For more information, you may email me at rshadman@edigitaldeals.net.

April 25, 2017

Posted In: drone, UAV, Video Surveillance

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