How Much Do ALPR Systems Cost?

There is a revolution coming in terms of access control, security, and surveillance — and automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are leading the charge. This technology is extremely safe and efficient, allowing corporations, municipalities and law enforcement professionals to actively scan up to several hundred license plates per minute. This information captured by networks of high-speed cameras is then quickly translated into machine-readable text that includes useful metadata such as the geographic location, time, and more. Once this information has been stored, it’s readily accessible and corporations to charge tolls or parking fees to individuals that are skipping out on their fair share. While the base technology is well understood, there is a range of features that can cause the cost of ALPR systems to vary dramatically, from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands for a large or complex system. From the speed of the vehicles moving through your system to the storage capacity of the servers, here is a quick overview of the various factors that affect the price of ALPR systems.

Camera Speed and Capture Ability

There is a great deal of variability for even the simplest of use cases, such as how law enforcement could use rapid scans of license plates. A camera that is set up on an interstate will need a significantly higher rate of capture and storage capacity than a camera that is situated at a rural traffic light. A low-end camera may not have the capability of storing tens of thousands of license plates and might run the risk of losing data if WiFi or hardwired network connections become unstable. A more expensive camera could store information for a longer period of time so you don’t risk data loss if you have a network outage. The business logic and software workflows associated with creating an alert for data capture require additional programming time, which adds to the cost. This allows law enforcement officers to pre-load the software with a list of license plate numbers to scan for, which then triggers an automated alert to officers detailing where the wanted vehicle was spotted.

Where OCR Occurs

Capturing license plate data is the first step, but before that data becomes usable it needs to be transferred into a machine-readable format. That means OCR (optical character recognition) facility, and that can happen either at the endpoint (camera) or when the picture is delivered to the server for translation. Having the OCR performed at the individual camera level could speed up notifications and allow you to more quickly transmit data but this will also add costs to your program. Cameras generally store and transmit information via the cell tower network, making this option quite secure as well as extremely fast. However, that connectivity doesn’t come without a price, which could include initial costs of $25,000 and beyond as well as a monthly camera rental fee of several hundred dollars per camera. Cameras on the lower end of the spectrum may only capture an image, which is then transmitted to a centralized location for analysis and OCR. This can significantly slow down the capture and eliminate the option for real-time alerts and reporting on specific license plate numbers.

Method of License Plate Capture

Recognizing the exact characters that are captured on a vehicle’s license plate is tricky in the best of conditions, but could be downright impossible in low light or when there is a sudden flare of brightness on the screen. Accurately capturing this information requires access to cameras with an I.R. (infrared) flash mechanism that is surprisingly similar to a traditional camera flash. This highly-controlled process helps cut down on glare so you have an error-free view of the vehicles traveling throughout your area. License plates and tags are treated with a highly-reflective I.R. coating that allows the tag details to stand out clearly — when properly illuminated. This provides for more rapid recovery of license plate details while limiting processes requirements. Your ALPR vendor might offer a lease or purchase program, depending on the cost of the cameras that you select.

Understanding the factors that influence cost will let you determine where you can make concessions as you’re building out your ALPR systems. Ready to get an exact quote for the perfect license plate recognition system for your exact needs? Contact the professionals at LaTech Security and Surveillance today at 866-779-4897 or fill out our quick online contact form. We guarantee that you will always speak to a real person, so you are not wasting your time stuck in an automated loop. Our experts can confidently recommend the right solutions for your budget and the unique needs of your business.