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Electronic watcher

A company develops a system that identifies car number plates and compares them to a data bank

The increase in the number of cars in circulation and the growing concern with security, were the two issues that encouraged to the company Tecnima Imagem e Automação, from the city of São José dos Campos, in the state of São Paulo, to develop a system for the recognition of vehicles by way of the registration of digital photographs of the vehicle’s number plate and its comparison with a predetermined data bank. This system, which carries the name of Estação de Videocaptura em Acesso (EVA) [Video Capture During Approach) could well be used at the entrance to condominiums – to help in the identification of the property owners – or in the street, under the sponsorship of Traffic Departments that need to recognize stolen vehicles or that have outstanding debits such as road licensing fees and taxes on the vehicle.

Endowed with software and small video cameras, the EVA system automatically informs on the origin and situation of the vehicles when it compares the images captured with a data bank for a condominium or a public organ. The system registers, starting from the image generated by the digital camera, the digits of the number plate when the vehicle passes through a sensor, of infrared type, or of an inductive sensor (buried in the ground). The camera has a video outlet, which transfers the images, via a cable, to a computer. Using the digitalized image, the program identifies the vehicle’s number plate and makes a comparison with the archived information. Recognition is done in the time of less than half a second.

Few programs exist in the world that make use of the same concepts of identification as that of the EVA. “It is faster and more complete than the systems available on the market because it stores the image in a data bank, with information concerning the location, date and time, being able to, in the case of condominiums, monitor up to two independent entrances simultaneously, and at a cost many times lower”, says Júlio Augusto Leitão Machado, a director with Tecnima. For him, the approach control most currently used, based on identification cards, is not the most efficient, because the cards can be lost, exchanged, forgotten or falsified. As well as not using magnetic cards, the EVA also does not depend on antennae to transmit data, which reduces its cost.

“As well as this economy, the EVA system means comfort and security for its user, who may well be identified even with the car in motion”, says Pedro Carlos Gonçalves, a partner and director of the company. “Besides the advantage of the image being stored, at any new moment in time, new users can be included”, he explains. Another system guarantee is the provision of images of authorized drivers able to drive the identified vehicle. In the case of unauthorized drivers, the security attendants can block the passage of the car. The first time that an authorized vehicle is detected by the system, its image is registered and every time onwards that it passes the photo appears instantaneously. The capacity of the system to store images is limited only by the computer’s available memory. The data bank may well remain in this same equipment or may be accesses by another computer via a network.

Electronic eye
The camera used for condominiums could also be used for public highways, detecting vehicles in motion so as to verify if they have been stolen or if they have some irregularities with their licensing, whether the tax is late or there are unpaid tickets. This possibility was perceived after the start of the technological development in a project financed through the Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) program of FAPESP.Another case for possible application is in cities where the limited circulation of vehicles exist. “Currently this service is dependent on people who monitor the streets and highways. As well as the professional not having the conditions to verify all the cars, it is inhuman to maintain these people in highways with heavy traffic and high levels of pollution”, evaluated director Gonçalves, remembering that the cameras in operation today in cities photograph only those vehicles at a velocity higher than that permitted. “If the vehicle passes through a camera within the permitted speed, there is no registration, even if that vehicle was prohibited from circulating on that day or at that hour.”

State and municipal authorities are potential clients for this type of technology because the possibility of an increase in the collection of the IPVA starting from the monitoring of vehicles is considerable. Director Machado recalls that even allowing for a traffic blitz, which stops vehicles at random, there could be, by using this system, an improvement in performance in the detection of cars with problems, since the equipment can be transported and mounted in operations of specific traffic. “It would be something like the camera registering the vehicle at one point and at a further point the check would be done by professionals. It would function like a filter, since only pre-selected vehicles would actually be stopped, improving, in reality, the flow of the vehicles in the traffic”, the director evaluated. Thus, the operational risks for the police would decrease since there would be the possibility to organize security apparatus for the intervention of the suspected vehicle.

Tests and implementation
The system was tested during a year with images obtained in motion, under conditions that were still not idea, in a condominium and in a car park in Sao Paulo, as well as on an avenue in São José dos Campos. The result was more than 70% assertion in the identification of the number plates. In the opinion of director Machado, for an installation well mounted at a location with an adequate and well illuminated lane, the index of correct assertion will show a variation between 80% and 95%. In this manner, the first commercial operation is now working in the city of Rio de Janeiro, at a unit of the company Texaco.

“We are in negotiations with a major manufacturer of road toll systems, with the purpose of applying the EVA system at a location where cars are obliged to stop, creating an ideal situation for the capture of an image.” Now Tecnima’s intention is to set up partnerships with companies that can complete an integration with the data systems available, such as the National Cadastre of Stolen Vehicles (CNVR) or the data of the National Traffic Department (Denatran).

The Project
Video Auditing System for the control of vehicles in parking lots by way of images  (nº 00/07366-0); Modality Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE); Coordinator Júlio Augusto Leitão Machado – Tecnima; Investment R$ 168,893.10 and R$ 3,935.00 (FAPESP)