Genetec LPR + New SharpX Camera Examined

By John Honovich, Published Mar 13, 2011, 08:00pm EDT

In this note, we examine Genetec’s newest addition to its AutoVu license plate recognition offerings, the SharpX LPR camera. This unit is a new addition to the existing lineup including the Sharp XGA camera, an IP-based camera and processor unit, and Sharp EX encoder/processor. The EX can be used with 3rd party LPR cameras, such as the Bosch REG [link no longer available] and Raytec Voyager [link no longer available], two commonly used examples. All Sharps are made for use in Genetec’s AutoVu applications: Patroller, which is used strictly in vehicles for mobile applications, and Security Desk, part of Genetec’s unified Security Center suite.  Additionally, while they are capable of sending video and an XML stream to third-party platforms, this is typically used for integration with parking control systems but not out of the box with other VMS systems.

Comparison to Existing AutoVu Offerings

The existing Sharp XGA is marketed toward parking enforcement applications and implementations requiring fixed LPR cameras while the new SharpX is currently targeted only at law enforcement. Here are some important differences to keep in mind:

  • While the Sharp XGA builds both cameras and processor into a single housing, the SharpX moves the processor to an external device to be kept in the vehicle, typically in the trunk.
  • Due to this change, when compared to the Sharp XGA camera, the SharpX is less than half the size. Part of this move was to appease law enforcement agencies, who prefer a less obtrusive camera as it’s less susceptible to vandals, and does not block light bars when mounted on the roof of the vehicle.
  • The SharpX utilizes fewer IR LED’s than previous models. This is an interesting move, as an increase in resolution normally equates to a decrease in sensitivity, which would usually warrant the use of more LED’s. However, according to sources at Genetec, the newer CCD camera in use in the SharpX is much more sensitive, more than enough to compensate. Additionally, the lenses used on the LED’s have been reengineered to improve dispersion and the LED’s are 2.2 times more powerful than LED’s used in the past. The combination of these three factors achieves the overall effect of a significant increase in overall readability.
  • The SharpX improves upon the Sharp XGA’s expansion features by building alarm inputs and outputs, as well as 12VDC power into the processor unit. The Sharp XGA had none of these features.

The MSRP of two-camera SharpX system is $16,895, compared to the $22,869 list price of an equivalent system with the Sharp XGA, nearly a 30% decrease.

Genetec does not plan on replacing the Sharp XGA with the SharpX. The Sharp XGA’s integrated form factor makes it more useful for fixed applications. Since no external processing box is required, equipment at each camera site is simplified. Also, the Sharp XGA currently provides some features the SharpX does not for parking enforcement applications, such as wheel stem imaging used in time-limited parking areas and parking permit enforcement. According to Genetec, these features are planned to be added to the SharpX within the year. Parking enforcement agencies typically do not share the same concerns over size as law enforcement, so the SharpX’s small size is not as much of a selling point in this market.

Hardware Specifics

Let’s examine some of the new SharpX hardware specs and performance claims:

  • A 1024x946 monochrome camera used for the aLPR functions. The previous models featured 1024x768 resolution. This is an approximately 19% gain in resolution, which accounts for some of the SharpX’s improved capture rates and enlarged read area.
  • A 640x480 color camera used to capture overview images. The current Sharp XGA model 2.0 also features this resolution, while the previous generation, had only a 320x240 resolution overview camera.
  • A pulsed 850nm or 780nm IR LED illuminator. According to Genetec, these LED’s are more than twice as powerful as previous LED illuminators.
  • Plate capture across three lanes of traffic.
  • Color context images at night. Genetec’s older models, and all competitive products produce monochrome images during nighttime use.

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