LPR App to Run on Axis Cameras

By John Honovich, Published Mar 24, 2012, 12:00am EDT

[UPDATE: IPVM has tested the ipConfigure LPR App.]

Recognizing license plates typically require specialized cameras or servers to process and identify plates, a costly proposition. Now, ipConfigure is releasing an LPR [link no longer available] application for Axis cameras that turns regular IP cameras into automatic license plate recognition machines. In this note, we examine the features, pricing and performance of ipConfigure's offering to Genetec and Milestone.

Here are the key facts and operational details of ipConfigure's LPR application

  • Runs on Axis cameras using the Axis Camera Application platform
  • Runs only on Axis cameras supporting ARTPEC-4 only; not the previous generation ARTPEC-3.
  • Analyzes at 1fps maximum. ipConfigure reports maximum vehicle speed of 5mph supported.
  • Software license MSRP of $999
  • 3rd party VMS support via XML interface. License plate matches and alerts transmitted via XML.

Application

The main attraction is the low total cost. $2,000 for an LPR app and an Axis camera delivers a complete licesense plate recognition solution, with no need for adding servers. This is an extremely low cost and simple approach compared to traditional LPR.

However, a number of technical limitations likely restricts use to applications with very slow moving cars (like at parking gates) and in well lit areas. Specifically:

  • Fast moving cars will not work with this app. The LPR app can only do 1fps / 5mph cars. ipConfigure's server side version can do 10fps and so can many competing systems. 
  • Axis does not offer any specialized license plate capture cameras. Unlike most purpose built license plate capture cameras, Axis cameras do not build in pulsed IR illuminators, add specialized light filters or optimize settings for capturing license plates. This means that Axis cameras are unlikely to handle the full range of environmental challenges.
  • This app is likely not compatible with Axis cameras deployed before 2011 since it is restricted to ARTPEC-4 cameras which only started shipping then. Examples of ARTPEC-4 cameras include the P3367, Q1602 and Q1604. We think the 1602 and 1604 are likely the best options due to their strong low light performance - a key challenge with LPR, given the need for faster shutters. Field testing for this application is needed to determine the best of these two.

3rd party integration should be carefully reviewed before purchasing. The app does support an XML output which, theoretically, should be straightforward to integrate with a 3rd party VMS. However, VMS support varies and the app is new so out of the box VMS support is likely to be uncommon.

Comparison

Genetec and Milestone represent 2 major contrasting approaches to ipConfigure's camera application:

  • Genetec offers high end purposed built LPR cameras. For instance, Genetec's SharpX MSRPs for over $15,000 but includes many more advanced features such as integrated pulsed IR, dual cameras, optimized performance for capturing plates and processing for even very fast cars. Genetec and ipConfigure options are on a different ends of the spectrum.
  • Milestone had OEMed license plate recognition software (from Dacolian) that runs on a server, requiring a separate camera. With this approach, a specialized LPC camera can be used, an advantage over ipConfigure. However, it requires setting up a server and paying a $2,000+ licensing fee. Though Milestone does not currently market this offering on their site, it is representative of a common 3rd party add on approach. ipConfigure's server side LPR offering is similar to the Milestone / Dacolian option.

The ipConfigure app is interesting to consider, mainly driven by its low overall cost and simple deployment setup. The main question that users will need to carefully consider is how well it will work with Axis cameras and in tough real world conditions.

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