“Video Analytics – Are We There Yet?”

January 19, 2015

This is a bit of the presentation to be made by Peter Lange, Executive Director of Transportation Services at Texas A&M University at PIE 2015.

Video analytics is the automated analysis of video to determine events, trends, and other factors over a given time and in a given location. Effectively, it is a computer program that “sees” and does. And it is likely to play a major role in the future of parking. In my presentation “Video Analytics – Are We There Yet?” we will explore where this technology is going in the parking industry.

Many industries outside of parking use video analytics and have for many years, including intelligence, weather forecasting, security, agricultural production, toll authorities, traffic management and pedestrian-flow mitigation. The most recognized application of video analytics in the parking industry is undoubtedly license plate recognition (LPR). The parking industry has been using video analytics for several years in the form of LPR systems for enforcement and counting. Several universities and municipalities now use LPR exclusively and no longer issue permits.

Frequent garage customers can link a credit card to their license plate and never have to interact with a cashier, machine or even roll down their window. Some systems now incorporate LPR as the primary credential option for monthly parkers in controlled-access facilities, with the option to add a secondary credential in case the customer drives a different vehicle or the system fails to read the plate.

Imagine leveraging the analytic capabilities of an advanced LPR access system to replace ground loops in gated lanes. As an added benefit, the system could detect a pedestrian standing in the path of the gate arm and lower it only when the path is clear. Just think, your system could detect a vehicle, determine its access status, count as it enters or exits, provide pedestrian safety, and allow you to remotely monitor the lane – all with a single camera! (That may be a bit simplified, but you get the idea.)

In my opinion, improvement of accuracy rates for traditional LPR systems is necessary for LPR to serve as the primary credential for access applications. Many locations are not staffed and must function flawlessly in an unattended mode. The number of vehicles in a facility or lot at any given time drives many of the operational and strategic decisions in the parking industry. The ability to have real-time, accurate counts is crucial to making effective decisions and I believe cameras are the solution to this issue.

Historically, the method for counting vehicles in parking lots and structures has been ground loops. They are tried, true and simple. However, they also require installing specialized equipment; are subject to environmental interference; and do not work well for many under- or over-size vehicles. In much the same way as high-tech security systems function, video analytics offers the same ability to count vehicles traversing lanes and so much more. Imagine having cameras arrayed throughout a parking lot to monitor each individual space. Your system can count occupied and vacant spaces, and if occupied, determine how long the vehicle has been there. Better yet, you can configure the system to know the type of space in the lot; disabled, timed, service, general parking, etc. You can then share current occupancy information for the lot as a whole or for each space type with customers via dynamic signage, mobile apps, or web-based applications, much like we are seeing with current sensor installations.

Systems capable of performing video analytics typically have greater up-front implementation costs than legacy systems, which incorporate loops and other older technology devices. As with any product, as more competition enters the market and production increases, implementation costs should decrease. However, in some cases, it may be more cost-effective to use video analytic systems due to operator and customer needs, infrastructure requirements, layout, or other variables.

Taking what we have discussed above a step further, what if you could go back in time and analyze traffic patterns, congestion or space occupancy? Simply run your recorded video from existing cameras through a video analytics processor to show low counts, traffic or pedestrian congestion points or anything else you might be able to conceive. Just imagine the amount of information available at your fingertips.

We believe video analytics is the future of occupancy and traffic management technology. Companies in a plethora of industries are developing and refining the technology. The potential for its application is limited only by the human imagination. Attend this seminar at PIE 2015 and learn how it might work in your organization.