Automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) can also be referred to as automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). This technology can be used for many things like identifying stolen vehicles or allowing entry into parking garages. However, some countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, are now using automatic license plate recognition to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
At the beginning of the month, England put into effect their third national lockdown in response to the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases. This lockdown is scheduled to last until March and it requires all citizens to stay inside their homes unless absolutely necessary. However, many residents who own second homes were found to be breaking lockdown in order to flee to a different part of the country which puts those areas at risk of infection. In response to this, police forces have been using automatic license plate recognition to monitor where vehicles are coming from and if they are making non-essential travels.
In Western Australia last year, automatic license plate recognition cameras were installed at several COVID-19 checkpoints. These cameras were used to cross reference license plate numbers with updated lists of confirmed COVID-19 patients. If a license plate number was detected to be registered under a recent patient, an alert was immediately sent to the checkpoint. By doing this, officers could suggest that the infected traveler return home in order to minimize the spread.
In the past, governments around the world have used drones for surveillance and to identify those breaking quarantine, but many people claimed that this infringed on their privacy. Although automatic license plate recognition still has some criticism, it’s a less invasive way of monitoring movement and is helpful for controlling the spread of COVID-19.