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Run your own license plate recognition system with OpenALPR

07 December 2015, Mike Williams

OpenALPRIP cameras have always been marketed as security tools, but you probably don’t have time to watch them, and they wouldn’t give you much information, anyway.

OpenALPR is an open source software library which changes all that, by transforming an ordinary camera into your own automatic license plate recognition system.

Point the package at an image or video stream, and it quickly scans each frame for license plates in US or European formats, reporting whatever it finds along with a confidence level.

This kind of technology has all kinds of possibilities, some good (create an automated home which recognises when individual family members arrive), some more worrying (keep a history of who’s visiting your neighbour, and when).


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The open source build is aimed at developers, and really just the core library with some console tools, but it’s easy to test – even if you don’t have an IP camera.

All you have to do is point the bundled command-line tool at your target image or video, like this:

  alpr -c us samples/us-1.jpg
  alpr -c eu samples/eu-clip.mp4

Any likely plate characters are displayed within a few seconds.

If you like the idea, but prefer something a little easier to use, OpenALPR’s website has a page where you can upload test images.

The company also offers commercial products where your IP camera can be automatically monitored, license plates recorded, and the full history available at any time via a web dashboard ($50/ month per camera).

OpenALPR is an open source package available for Windows, Linux, OS X and more.

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