Air Quality Monitoring: Automatic Number Plate Recognition

Air quality is an increasingly serious environmental problem in major cities around the world, causing various environmental and health problems. Sources and composition of air pollutants may vary from region to region, however road traffic is considered the main source of air pollutant emissions in large urban areas in the UK and other countries.

The Air Quality Regulations

The air quality monitoring is the way of tracking and controlling the level of air pollution caused by vehicles in a specific area. Clean Air Zones (CAZ) have a restricted allowance on traffic to maintain lower levels of air pollution and will have a key role to play in delivery of a number of local plans. Local authorities will implement CAZs that apply charges to taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV). 

All licensing authorities are required to provide where all vehicles operating as taxis and private hire vehicles registered by the local authority will be required to register this information on a national taxi and PHV database, the format in which it is transferred and the way in which the data will be handled to demonstrate compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition System

The system for this task implementation is called an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) which extracts a text file with the Vehicle Registration Mark (VRM) from the number plate of vehicles in the field of view of a camera.

The ANPR system should produce a Vehicle Passage Record (VPR) for every vehicle passing through the field of view of the camera. It is used for two purposes:

Payments – The VRM is compared to those that have either paid or are exempt from the charge.  In some schemes, it may trigger the processing of a payment from an account.

Enforcement – If no payment or exemption is found for the VRM, the VPR forms the basis of the enforcement record.

How ANPR is Being Tested

Testing ANPR performance is usually carried out in a process known as ground-truthing. This is a process of capturing a video stream of the actual traffic at the same time as the ANPR data. The video stream can be a feed from the ANPR cameras themselves, or from separate video cameras. The video stream is then manually evaluated, and compared to the ANPR data. Any missed vehicles or misinterpreted vehicles are noted.

It is a time-consuming process, however, this is the most critical aspect of the system performance, and it is important the required performance is proven.

automatic number plate recognition

Collected Data Privacy

A data controller is responsible for the collection and processing of personal data and must be able to demonstrate compliance with the principles of data protection legislation. A data controller is the person, public authority or other body that determines the purposes and means of processing personal data. 

Authorities as data controllers might also want to consider the following:  

  • Where a VPR is matched to an exempt list there is probably no reason to keep it. 
  • Where a VPR is matched to a payment, there may be a need to keep the VPR until any time limit for querying a transaction has expired.  
  • Where there is no exemption or payment, there may be a need to keep the VPR until a payment against a PCN is received, and any time limit for any subsequent representation or appeal has passed.  

Before authorities share personal data with any third party, including Law Enforcement Agencies, authorities should seek advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office and their own Data Protection Officer, and ensure appropriate steps are taken to comply with data protection legislation.

6S Involvement

The 6SGlobal  team was involved with the creation of JAQU’s data governance requirements for the implementation of the taxi PHV database, the involvement included liaison with the ICO relating to data transfer and the legal basis for processing captured information under the GDPR, Data protection Act 2018 and the privacy and Communications Regulations, along with the writing (and subsequent publication) of guidance to all Local Authorities (LA’s).

6SGlobal was the pivottable stakeholder for discussions with the taxi federation, who were initially concerned regarding data privacy for the industry. Without 6SGlobal intervention, JAQU’s programme may never have commenced. Other areas of involvement from 6SGlobal included writing data sharing agreements for the programme whilst discussing data privacy issues relating to DVLA and the department of transport, discussions with JAQU scientists to clarify statistical research requirements for the programme.

Above is why IBM got involved with 6S Global and also due to the  wealth of connections with suppliers, innovators, and installation/construction companies. This allowed them to reach out to partners such as Intelico, Imperial and now WSP. Having the connections and ability to manage, organise and change direction quickly is key to how we feel this project can be managed under the 6S Global PMO structure and ensure that any issues that may arise will be dealt with efficiently.

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