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Q&A: The future of LPR systems in law enforcement

ELSAG Senior VP Jason Laquatra tells PoliceOne how the company is enhancing license plate reader technology as well as the user experience


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By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

Automatic license plate reader technology has come a long way in the past decade, from straightforward interdictions to complex investigations.

Jason Laquatra, ELSAG senior vice president of operations, discusses developments in ALPR systems and how the company is working to expand the technology. (Photo/ELSAG)
Jason Laquatra, ELSAG senior vice president of operations, discusses developments in ALPR systems and how the company is working to expand the technology. (Photo/ELSAG)

In this conversation with PoliceOne, Jason Laquatra, ELSAG senior vice president of operations, discusses developments in ALPR systems and how the company is working to expand this technology to meet evolving customer needs while keeping it user-friendly.

What are ELSAG’s goals for LPR in 2017?

We’re constantly working to improve our LPR hardware and software, and we do it mostly via customer feedback. We’re actively working with several partners to bring dramatic enhancements to our system, with a goal of making ALPR systems useful beyond license plates.

ALPR has always been a great tool for interdiction and for investigative use.  Our focus is to continue to evolve that usefulness through enhancement of analytic tools. Customer needs are what drive the development of our Enterprise Operations Center (software).

On the hardware side, we try to keep this equipment as simple to operate as possible. We’re always focused on clever concealments and continuous improvements with an eye on durability and ease of use. 

How has LPR technology moved beyond increased productivity for patrol officers to providing a tool for investigations?

When we started, this was all about interdiction – officers driving around with mostly mobile LPR equipment on their vehicles and making traffic stops.

But the development of our Enterprise Operations Center, our back-office component, was driven with the investigator in mind, so we’re focused on things like making it easy to draw correlations between crime scenes or to conduct searches with flexible parameters.

We also make it easy to share between investigators. A lot of times multiple people are working a case, and we’re able to easily move that data. We can also funnel massive amounts of data into very precise search results. We always do everything we can to make it as user-friendly a system as possible.

Why is the Enterprise Operations Center software such an important part of the product?

The EOC is the core of our system. It centralizes all the activity from the mobile and fixed cameras and brings them all into one central repository. It can incorporate other sensor data as well, and it’s built to interact with a host of other systems in use by an agency.

In addition to that, it serves as a diagnostic monitor. You can determine system health and all activity from all cameras, and we also use it as a conduit for software updates. By doing software updates via the EOC, we can publish them to the whole network in one fell swoop. It makes things very simple.

What about data management and privacy concerns?

Our customers own their data, not us. We’re very focused on meeting an agency’s specific data retention needs, and we facilitate managed, hosted solutions, but we don’t gather and sell subscriptions to customer data, and we do not consider commingling of law enforcement and private company data.

We believe it would be reckless for us to speak on data retention or privacy implications. Those discussions are typically the law enforcement agency’s issue to address. What we do is support whatever approach works best for them, and those approaches vary. We build and develop our system in an ongoing way to support any approach.

Pricing is an issue for any law enforcement purchase. Your systems are sold as an all-inclusive package, from cameras to cables. Why?

We package all of our equipment all-inclusively just to make purchasing easy. We know from experience that law enforcement does better to make a block purchase than they do to have something like a subscription service or monthly billing.

Also, we make sure that we’re aware and do everything we can via our website and regular contact to make our customers aware of what grants are available out there, and we offer support in writing those grants if needed.

What’s next for LPR technology? What are some of the innovative ways your customers are using LPR systems that you think will become widely adopted?

We’re starting to deploy systems to conduct speed enforcement in construction zones with one of our major customers. The other thing we’re seeing is a high level of interest in incorporating other cameras for different types of identification, like HOV lane violations and enforcing cell phone restrictions.

We’re also seeing more of our systems being deployed in conjunction with other sensors. One example of that is under-vehicle scanners that basically map out the underside of a car to detect an anomaly. We take that sensor data and ingest it into our system so they have one platform to monitor their LPR activity and to see activity like this. We’ve done the same kind of thing with radiation detectors.

We’re actively working with several partners to bring dramatic enhancements to our system, with a goal of making ALPR systems useful beyond license plates. We’re with our cutting-edge customers every day, we’re being pushed by their needs, and that’s what continues to drive our innovation. 

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