Drinking water is a precious commodity that many of take for granted. We turn on the tap in our homes or businesses and expect clean water to instantly pour out so we can wash our hands or dishes and make our morning coffee. Have you ever wondered what is happening to wastewater after we flush it down our drains? This municipal wastewater typically flows through sewer pipes to a wastewater treatment facility. Wastewater treatment facilities, however, also treat industrial wastewater that originates from production, industrial and commercial activities, and has a different chemical composition to sewage water. Regulating, tracking, and charging producers of industrial wastewater is a primary concern for wastewater treatment plants to ensure that clean water is returned to the environment in a cost-effective manner.
A wastewater treatment plant on the east coast of the United States was having difficulty tracking industrial wastewater customers and suspected that some were taking advantage of the situation. The wastewater treatment plant issues tags that customers affix to their tanker vehicles. The cost of each tag is based on the volume of liquid that a customer delivers to the plant. The plant realized, however, that certain customers were affixing tags for lower volume accounts onto tankers that held a much higher volume of wastewater. For example, one tanker had a tag that authorized the customer to deliver 7000 gallons to the plant but, on further inspection, the tanker held 14,000 gallons of wastewater costing the plant money. The time to inspect the tag on each tanker and then compare to the actual volume purchased for the account proved prohibitive, increasing manpower needs and inflating costs.
Partnering with ISS sales and engineering staff, the wastewater treatment plant deployed the SecurOS AUTO License Plate Recognition System. SecurOS AUTO is designed to effectively deal with different tasks related to control of parked/moving vehicles in law enforcement, commercial, and municipal organizations. The system features a full-featured user interface that combines video from license plate recognition (LPR) cameras with real-time LPR events, search and watchlist capabilities.
The solution involved associating a license plate number with each tag account, installing two LPR cameras, and configuring the system to compare the captured plate number with the associated tag to determine if the proper tanker is entering the plant. Specifically, the LPR camera transmits video to processing unit that selects the frames with license plates. The built-in algorithms process the selected frames and produce a recognized license plate. These results are saved in a dedicated database and displayed in the Protocol window of the SecurOS Auto GUI.
The installation offered a host of challenges. For example, the system had to recognize license plates located on the front or back of the tanker to capture plates as a tanker entered or exited the plant. In addition to the location of the plate, the SecurOS Auto had to capture plates affixed to different positions on the various tankers; each tanker is a different height and width and the position of the license plate is not always located centrally. Finally, tanker trucks have other letters and numbers painted or affixed to the body (company name and address and USDOT numbers for example). These
challenges could cause an LPR system to miss a license plate or to send incorrect data to the system, but the flexibility and the ability to customize SecurOS Auto offered a solution to each situation.
SecurOS Auto not only provided a system that reduced shrinkage by ensuring that customers were paying the contracted amount for disposing their industrial sewage but it also provided a means to better track traffic volume and customer data. The real-time license plate recognition and identification quickly identifies the incoming tanker as a registered customer or flags a vehicle as unknown and stores all data in a central database. This data can be compiled into hourly or daily reports, providing business intelligence that provides a count of vehicles entering and the exiting plant as well as identifying fraudulent tankers. Another benefit of a centralized LPR system is the ability to create a “Be On the Lookout” or BOLO list for problem accounts, so the system issues an alert to inspect a suspect tanker as it enters the plant.
The reports and watchlists are effective only if good data enters the system. SecurOS Auto uses advanced neural network and pattern recognition algorithms to learn where a license plate is located on various types of vehicles. Over time, this built-in artificial intelligence achieves over 95% LPR accuracy, which translates to accurate reporting and increased fraud detection.