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The tracking technology that keeps world ports safe
Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On October 27, 2011 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments
Israel’s HTS has developed a range of cutting-edge optical technologies to track, identify and keep tabs on cargo, traffic, tolls and customs.
As a Toyota sedan approaches a busy airport, an Israeli-developed vehicle identity recognition (VIR) system instantly gives security personnel a summary of the car’s make and model, the country or state that issued the license plate and the holder of the plate.
Much more than simply tracking users at this sensitive security point, the VIR is also a first alert. What if the car is recognized as a Corolla but the plate is registered to a Ford Focus owner? Either the license plate was switched or the car is stolen — a clear red flag.
VIR is the newest product of Hi-Tech Solutions (HTS) Israel, which has specialized in optical character recognition (OCR) solutions since 1992. Forty countries use HTS products to fight terrorism and crime, as well as manage cargo, traffic and toll roads — including all ships leaving the ports of the United States.
“We have two basic product lines: cargo and traffic,” says Meta Rotenberg, the Canadian-born vice president for marketing and business development. SeeCar License Plate Recognition and SeeContainer Identification “both offer automation and security solutions that can work in many different scenarios and add value to many different market sectors.”
The just-launched VIR suite, providing a comprehensive profile of every vehicle, can be added to existing license plate recognition systems and allows for comparison of several aspects of the vehicle’s identity.
“We are the only OCR company that has this technology,” Rotenberg tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s based on different algorithms. Instead of just reading characters, we can identify so many more parameters for security-oriented markets.”
From Africa to Vietnam
The privately held Rishon LeZion-based company owns its technology and does all development at an R&D and customer service center in the northern town of Migdal HaEmek. The growing product line stems from ideas dreamed up by its founder and chief technology officer, Yoram Hofman, while he was still a graduate student.
Today, HTS is behind security and efficiency systems working in Australia, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, India, North America, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong, Vietnam and a host of other areas, with particular growth in Central and South American markets.
Each of Ports America’s 42 seaports in the US is equipped with HTS technology to speed merchandise from ship to shore and keep tabs on it at the same time. At these ports and 15 European and Asian ports as well, the software identifies every container in real time during loading and unloading, and cross-checks information on the source and destination of the container.
“A port is like a large warehouse,” says Rotenberg. “Truck, train and crane are the ways in and out of a port, and we are on all of them.”
HTS recently completed a successful cargo-scanning pilot program at a major airport in Europe, and its system has been digitally scanning cars entering Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for several years, alerting security personnel if any driver is listed a suspicious person. Similar systems are installed at other airports and at entrances to office and residential complexes.
Border crossings are another hot spot where HTS technology is increasingly deployed around the world. Rotenberg says border patrols are primarily concerned about smuggling of drugs, weapons and even people. The company’s software counts and monitors every vehicle coming in and out.
Collecting tolls and parking garage fees are less glamorous tasks, but the OCR products are in demand for streamlining these processes across the globe.
As each car enters a parking lot, the license plate is read to automatically enter pre-paid users and calculate the charge for others by comparing the exit and entry times. An optional face-imaging tool can prevent car hijackings and add an extra layer of security.
The system cuts down so drastically on wait times, according to HTS, that an equipped parking facility needs fewer entrances and exits and fewer personnel manning the stations. The same is true for toll plazas.
Recently, the company began to integrate its recognition software on handheld devices used by municipal inspectors and police officers around the world for maintaining order in cities, roads and parking areas. That can extend to catching speeders, monitoring municipal traffic loads and tracking down stolen vehicles.
According to CEO Phil Alovik, the company’s image-processing algorithms and artificial intelligence enable identification accuracy of close to 99 percent.
The company employs 40 people in Israel, and has opened offices in Rotterdam — a Dutch port city that is a business hub for the European continent — and most recently in New York.
“We have always been profitable, and we got an infusion of money from Pegasus [a US private equity fund manager] three or four years ago,” says Rotenberg.
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