Founder,, Sonitrol of South Central Ontario

Author Bio ▼

Colin Bodbyl is the founder of and Chief Technology Officer at Sonitrol of South Central Ontario. He has over 10 years' experience in the security industry specializing in the design and installation of physical security, IP CCTV, video analytics, and access control systems. In 2012 Colin developed to connect with other integrators and end users through his unique video blogs.
June 13, 2013


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

Automatic Scalextric Plate Recognition

There were many great product demonstrations at IFSEC this year. I saw low-light cameras demonstrated in dark closets. Image stabilization was being demonstrated with cameras installed on shaky poles attached to the showroom floor, which vibrated with the feet of thousands of visitors. Unfortunately, there were also some more questionable and misleading demonstrations.

One of the most eye-catching demos at IFSEC this year was the use of Scalextric cars to demonstrate license plate recognition. I have seen this demonstration in the past, but it seems like more manufacturers than ever are using this technique as their preferred license plate recognition demonstration.

Click the image below for more.

Click here to view Figure 1.

I probably feel more torn over this tradeshow demonstration than any other. On one hand, I like the clever use of a toy to create a miniaturized and entertaining demonstration. On the other hand, I cannot get over how unrealistic the demonstration is when compared to real-life situations.

The lighting conditions at a tradeshow are ideal. The halls are well lit both from overhead lighting and lighting from the stands themselves. The cameras being demonstrated can run at optimal shutter speeds for the entire demo — something that would not be possible in a true outdoor environment.

The extra lighting in the hall is not nearly as bothersome to me as the lack of headlights. By far the most challenging part of capturing any vehicle’s license plate is cutting through the glare of headlights and brake lights. None of the Scalextric demonstrations I have seen have ever used any kind of light to replicate real headlights, and I do not believe it is possible to do so.

The biggest issue of all for me is the vehicle speed. Even the best Scalextric vehicles travel only 10-12MPH. The miniaturized size tricks the mind into thinking they are traveling very quickly. If the demonstration were done using a real car traveling at 10MPH, none of us would be impressed.

Macro photography
Some of the Scalextric license plates are only marginally bigger than the image sensors on the cameras being used to record them. The distance between the camera and the license plate is also only a fraction of what it would be in real applications. These near macro style image captures create an unrealistic representation of real-life applications, where the image sensor and lens would be significantly smaller than the license plate they would be trying to capture at far greater distances.

In most cases, I have no doubt these systems (both camera and software) can do what they say. I even appreciate the effort that manufacturers make to create an entertaining and clever demonstration. However, do these Scalextric demonstrations misrepresent the real-world challenges faced by license plate recognition systems?

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Tony Dobson
Tony Dobson
June 14, 2013 4:24 am

Hi Colin, interesting post as always!
Fully agree, you can’t beat testing in real-life environments. This takes time though so I eagerly wait for the day when manufacturers actually show us their products working in real-life rather than a “glossy brochure” approach.

June 24, 2013 3:49 am
Reply to  Tony Dobson

There’s a BIG difference between the ‘real world’, and a demonstration of a concept at an exhibition. I’d never assume that the whizzy demonstration and slick talk on a stand will actually do what I want it to do, in my world. Exhibition presentations are designed to catch the attention of the passing visitor just long enough to collect their details to be followed up after the show. Demonstrating a low light camera in a cupboard is a classic case in point. Never, EVER, believe anything, until it’s sitting on YOUR bench, hooked up and working the way YOU want… Read more »