How are emissions-based virtual permits and ANPR contributing to the development of Smart Cities?


The harmful level of air pollution and toxic fumes on our city streets is a very familiar problem to urban authorities. It’s a problem that affects us all and contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths every year. It’s also a problem that is getting worse. Decisive and progressive action is needed. But that doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel or gambling with an array of exciting – yet unproven – technologies. Far from it.

No urban authority can afford the luxury – and the risk – of investing in unproven and untested technologies to improve the quality of the air we breathe when we’re living, working and travelling in our cities. The key is to manage and promote behavioural change.

Imperial and Videalert are currently providing local authorities all over the country with effective enforcement solutions covering virtual vehicle permits on the one hand and intelligent traffic enforcement systems on the other. In the London Borough of Barnet the permit management brief has been extended to include emission-based permits. This initiative aims to encourage behavioural change by applying an efficient self-serve permit solution that features automated tiered-pricing.

The technologies and areas of expertise of both companies are quite different. But, as work in North London has shown, there is an opportunity to achieve broader objectives. With emissions-based virtual permits working in tandem with fully integrated ANPR capabilities, we create a new – yet proven! – approach for making our cities better, safer and cleaner than ever before by discouraging the most polluting vehicles from entering designated areas.

A virtual permit solution can use a differential pricing structure to reflect the specific characteristics of different vehicle types. This might include CO2 emission bands, but it could also include any other factor such as engine type and vehicle weight. As a self-serve system, it automatically calculates the specific pricing band for a motorist’s vehicle during the online application process. Significantly, it also provides a wealth of back office data as well as real-time information.

Because of the ease of integration and technological compatibility, the enforcement of the emission-based permits can be taken onto another level. With CCTV cameras linked directly to a dedicated review platform, vehicles can be identified in real time according to make, model, colour, gross weight, engine type, Euro rating CO2 emission band and so on. But, when linked directly to the back office permit management system, effective and highly responsive enforcement – vital to maximise compliance and encourage behavioural change – is ensured for the new emission permits.

Put simply, this collaborative approach is providing an innovative, versatile and progressive solution. What is particularly significant is that this new approach is founded on reliable, approved and fully integrated technologies, so there are no risks or unknowns. But, by working together, we are extending the capabilities of existing technologies to deliver significant new – and smarter – outcomes.


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