Wi-Fi cameras crack down on rogue parking in U.K.

Using a CCTV network, London's city of Westminster can now identify parking offenses without the need for human intervention.

London's city of Westminster plans to crack down on rogue drivers by using a Wi-Fi-based closed-circuit television network.

Westminster City Council is busy installing networked security cameras that can recognize parking permits and the plates of offending vehicles.

The system means parking tickets can be issued without a human witnessing the offense in person.

The parking crackdown is the most significant application to be deployed on the Westminster's Wi-Fi network, which it has built over the past year with BT. "Parking enforcement is the killer application that everyone is looking for," said Vic Baylis, director of services at Westminster City Council.

Baylis said the network could be used in two ways to tackle illegal parking.

The cameras can now recognize parking permits and their validity, the plate of the offending vehicle, and the parking restrictions on the road in question. They can also clock the time vehicles enter timed parking spaces. Images of every parking offense are collated and then viewed by a human operator for verification before parking tickets are dispatched.

If drivers complain that their ticket is unjust, their letter is scanned and viewed next to the original CCTV image by the operator.

The council also employs six people who permanently monitor CCTV images. If an operator spots a parking offense, they are expected to make radio contact with the nearest enforcement officer, who will issue the ticket.

The council has so far deployed 25 wireless CCTV cameras, and it plans to add 10 more each week, up to a total of about 250. Eventually, it intends to be able to view 80 percent of the area, excluding the Royal Parks. It says that target could be reached by mid-2008.

Baylis said the council's complete investment in the network should pay for itself in two to three years.

Other applications that the council is considering include giving staff mobile access to their data, enabling streetlamps so they can communicate when the bulb needs replacing, and connecting parking meters so the staff is informed when they are full or out of order.

Richard Thurston of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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