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12, DECEMBER 2010


A Method of Vehicle License Plate De-noising and Location in Low Light Level
Pan Duan and Kaigui Xie
State Key Laboratory of Power Transmission Equipment & System Security and New Technology (Chongqing University), China

Na Song and Qichang Duan
College of Automation, Chongqing university, Chongqing, China

Abstract—License plate recognition system (LPRS) is one of the most important parts of the intelligent transportation system (ITS), and the license plate location is the key part of the LPRS, it affects the latter phase of the character segmentation and recognition directly. According to the characteristics of the vehicle license plate which contain the slat and pepper noise in low light level, wavelet transform is adopted to recognize the vehicle license plate in low light level, then the high frequency coefficient based on characteristic of noise is reconstructed, and the softthreshold method is used to do threshold processing of the reconstructed image and obtain the effect of image denoising. Finally, the method of edge detection and projection is used to locate the vehicle license plate area for de-noising vehicle license plate image. The simulation results indicate that the wavelet soft-threshold method can de-noise the low light level image greatly and the method of edge detection with projection can locate the vehicle license plate area fast and accurately. Index Terms—low light level, wavelet de-noising, edge detection, vehicle license plate location

I. INTRODUCTION License plate recognition system (LPRS) is one of the most important parts of the intelligent transportation system (ITS), and the license plate location is the key part of the LPRS, it affects the latter part of the character segmentation and recognition directly. On the basis of the characteristics of the license plate, the principle of the f vehicle license plate positioning method is as follows. Based on color and structure of the positioning method, the location of license plate can be determined according to the license plate gray level features, projection features, geometric features and color features. Combined with genetic algorithm, neural network algorithm for license plate location method, those methods are timeconsuming when deal with large license plate image data,
Manuscript received February 1, 2010; accepted March 9, 2010.This work is supported by the State Key Laboratory of Power Transmission Equipment & System Security and New Technology (Chongqing University).

so they are not suitable to apply in real-time license plate recognition system. The edge detection algorithm is independent from the clearance of the outer border of the license plate, and could work out efficiently, it is mainly extract the region of rapid change of the gray license plate image, but also has a high sensitivity to some extra edge. In order to get a good positioning effect, the preprocessing of the license plate image is particularly important before location, especially for blurred license plate image preprocessing. Recently, studies on license plate image preprocessing were presented, but fewer are regarding the recognition in the low light level. The low light level is the week visible light at night, such as moonlight, starlight, atmospheric glow and so on. Compared with the image under normal light condition, the low light level image has such characteristics: low signal to noise ratio, low contrast ratio, low spatial resolution, and the visual effect of the image is very blurred, and it is the same to the vehicle license plate image in the low light level. Therefore, how to improve the quality and resolution of the license plate in low light level is a very urgent problem. In this paper, the salt and pepper characteristic of vehicle license plate in low light level is presented, the wavelet transform is used to finish the image de-nosing process, then the method of edge detection and projection is used to deal with the processed image, and finally the accurate location of the vehicle license plate image is obtained. II. THEORY OF WAVELET DE-NOSING Wavelet transform is the improvement and development of the Fourier transform, and it is a timefrequency analysis method which can change both time window and frequency window, and it has higher frequency resolution and lower time resolution in the low-frequency part, and higher time resolution and lower frequency resolution in the high-frequency part. Hence it has a strong capacity of representation of the local features of signal in the time-frequency domain [1].

© 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER doi:10.4304/jnw.5.12.1393-1400

Because of the “focus” capability.b (t ) = a 1 a ϕ( t −b ). wavelet transform can make the energy of the signal concentrated into a handful of the wavelet coefficients. n = ⎪ ⎨ ⎧cm . and the algorithm is too complex. 5. the most important point is to choose the appropriate wavelet basis and decomposition level. n . 12. that is. ⎩ (c ) ∈ Q m. Considering the rate and effect of the de-noising. Hard threshold method often leads to the filtering result which has a larger variance.1394 JOURNAL OF NETWORKS. The modeling process of wavelet de-noising is as follows: © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . it is defined as ∞ + * f (t )ϕ a . It can expressed as flows: ( Mc )m. w is noise signal.b (t )dt Wf (a. T is the threshold value. And the threshold function consists of soft threshold. DECEMBER 2010 Wavelet transform is the result of inner product of the signal and a family of wavelets. the decomposition wavelet coefficients of the signal s in wavelet transform. and procedures are as follows [3]: ⎧x − T ⎪ ρT ( x) = ⎨ x + T ⎪ 0 ⎩ if x ≥ T if x ≤ −T if | x |≤ T Figure. that means ∞ Mask effect × −∞ ∫ ϕ (t )dt = 0 (3) wavelet coefficients reconstruction Using wavelet transform to de-noise the signal of image. hard threshold. which usually is a band-pass function centered t = 0 in a time domain. given a time-varying signal f(t). Fδ is the threshold value operator. we can achieve the purpose of de-noising through setting an appropriate threshold on the wavelet coefficients. so we choose the soft threshold method in this paper. It can be expressed as flows: ( Fδ c )m. n . To choose and determine the threshold function is the key point for the wavelet threshold filtering algorithm. the commonly used method is non-linear filtering method based on discrete wavelet transform. but guaranteed to satisfy the optimal estimation of the shrunken qualification. and the mean is zero. while sets the else coefficients to zero. and wavelet reconstruction [4]. which acts on the wavelet coefficients to set the smaller modulus of the coefficients to zero while just leaving the larger modulus of the coefficients. and the received estimated signal would not produce additional oscillation while compared with the original signal. the obtained signal contains a number of unexpected oscillation. n else (6) (4) III. a > 0. we Where ρ T ( x ) is the result of the threshold processing. so it ensures the estimated function as smoothness as the original function. n > δ else (5) Mask is mask operator. which acts on the wavelet coefficients to retain the specific coefficients. Model of wavelet de-noising process Where f is the original signal without noise. and is not as smoothness as the original signal. and ϕ (t ) is called basic wavelet or mother wavelet. Using the wavelet decomposition to the image signal in LLL. b ∈ R a (2) threshold effect Where a is the scale parameter. and has localized or compact support both in time domain and frequency domain. VOL. threshold de-noising. namely. and semi-soft threshold function [2]. Signal s could be expressed Lψ in the wavelet domain. ⎪ 0. THE WAVELET DE-NOSING FOR VECHILE PLATE IMAGE IN LOW LIGHT LEVEL The use of wavelet de-noising to process the license plate in LLL can be divided into three steps: wavelet decomposition. x is the pre-processed coefficient. NO. ⎪ 0. n = ⎪ ⎨ ⎧cm. b) = −∞ ∫ (1) wavelet domain expression The kernel function of the transformation is ϕ* . b is the translation parameter.1. ⎩ cm . Soft threshold method may result in blurred edges and other distortion phenomenon. Semi-soft threshold method needs to ascertain the two thresholds.

Original license plate image in LLL Figure 4. the more severity of the lost of signal. where φ ( t ) is low- pass function with definite length and compact support t = 0 ~ ( 2 N − 1) . According to figure. p = 0 ~ N . Hence the computing operation is increased and the processing efficiency is reduced. we can obtain the result shown in Figure. diagonal and vertical details of the db4 wavelet decomposition at level 1 and level 2. the decomposition level affects the result of de-noising greatly. Ψ ( t ) can be obtained by φ ( t ) . 4). 5.JOURNAL OF NETWORKS. 3). The dbN wavelet function is constructed by the worldrenowned wavelet analysis scholar Inrid Daubechies. But the square modulus of conversion function h is definited. Ψ (ω ) has N -order zero when ω =0. Ψ (ω ) and its integer displacement is orthogonal . In this paper. Selecting the appropriate threshold of wavelet coefficients is the critical work after assurance of the wavelet basis and decomposition level. combining the actual situation.4. it would not decline the signal to noise ratio. The support area of the wavelet Ψ ( t ) and scale function φ ( t ) is 2 N − 1 . The value of N is proportional to length ∫ t Ψ ( t )dt p equals zero. VOL. In general. Figure 3. Ψ ( t ) is the shifting weighted sum of φ ( 2t ) . and its support area is ( 2 N − 1) . where k = 2 ~ ( 2 N − 1) .4 it can be concluded that db4 wavelet decomposition at level 2 can improve the original image effectively. 2). The principal idea of the threshold function is to remove the smaller factor and shrinking or keeping the larger factor. which will lead to the lower signal to noise ratio compared with the original signal.5 is the horizontal. DECEMBER 2010 1395 selected db4 wavelet to decompose the license plate image in LLL in this paper. namely definite length of Ψ ( t ) . In time domain. namely Ψ ( t ) = ∑ g k φ ( 2t − k ) k . which starts at 1 − N ends at N . weight g k is different correspondingly. we choose db4 wavelet decomposition at level 2. where N is wavelet level. It has definite compact support in time domain. 12. Therefore. dbN wavelet function not has symmetry property or definite expression. however. © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . Since compact support of φ ( t ) is definite. where more decomposition level and doing threshold processing for all of the layers of wavelet space coefficients. The less decomposition level.3 with db4 wavelet decomposition at two levels. The db4 wavelet function As it is known. its higher order origin moment of Ψ ( t ) . The db4 wavelet function is shown in Figure 2. NO.The vanishing moment of Ψ ( t ) is N . To process the license plate image shown in Figure.Furthermore. the too much Figure. the worse effect of the de-noising result and lower improved of the signal to noise ratio. The characteristics of dbN wavelet function are as follows: 1). Ψ ( t ) which is obtained by φ ( t ) has definite compact support correspondingly.With the exception of N = 1 . namely ∫ Ψ ( t ) Ψ ( t − k ) dt = δ k . The license plate image decomposed with the db4 wavelet at level 2 Figure 2.When N varies.

TABLE 1 THE CHIOCE OF THE FILTERING THRESHOLD Level 1 2 Selected Threshold 5. 6. where N is the signal length. and we can obtain the de-noising image after reconstruction. The horizontal.I.1396 JOURNAL OF NETWORKS.199 18. and vertical details of the db4 wavelet decomposition at level 1 and level 2 we choose the threshold which is just larger than the largest scale of the noise threshold. processing the wavelet coefficients with soft threshold according to equation (4). DECEMBER 2010 L1 Horizontal Details L2 Horizontal Details L1 Diagonal Details L2 Diagonal Details L1 Vertical Details L2 Vertical Details Figure 5. 12. The threshold is shown in Table. Then.68 Figure 6. NO. 5. The Donoho algorithm is adopted to determine the threshold: T = 2 ln N . The license plate image after filtered by the wavelet threshold © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . which was shown as Figure. diagonal. VOL.

Sobel operator. A. for computing the gradient approximation of image brightness function. DECEMBER 2010 1397 IV. NO. we select the Sobel operator as the test operator. and poor noise immunity. The most useful characteristic of this change band is the rate and direction of the gray. and there would non-being excessive strong light because of the LLL condition. the key point is to find some kind of image processing method to make the original image processed by the algorithm is able to show license plate clearly. the two-dimensional graph of the horizontal gradient is: D ( xn . while reduce or disappear the non-plate region of the image. Flow chart of license plate location Recently. Sobel operator can extract the edge information and suppress noise effectively. and then use the regularity for change of first-order or second-order directional derivative to detect the edge information. The classical method of edge determination is to examine the change of gray value of each pixel in a neighborhood. so its detective result would be better. yn ) (8) As a general vehicle license plate contains characters. and the edge information is richer relevantly. methods based on the edge detection. and it is the basic feature of an image. and so on. that is also called the method of local operator to edge detection. but can not eliminate the pseudo-edge completely. Edge detection operator checks each pixel neighborhood and quantifies the change rate of gray. location based on the wavelet analysis. it will generate a corresponding gradient vector or any other vector. the edge information will be strengthened. which accurately and effectively locate the license plate location in the image. and it would locate preciously. 5. it can draw horizontal brightness difference approximation and vertical brightness difference approximation. In the license plate image. yn ) − S ( xn +1 . there are many different methods to locate the license plate. but easy to lose part of the edge direction information. Using this operator to any point in the image . that is. The flow chart of license plate location is as follows: the special luminescent material painted on the license plate. borders and background. Prewitt operator can suppress the noise relatively. The edge detection Edge is a set of pixels whose surrounding pixel gray has a step change. the pixel area of the license plate image in LLL occurred a great step change with its surrounding gray scale. called horizontal and vertical matrix. 12. The task of edge detection is to locate edges precisely and reduce noise effectively. there is a large number of information of the edge. while there is much less in the background relatively. it becomes much more prominent compared with the background. Technically. if a pixel is on the border of an object. THE LICENSE PLATE LOCATION About the license plate location algorithm. therefore. the characters and background of the photo area has a clear edge. it is a discrete difference operator. VOL. especially in the LLL. yn ) = S ( xn . and Laplace operator. therefore. because of © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . Laplace operator is a second order differential operator. The operator contains two groups of 3×3 matrix. The horizontal operator Sx and vertical operator Sy of the Sobel operator can be respectively expressed as: Figure 7. Sobel operator doing weighted for pixel position effect. through using the equation (8) to get the gradient to the image. Sobel operator is the one operator in image processing. location based on the color image. Roberts edge operator uses local variance to search for edge. in this paper. Compared with the other operator. After de-noising with wavelet threshold method. location based on the mathematical morphology. we choose the license plate location method based on the edge detection. including the determination of the direction. In a image. If do the convolution of the two groups of matrix with the image respectively. it can locate the step-edge point accurately and has a rotation invariance. The frequently used detective operator includes Roberts edge operator. which is mainly used for edge detection. Prewitt operator. therefore. Use the horizontal difference operator on the license plate image to achieve gradient requirements: ∆X = X n − X n +1 (7) Accordingly. and they are presented with magnitude and direction of the gradient vector respectively. its neighborhood would become a change band of gray-scale.JOURNAL OF NETWORKS. mainly contained analysis based on the texture feature.

9-14]. x is the row number. Following that. x is the row number. and below it there is no obvious edge-intensive areas. 1 ≤ x ≤ m , 1 ≤ y ≤ n , m is the height of the image. and consider the first large peak as the horizontal projection area of the license plate.10 .1398 JOURNAL OF NETWORKS. License Plate Image Location With Projection Method Using the projection method to do horizontal and vertical projection on the binary image to detect the license plate. and less than 120 points.valley-peak characteristic. y is the column Figure. NO. as © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . License plate consists 7 characters. so we can search Vertical projection: projecting the area in upper and lower boundaries determined with the above method to xaxis vertically. the peak of the two low points is the upper and lower boundaries of the license plate [5]. we can get the license plate image area. so the projected image would appear the peak. we can obtain the vertical projection of the license plate [6. we choose the difference between the ending and starting point of the peak should more than 20. VOL.8 is the result of the edge detection with Soble operator for Figure. Than considering the certain height of license plate and according to experimental result. so in normal circumstances. we obtained the upper and lower boundaries of the license plate as shown in Figure.6. each line of its horizontal projection should be within no less than 15 points. it would appear a peak in the horizontal position corresponding to the license plate. we can know that edge detection with Sobel operator can filter out unnecessary information effectively and reduce amount of license plate region positioning operation. As the plate hanging in a lower position of the body. s y = ⎢ 0 0 0 ⎥ ⎢ ⎥ ⎢ ⎥ ⎢ −1 0 1 ⎥ ⎢ −1 −2 −1⎥ ⎣ ⎦ ⎣ ⎦ Figure. 12. 9. DECEMBER 2010 ⎡ −1 0 1 ⎤ ⎡1 2 1⎤ sx = ⎢ −2 0 2 ⎥ . while its starting and ending point as upper and lower boundaries of the license plate.10 The upper and lower boundaries position number.8 to y-axis horizontally. According to the experimental result. Figure 8 Edge detective image B. Horizontal projection: projecting the Figure. we choose 15 points. m is the height of the image. that means if the area was considered as a license plate. y ) x =1 m (10) Where f l ( y ) is vertical projection value of the yth column. the license plate from bottom to up. n is the width of the image. y ) y =1 n Figure 9 Horizontal projection (9) Where f r ( x ) is horizontal projection value of the xth row. 1 ≤ x ≤ m , 1 ≤ y ≤ n , n is the width of the image. The process of projected location is as flows: To accumulate the pixels of the binary image in rows as formula (9): f r ( x ) = ∑ g ( x. Then to accumulate the pixels of the binary image in columns as formula (10): f l ( y ) = ∑ g ( x. there are more than 14 points in each line of the license plate horizontal projection of the edge. 5. and there is a certain space between the two characters in the adjacent. y is the column number. as shown in Figure. from the image. The license plate area contains seven characters. and it is also considered as the standard to estimate the starting and ending point of the peak.

1979. we could filter the license plate area form the candidate regions. pp. Tianxue Zhao.on Pattern Recognition[C]. we could obtain the average location-time for each license plate is 1. 2000. Sept. higher than the average location-time of 3. IEEE IV2003 Intelligent Vehicles Symposium. “An efficient method of license plate location. [11] Sunghoon Kim. whose effect would have a direct impact on the subsequent location and identification.2% in paper [7]. [8] Bernsen J. Wavelet analysis of senior technical with MATLAB [M]. Qian Sheng-you. Hong-mi Guo. 12. 11591168. K. Extraction and tracking of the license plate using Hough transform and voted block matching. the fast. 2005. Fei Yu. Yu. Image Processing.. 12511255. 1998. Extraction of car license plate using motor vehicle regulation and character pattern recognition. Chang.Yannan Zhao. A Thrshold Selection Method form Gray-level Histograms. “Adaptive wavelet thresholding for image denoising and compression.12. Dynamic thresholding of gray-level images[A]. Proc. Figure 11 Vertical projection Figure. 26 [7] Wang Run-min.ICCSA 2005. Goto M. LNCS 3483. 2007 [6] Danian Zheng. NO. Wavelet filtering method and application [M]. [14] Sirithinaphong. Automatic license plate recognition system based on color image processing[C]. This result showed that by means of © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . and Yonghang Shen. Bei Jing: Tsinghua University Press. vol.” IEEE Trans.62 seconds and the accuracy rate of 96. G. 15321546.. DECEMBER 2010 1399 shown in Figure. [13] Yanamura Y. B.2009 [5] Cheng Zhang. 9. D. 8-9 [3] S. using the edge detection and projection method. A robust license-plate-extraction method under complex image conditions[C].12. This paper take full advantage of the focusing characteristics of wavelet transform and the method of the soft-threshold de-noising of wavelet system in LLL to effectively extract the location of the noise point. Daechul Kim. Vetterli. At the same time. M..Nishiyama D.11. Man Cvbernet.” Second IEEE Conference on Industrial Electronics Application. 9. IEEE APCCAS 1998. Using the MATLAB to verify the 200 on-site collective license plate images in LLL with wavelet coefficient soft-threshold de-noising and license plate location. REFERENCES [1] Zhou Wei. 2005. IEEE Trans Svst. 2003: 243-246. the two adjacent area should be combined to carry out some candidate regions. Photoelectron Laser. we could acquire the perfective location effect of the license plate image in LLL.78 seconds and the location success rate achieves 98%.2002: 176179. wavelet threshold de-noising. If their interval was less than a empirical value T. [4] Wei Zhang. Circuits and Systems. LOSAngeles: IEEE Computer Society Press. edge detection and projection method introduced in this paper. accurate position for the license plate can be obtained. VOL. Conf.8th Int.JOURNAL OF NETWORKS. 2006.”. “Energy Filter and Wavelet Based License Plate Localization Method”. T. 1986. Meng Jin-li. 5.1 [2] Pan Quan. IEEE. pp. pp. 9-11 June 2003 90-94. Pattern Recongnition Letters. 2005. Zhang Lei. Saji H. Xi an: Xidian University Press. CONCLUSION The most important pre-processing with the license plate image in LLL is the de-noising process. [12] Taleb-Ahmed. Jiaxin Wang. “A Rapid Locating Method of Vehicle License Plate Based on Characteristics of Characters’ Connection and Projection. Weizhong Zhao.9. Nakatani H. Soga M. which achieved the de-noising purposes and well preserved license plate image details in LLL. SMC9:62-66. Zhang Hong-cai.Hamad. Guangmin Sun Deming Chen. [10] Xifan Shi. Younbok Ryu. A.Tilmant.12 The vertical position image V. [9] Nostu. 16th international conference on pattern recognition. Then according to the fixed percentage of the license plate.” 2009 Chinese Control and Decision Conference. Vehicle license plate recognition in marketing application Intelligent Vehicles Symposium. Chamnongthai. The effect of the horizontal position and vertical position of license plate is shown in Figure. “Improved adaptive wavelet threshold for image denoising. and Gyeonghwan Kim. 2005.

interested in the research on application of image recognition and processing. born in Zhoushan. College of automation. born in Chongqing. NO. 1983. Qi-chang Duan. interested in the research on pattern recognition and intelligent system. male. master. © 2010 ACADEMY PUBLISHER . female. and integrated control and information management functions. 5. PhD student supervisor. Now he is a Ph. Chongqing University. Chongqing University. born in Zigong. Na Song. 1985. 1953. Zhejiang. His main interest is focus on the intelligent computing and optimization in power system. DECEMBER 2010 Pan Duan. male. Sichuan.1400 JOURNAL OF NETWORKS. VOL. 12. College of automation.D student from the State Key Laboratory of Power Transmission Equipment & System Security and New Technology (Chongqing University) .