Pay-by-Plate Payment at Z Energy Fuel Stations - Case Study

Thanks to ANPR-based Pay-by-Plate technology, customers of Z Energy fuel chain can now enjoy a frictionless refueling and payment experience at various fuel stations.

In today’s world, customers routinely expect retailers to deliver technology-based services that improve how they live and work. Identifying opportunities through technology and innovation are key to improvement and a principle of Z Energy’s focus on providing a range of payment solutions in an ever-moving world.


Z Energy, one of New Zealand’s largest fuel providers, identified an opportunity to use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to develop a system that would allow customers to fuel their vehicle, approve the payment and leave without any interaction with staff, nor the need to reach for their wallet or phone.


Following consultation with our appointed electronic security integrator, Focus Digital Security Solutions, the decision was made to develop an ANPR Pay-by-Plate technology that would offer Z Energy customers a frictionless refueling and payment experience.


The Challenge


Since the evolution of the automobile, the process of refueling has stayed much the same. Drive in, fuel up, enter the shop, pay at the register, get back into the car, and drive off. When you want to hit the road, it’s not uncommon for some customers to become frustrated when needing to wait in-store for other transactions to be completed, even with amazing customer service on offer.


While the aspiration for a quicker payment solution to improve customer service was already entrenched within Z Energy, investigations on what was possible starting to be explored and developed, COVID-19 reinforced the existing focus to create a workable, seamless and frictionless payment solution that would now also allow greater social distancing opportunities between staff and customers, as well as amongst customers themselves.


As Martin Foye, Head of Retail Operations said: “Customers no longer compare companies purely against their traditional competitors, they are looking at the broader retail or service environment to set their expectations on payment and service delivery. If the likes of Uber, Netflix, Amazon can provide technology-based solutions, then why can’t my local service station?”


The Solution


To help answer consumer demands for a faster refueling experience with touchless payment, Z Energy approved integrating its existing network-based CCTV systems with custom-designed Pay-by-Plate software powered by automatic number plate recognition technology previously deployed by Focus Digital Security Solutions. The company has since deployed the Pay-by-Plate solution to 62 sites across the Z Energy network across the country.


The solution combines CCTV cameras and video management software with Carmen® ANPR engine. The solution was built on one of Carmen’s most significant advantages: camera agnosticism, which allows existing CCTV cameras to be retained and used for surveillance and capturing number plates.

How Z Energy’s Pay-By-Plate system works. (Source: Z Energy)

To secure the Pay-by-Plate service and go ”live,” customers simply download the Z App and complete the registration that includes their vehicle number plate and credit card details, with the option to enable enhanced security features and spend limits as added protection.


When the registered vehicle drives into a Pay-by-Plate service station, the CCTV camera on that lane reads the vehicle’s number plate and sends a Pay-by-Plate message to the pump screen welcoming the customer by name and authorizing the transaction. Once fueling is completed, the vehicle simply drives off, and the cost is automatically charged to the customer’s registered payment method.


As well as providing a fast, convenient, and frictionless experience for Z Energy’s customers, the ANPR system is highly effective at reducing petrol theft and identifying stolen vehicles. All “drive offs” are reported to the police through the Auror Retail Crime Intelligence Platform. Any repeat registered “drive off” vehicles entering the service station are immediately flagged to staff, and stolen vehicles are electronically reported to authorities.


The working principle behind Z Energy’s Pay-By-Plate system. (Courtesy of Z Energy)

Other Possibilities for Future Pay-by-Plate ANPR Systems


The success of Z Energy’s Pay-by-Plate system has set a unique benchmark in customer experience as it is driven through CCTV cameras and ANPR technology. New Zealand has a well-respected history for designing and implementing technology, and in this case, the Carmen® ANPR engine has created that platform for success. When integrated with existing surveillance software and CCTV cameras, its versatility allows it to be used in other applications such as providing secure access control to car parks and contactless click-and-collect solutions to support online shopping.


Carmen® also comes with an optional MMR engine add-on to return such data as the vehicle’s make, model, category, and color. With this, end-users can build valuable databases for marketing purposes, such as identifying recurring customers with loyalty discounts.


This is achieved by installing Carmen® directly on board designated ANPR cameras, such as our latest freeflow camera model, Vidar. Aside from being designed to withstand even the most extreme weather conditions and instantly and automatically capture vehicles’ license plates with its built-in laser triggers, Vidar’s greatest advantage is that it’s capable of forwarding images in an ANPR-processed format. This means that you get the picture and the license plate data in such a format that relevant systems can interpret.