The Internet of Things (IoT) — that is, embedding wireless network connectivity, sensors and technology to traditionally non-smart everyday objects — is slowly making the idea of the ‘smart city’ practically possible. Taking it a step further is the Internet of Moving Things, connecting portable objects like mobile phones or automobiles. Suddenly an enormous infrastructural network becomes available, connecting every corner of the world.
Veniam, a startup coming out of the University of Porto with offices in Silicon Valley and Singapore (besides its homebase in Portugal), turns moving vehicles such as cars and buses into live networks that allow people to be online without being dependent on a cellular network. The platform is also capable of using the data it collects to keep track and better manage traffic flows and alternate routes. Veniam’s technology was launched 18 months ago in Porto, where its hardware has been installed onto the public transport system. The company claims that about 73% of the city’s bus riders are using Veniam’s free Wi-Fi. The next market for the company this year is Singapore.
Founders of the platform, among them the people behind Zipcar which catapulted the sharing economy, state how the future of mobility and the quality of life in our cities depend on our ability to make the most out of the existing infrastructure. You’re using already built, already paid for, already existing infrastructures to create this wireless network. So, this includes the excess capacity of the world’s 1.2 billion vehicles, for instance. Vehicles are ideal wireless hotspots and mobile sensors at street level, because they can be found everywhere and have large batteries that keep recharging. This idea, of someone’s wireless device being not just a sender or receiver of signals, but also a repeater, has been dubbed ‘mesh networks’. It basically means that everyone’s wireless device turns into a mini cell tower.
In Porto alone, Veniam is offering free Wi-Fi to more than 260,000 active customers. It has already received backing from a wide ranch of investors such as Verizon and Orange. Expect to hear more of it, and keep your eye out of for a moving mobile hotspot in your area soon.