23.03.2015

Veniam: the Portuguese startup that turns buses into Wifi hotspots

Imagen |  kohlmann.sascha

Many cities already offer free Wifi access in public places. Thanks to these free networks, you can chat and share photos while you’re out for a drink at a restaurant or admiring the facade of a monument. However, what happens in the dead zones or places where you don’t get service? Veniam offers a solution: turn city buses and other forms of transport into free Wifi hotspots, so the whole city can be connected.

Based in Porto (Portugal), the startup boasts a network of more than 600 connected vehicles and 60,000 unique users, according to its own data. Its most noteworthy project is also being carried out in the city it calls home — a fleet of 477 buses providing passengers with free Wifi access and collecting data in real time that can, for example, offer updates on the traffic in the beautiful Atlantic coast city.

The company also wants to turn personal vehicles into free Wifi hotspots so people will no longer have to rely on mobile networks. Vans and garbage trucks will also turn into ‘routers on wheels’ to carry Internet wherever they go.

Veniam works within the mesh network concept, wireless connections that have various access points so that, if one point breaks down, there is no disruption to the Internet connection. According to the creators of Veniam, they are dedicated to creating the ‘Internet of Things in Motion’.

Also focused on the ‘smart city’ concept, Veniam proposes the same solution for ports. It aims to connect networks of existing companies to truck drivers transporting goods and other employees who won’t need to use a mobile phone.

This has been successfully put into practice at the Leixoes port, in the north of Portugal, where 25 container trucks are connected to one another and the port authority. Tugboats are also connected enabling maritime pilots to send information such as their location and speed from the sea.

The company is attempting to enter into the U.S. market and already has an office in Silicon Valley. A few months ago, it received 4.9 million dollars in funding (4.62 million euros) to further its growth. One of the investors, venture capitalist Fred Wilson, said the project is “a big vision and will take a lot of work (and luck) to carry out, but this or something like it is eventually going to work and we are going to have a better way to access the internet on our phones than we have today.”