Veniam’Works Makes Buses Wi-Fi Hotspots

Veniam Works STCP  As the bus starts and the passengers hop on, they immediately grab their smartphones or tablets. But now passengers don’t have to wait until the next hotspot to go online – now the bus can be a hotspot itself. All that thanks to the Wi-Fi service provided on the buses of STCP – Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto (the bus network in the city of Porto, Portugal) by Veniam’Works, a spin-off company that uses technologies developed at Universidade de Aveiro and Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT) under the CMU Portugal Program. Available in 404 buses, the service is open for the STCP users, 300 thousand per day, for an experimental period of six months."
This service is delivered by Veniam’Works – created João Barros, former national director of the CMU Portugal Program and faculty member at Faculdade de Engenharia of Universidade do Porto, and Susana Sargento, faculty member at Universidade de Aveiro. –, in partnership with various entities, including the Câmara Municipal do Porto (City Council of Porto) and the STCP. The spin-off’s team also includes two U.S. entrepreneurs, Robin Chase (who created Zipcar, the largest car sharing company in the world) and Roy Russell (Chief Technology Officer at Zipcar), as well as several doctoral students. João Barros e Susana Sargento 
 
The system allows buses to be connected to a wireless network shared by all vehicles and to Porto Digital’s optical fiber network. Reading e-books, responding to e-mails, and even checking your Facebook while on the bus are just some of the things that you can now do on the STCP buses thanks to the service provided by Veniam’Works.

This project was developed as part of Future Cities, a project co-supported by the European Commission under the Future Cities project, which builds on previous projects supported by FCT under the CMU Portugal program, wants to make the city of Porto a 'living laboratory' for innovation. The Wi-Fi service provided on the STCP buses is the continuation of a project called SITMe, led by INESC TEC, and developed in partnership with the STCP. The goal of the project by Veniam’Works is not only to provide a Wi-Fi service, but also to collect large amounts of scientific data that will be used by the Future Cities initiative to create knowledge on the Internet of the Future, including data on how to improve energy consumption, reduce the environmental impact and manage public roads and transportations.

The founders of Veniam'Works are very grateful for all the support they received from the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, "which not only co-funded some of the research that led to Veniam's products and services, but also opened new avenues for collaboration with U.S. companies and Institutions." João Barros and Susana Sargento, co-founders of Veniam Works, said: "Veniam's vehicular networking solutions are an excellent example of technology transfer and commercialization of solutions that are rooted on groundbreaking scientific research carried out in Portugal." Although still a very young company, Veniam already created 17 highly-qualified jobs and employs 6 Ph.D.s.

Various Cities are Interested in the Service 

Different cities are already interested in the service, including Barcelona (Spain) and San Francisco (United States). The success of the service will be measured by the reaction of the users as they will be encouraged to provide feedback on their experience, not only through the STCP’s usual channels, but also through the company’s Facebook page. Only then will the parties involved decide whether the service should continue.

Veniam’Works was born in 2012 following the research project DRIVE-IN, developed in the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, and funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. The goal with DRIVE-IN was to investigate how vehicle-to-vehicle communication can improve user experience and the overall efficiency of vehicle and road utilization.

The company offers vehicular mesh networking solutions for connecting vehicles to each other and to the Internet. Veniam’s main product is the vehicular Wi-Fi box, a combination of hardware and software that can be installed in each vehicle, thus turning it into a hotspot, and building a network between vehicles that can be leveraged for business, safety and entertainment purposes. In 2012, Veniam’Works was the Track Winner of the Building Global Innovators Venture Competition.

The Future Cities initiative started in 2013 and will be concluded in 2015. With a total funding of 2.3 million Euros – 1.6 million from the European Commission (FP7-Capacities) and 700 thousand Euros from the QREN – Quadro de Referência Estratégica Nacional (National Strategic Reference Framework) –, Future Cities is based on a multidisciplinary concept that combines several areas, such as ICT, psychology, urban planning or civil engineering.

September 2014