Authorities in Portugal have transformed a fleet of buses and taxis into a portable WiFi network, providing riders with free Internet access for their portable devices. Routers attached to the vehicles, which create the network, also relay information about road conditions and whether public garbage cans are full and need emptying.
The project was pioneered by the startup Veniam which grew out of the University of Porto, where research on mobile connectivity and the Internet of Things is closely tied to urban planning.
Counting 600 buses and taxis in its network, the roving WiFi signal provides service to 70,000 people each month and absorbs between 50 and 80 percent of wireless traffic otherwise dependent on private wireless carriers.
Perhaps most exciting is how the network extends beyond providing Internet access and collects data from the bustling world of dense urban life:
“When buses and taxis hit a sharp bump that might be due to a pothole, the suspension sensors detect this and relay the information to City Hall to help identify where roads need repairs.”
The sensors are also linked to public garbage bins and transmit an alert when the bins are full, allowing officials to empty them in the most efficient manner possible.