TL; DR: Veniam’s intelligent mesh networking services mobilize internet access points to provide a first-of-its-kind connected city experience that has linked more than 1.3 million people traveling on 60 million miles of roadways around the world. The company partners with leading automotive brands to improve wifi and cloud connections in vehicles that need to offload data or connect with other motorists. Veniam Founder and CEO João Barros aims to expand the company’s cutting-edge work to more efficiently and effectively connect sensors, drones, robots, and industrial machines to create futuristic, data-driven regions that maximize efficiency and sustainability.
As more and more cars hit the road with the ability to connect to online entertainment, navigation, and safety apps, drivers often hit an unexpected speed bump — lengthy periods stuck in a driveway, waiting as the car slowly downloads a software or map update over the owner’s home wifi connection.
But what if the same download could happen in a fraction of time by connecting to the car next to you at a traffic light?
João Barros cited that exact example when explaining how his company is disrupting the connected car experience. Behind a unique intelligent mesh network, Veniam has pioneered peer-to-peer vehicle communications to fundamentally change how cities connect to the internet.
“Up until recently, car manufacturers used to look at wireless interfaces in very simplistic ways,” the Founder and CEO said. “Wifi is to connect the smartphone to the car, vehicle to vehicle for safety, and 4G cellular networks are for everything else. We have shown that we can do a lot better than that.”
Following successful deployments in Portugal, New York, and Michigan, Veniam enables hundreds of cars, trucks, and buses to move massive amounts of data to improve traffic flows, vehicle maintenance, and safety. As the company continues to put the pedal to the metal, João envisions applying the cutting-edge cloud connections to drive the development of autonomous vehicles, drones, and more efficient industrial machines.
“Veniam is building what we call the Internet of Moving Things. Our purpose is to make places more human by connecting all moving things,” he said. “It starts with vehicles, but we’re uniquely positioned to become the data network platform of choice not just for connected cars, but for vehicles of the future, robots, sensors, and all these moving things that need to communicate with each other and the cloud.”
Mobilizing Internet Access and Moving Massive Amounts of Data
Until Veniam’s innovations, internet access points have been stationary: wifi routers plugged into a wall, cellphone towers, and the like.
“Veniam changes the game by looking at vehicles not just as machines that carry people from one place to another but actually as part of this internet access infrastructure,” João said. “All the vehicles are also access points as they’re moving, and that changes the whole architecture of the network.”
Beyond turning vehicles into mobile wifi routers, Veniam needed to make the network service as reliable, secure, and trustworthy as those people typically encounter at coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and other locations.
“That means all sorts of new protocols, algorithms, and intelligent decisions that are required to operate a network like that,” João said, adding that establishing connectivity was just the starting point.
The company needed to enable vehicles to transmit vast stores of data over these new connections and seamlessly switch between hot spots, while still empowering drivers to set localized policies about which types of connections to pursue or avoid.
“Moving data is very different from simply providing connectivity,” he said. “Connectivity is just to establish a bit pipe between the vehicle and the cloud, but moving data requires you to make all the smart decisions about what data to send now, what data to send later, and what data to share among other vehicles without even going in the cloud or to the internet.”
To accomplish this, Veniam leverages more than a decade of research and development, dating back to when João was a college professor building initial prototypes and establishing an intellectual property portfolio of about 180 patents.
“We’re the first company in the world that’s able to provide a very reliable data network service on top of very unreliable wireless links that keep changing because the vehicles keep moving,” João said.
Veniam Improves the Changing Connected Car Experience
Despite visions of applying its networking expertise more broadly to cover industrial machines, drones, robots, and other devices, Veniam has concentrated on the auto industry during its first seven years in business.
“Up until recently, only a small percentage of vehicles were connected to the internet, but this is changing,” João said. “What we’ve done is move massive amounts of data between vehicles in the cloud. We have an intelligent networking platform that enables automakers to make the most out of all these wireless interfaces that are in the car.”
The company deployed the world’s largest mesh network of connected vehicles in Porto, Portugal, enabling the city’s buses, garbage collection trucks, and other civil service vehicles to provide free wifi to thousands of people and collect terabytes of data to better inform Porto’s mobility system and other smart city initiatives.
After establishing similar networks in Singapore, New York City, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, Veniam now counts many of the world’s largest automotive manufacturing brands as customers. The company enables automakers to save between 40% and 90% of their data costs by using Veniam’s wifi solutions and vehicle-to-vehicle data sharing
The company was the first to enable automakers to connect vehicles to home wifi networks in an easy and automatic way, João said, instead of the manual credentials only 30% of owners would enter.
“We’re able to send all the policies in the cloud in a very simple way that gets automatically translated to vehicle credentials, so they are immediately able to connect to all those hot spots,” he said. “Think of all the hot spots available from the street. You can use wifi not just to connect inside of the car but also to offload data in a very cheap way.”
Leveraging Data to Reduce Inefficiencies and Build Positive Experiences
As Veniam gains traction in the connected car industry, João keeps his sights set on broader applications of the company’s technology. Accelerating the adoption of more effective mobility services remains among the top benefits to Veniam implementations, along with providing an overall better and safer travel experience.
“There’s definitely no such thing as too much coverage or too much bandwidth,” he said. “You can give people better networks, and they always find better and better ways to use it to improve the quality of life for millions of people.”
The company’s ability to transfer massive amounts of data means Veniam can play a pivotal role in speeding up development of autonomous vehicles — which are already on the roads in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“By the time autonomous vehicles are ready, our software is already running in millions of vehicles,” João said.
Vehicles equipped to access the company’s network transfer 15TB of data per month, providing ample opportunities to learn more about how to apply the information to traffic flows, noise levels, and pollution. Veniam looks at the network data to learn how vehicles connect, how long it takes, how long they stay connected, and how much data they offload, among other metrics.
“That’s a huge source of learning,” João said. “We use artificial intelligence to keep improving our protocols and networks alongside new features that are requests from our customers, so it’s a constant flow of innovation.”