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Veniam'Works set to expand WiFi networks to US cities


In the city of Porto more than 600 buses and cabs were transformed into WiFi hotspots, thanks to the technology developed by the spin-off company Veniam'Works. The technology allows buses to connect to the wireless network shared by all vehicles as well as to the city's digital fiber optic network. Porto is home to the largest vehicular network in the world: about 80,000 bus and cab users access their mobile devices for free using Veniam's WiFi; three terabytes of data are transferred monthly over the vehicular network. The technology is also being deployed in controlled spaces, such as ports and container terminals, where it offers better wireless coverage, increased security, two-way communication, and real-time data acquisition. 

In December, Veniam raised $4.9 million in venture capital, which will allow them to "expand rapidly in the U.S., with greater momentum," as Veniam CEO and founder João Barros explains. The investors are confident that Veniam's technology will enable other cities to provide the bandwidth necessary for equipment to connect to the Internet and to each other effectively.

Veniam's patented property was developed at the Institute of Telecommunications (IT) and the University of Aveiro, as part of the CMU-Portugal Program, funded by FCT. Veniam is based in California, with offices in Porto and Aveiro. Until 2016, Veniam's work was assured by projects funded by FCT and the European Commission.

For João Barros, who was also Director of the CMU-Portugal Program, the role of FCT in the success of Veniam is evident, "Without the continued investment of FCT in the area of information and communication technologies, in particular through the CMU Portugal program, it would hardly have been possible to develop the cutting-edge solutions that Veniam sells today. The FCT funding, combined with European projects and support from NSRF, allowed to carry out proof of concept and evolve the solution from the initial ideas to the final product: a WiFi network of vehicles that today has over 80,000 users, taking terabytes of data from the physical world to the Internet and putting the city of Porto on the map of smart cities. smart cities worldwide."

Getting market acceptance is noted as the biggest challenge, "The science and technology is only 10% of the final product," says João Barros, adding, "In cutting edge technologies like Veniam's, only with strong, patient and experienced investors can a startup have enough muscle to withstand the daily pressure and overcome the barriers to market entry."

The CMU-Portugal Program (in ICT) is one of 4 partnerships with US universities funded by FCT since 2006. The other 3 programs are the UTAustin-Portugal Program (in Emerging Technologies), the MIT-Portugal Program (in Engineering Systems) and the Harvard Medical School-Portugal Program (in Translational Research and Information). FCT's support amounts to around 10 million euros per year.