The Smarter Cities initiative makes connectivity part of the transportation infrastructure.
For car commuters, drive time is a period of lost productivity. For those who use mass transit, however, those hours can become part of the workday, enabling employees to flex their schedules, check into meetings from offsite, and communicate with colleagues. All they need is a solid, fast Wi-Fi connection.
The Smarter Cities initiative is making that happen. Veniam has created a mesh network of mobile hotspots throughout the city of Porto, Portugal, that provides a new model for mobile infrastructure. By connecting buses, taxis, trash collection trucks, street sweepers, container trucks, boats, and other transit vehicles, Veniam was able to create an interactive, mobile Internet of Things in which vehicles become roving hotspots that provide commuters with continuous internet access that lets them work while in transit, while also sending data to a central hub in the network. These vehicles also collect a wide array of real-time data, including air temperature, traffic patterns, and road conditions.
In Porto, residents spend an average of 118 hours a year in traffic, contributing to pollution, congestion, and a diminished quality of life for everyone in the city. Yet, strong public transit options are widely available, and adding connectivity would make them more desirable to commuters who could use that extra time more productively.
“The STCP Free Wi-Fi service was launched on September 21st, 2014, providing wireless internet connectivity on the move to passengers of the public bus service. The service, available in the fleet of over 400 vehicles of STCP, allowed riders to enjoy a seamless internet experience on the move, powered by Veniam multi-network, multi-purpose platform,” said Rui Costa, CTO, Veniam.
Costa continued, “The service is innovative because it relies on the vehicle mesh network built by the Veniam vehicle-to-everything (V2X) Platform to make vehicles communicate with each other and with the internet.”
The network in Porto encompasses not only the STCP buses, but also municipality and trash collection trucks and other city service vehicles. It is the world’s largest commercial vehicular network in operation. Since its launch, more than 760,000 different have users used the service in over 10.5 million internet sessions.
The Veniam team worked closely with the Instituto de Telecomunicações, University of Porto, and the University of Aveiro, to learn how to deploy and operate a city-scale commercial vehicular network with daily users and with a service that provides an improvement in the quality of life in the city. “By leveraging Veniam software updates over-the-air, the team also learned how to keep upgrading the product with better performance and additional functionalities,” said Costa.
The Porto initiative was a success, and now the Veniam platform is bringing Smarter Cities connectivity to New York City, Singapore, and other cities that will soon be announced.
Connectors and sensors are at the heart of the project. Mouser organized a suite of complementary products from a host of manufacturers to create the mesh network, and Molex connectors are a key part of the electronics solution.
“The push of increasing technology into transportation can be summarized by one key driver: the consumer’s desire to always be connected,” said Mike Gardner, director, Advanced Technology Market Development, Molex, LLC.
At first glance, that connectivity is chiefly about productivity. Commuters who tap into the network can work or access communication and entertainment resources while on the go. But Gardner pointed out that, on a larger level, this connectivity achieves an even greater objective. “Connected mobility is also influencing another key technology driver: safety.”
When connected commuters access the network for their own use, they also contribute to the real-time information flow between their transportation mode and a central hub that can transmit information about conditions that will enhance safety.
Gardner continued, “Many technologies are being driven into transportation for autonomy, and that leads back to safety, and that, in turn, leads back to connected mobility. Strangely, one can make the argument the market driver is the Battle for the Eyeball. In this competition, the realization is that you can only have your eyes on one thing at a time. That, in turn, drives greater levels of safety necessity.”
When a cab hits a pothole, sensors will transmit that information to city planners, who can issue repair requests. When certain areas demonstrate congestion on a regular basis, traffic signals and bus schedules can be adjusted to regulate and diminish it, and to reroute or reschedule city services like trash collection.
The end result is a system that encourages more people to use mass transit, because they can count on free, fast Wi-Fi and productivity instead of stress in the morning. Traffic eases, pollution clears, and the city is able to collect information that helps it enhance quality of life for the residents — all with the help of connector technology.