This post is by Vitor Pereira, a journalist for 20 years and an expert in augmented reality, tourism, mobile apps and Internet of Things. He now works with municipalities and cities on their ‘smart’ strategies and is a consultant and blogger for the Smart Cities Portugal network.
In this interview with Susana Sargento, co-founder of Portuguese start-up Venium, we find out more about how the advantages the technology can bring and its potential for the future.
A Portuguese start-up called Veniam Works is looking to show the world how cars and vehicles can be literally transformed in mobile hotspots. The dream was born in two of the most important universities in the country: Oporto and Aveiro, by Susana Sargento and João Barros, two young academics and experts who are developing some of the world’s most innovative technology in this sector. The connected car space is currently bursting globally with giant brands such as Microsoft, Google and Apple getting into it along with other global brands in the automotive sector.
While we already have connected cars in the market Sargento and Barros want to go further, creating mesh networks with brand new, optimized and reliable, patented technology made in Portugal. Smart cities, smart citizens, smart cars, smart everything?
To find out more we interviewed Susana Sargento, co-founder of Portuguese start-up Venium.
How does Veniam Works appear in Portugal?
Veniam Works is a spin-off of two universities, Aveiro and Porto and the Institute of Telecommunications, and is the result of the work done in these groups. It started in Portugal, but with had an international vision from the beginning, integrating two great international entrepreneurs as founders, Robin Chase and Roy Russel, together with myself and João Barros.
What services and products do you provide?
Veniam aims to become the number one company connecting vehicles to the Internet. Veniam’s networking technologies will turn vehicles into mobile hotspots for Internet access, bring car data to the cloud and forming a vehicle mesh network that can be used for business, leisure and safety applications, as well as machine-to-machine data delivery. Our main product is a simple-to-use after-market solution to be placed in cars to connect them to the Internet. Each box has a smart connection manager to seamless switch between vehicular, Wi-Fi and cellular technologies to provide the cheapest and most reliable wireless connection to the Internet.
What is the importance of being linked to the academic investigation in two of the most important universities in Portugal?
Both myself and João Barros are Professors in the University (Aveiro and Porto). The technology we are developing is new and it is the first time it is being applied to such a large-scale, as we have done in our pilots in Leixões and the city. The research of new solutions and approaches is inherent to this project and company, and therefore, the connection to the universities and our research groups is really key to the success.
Is there a market for connected vehicles technology? What progress is being made right now worldwide?
Sure, and the market is huge! All the cities in the world are trying to be smart and more efficient, and besides providing Internet access we are able to deliver all sensors, users, and transport information to provide machine-to-machine applications, such as traffic management, fleet management, deliveries, and pollution control. In more controlled places, we can improve the overall operations in harbours, airports, construction sites, open-air mines, large factories. The market is enormous, and it is critical that we concentrate upon the start.
Worldwide there are several advancements in connecting equipment for smart operation, but this is not being done with such a long-range wireless technology and in a mesh-network environment, where we can provide great benefits with a reduced cost.
How far do you think we are in Portugal from the new “connected” reality?
Surprisingly, we see our partners very interested in our technology, and sometimes they are the ones giving us ideas on applications that will make use of the technology and the pilots deployed! Portugal is surely ahead of many countries now, and for us, our deployed pilots are our showcase to disseminate worldwide that they are here, working, and ready for expansion to the world! Portugal is surely ahead of many countries now.
What about the awareness not only from the public and municipal administrations but also of our citizens? Do you feel that everyone’s ready to embrace new technology paradigm of IoE?
We see the public and municipal administrations (mainly from Porto where we deployed the pilots) very enthusiastic, and the value of the technology is clear for them. As I mentioned, they are the ones coming up with ideas on how to leverage and make use of the technology deployed.
How do you see the future of connected cars? Do you expect that Europe follow America’s example to start promoting standards to the industry?
It has been a reality for some years! It will happen in the near future and new brands of cars will have vehicular technology installed from the beginning. By that time, we will already have learned everything we need to make the network of cars working, and we expect to include our software in all the cars. The industry is ready, the market is ready, and citizens are ready too
How do you face the energy and sustainability challenges with your solutions?
The advantages that this technology will make in terms of reduced energy (controlled traffic and operations), and in terms of costs, will make itself sustainable and even provide great revenues.
What do you expect from the public and communitarian financial support for these solutions? Do you believe they will stand up in Europe (and worldwide)?
Our first targets are fleets to which we can provide direct benefits and increase the critical mass to make our network work with the required reliability. The public and community will then make use of the technology already installed, and if they see the benefits of it, they will be able to improve their support. However, this can be done through a partnership with the telecom operators, instead of directly to the public.
What are your advantages over the Chinese, Indian, or even American and European competition? Do you feel that Portugal could be at the forefront of biggest innovative technology in this specific sector?
We have a technology that is new! We have a network and platform that is unique! We are learning faster than anyone else, in making our network working and improving it day by day. We are mastering it ahead of everyone else, because we are learning earlier and faster, patenting our IP, and positioning ourselves as the industry leaders in networking software for connected cars and fleets.