While there may be no such thing as a free ride, thanks to Veniam, there is now free wifi on the ride. Veniam turns vehicles into mobile hotspots while their sensor technology gathers terabytes of valuable data from the physical world. Welcome to the Internet of Moving Things.
Veniam, on CNBC's 2017 Disrupter List, harnesses several smart city technology trends. They are operational in three cities, creating wifi capacity for 720,000 users who generate 16 million Internet sessions. Their success is not only a great example to study and follow, it is also a roadmap for the smart city future.
1. Create Connectivity, Collect Data
Veniam offers mobile wifi, which is at the heart of what people want. The future will depend on faster connectivity and we will need a lot more of it as digital demand increases thanks to the Internet of Things. While today's 4G wireless networks evolve into the next-generation, 5G, wifi networks are adding much-needed capacity.
And while Veniam is providing wifi, they are also collecting data that can then be shared to optimize city operations. (To address privacy concerns, Veniam says the data is aggregated, not personalized) This give and take model is value packed. Consumers get connected, companies collect valuable data, and city leaders receive the input they need to make more informed decisions about city operations and planning.
Pretty quickly you'll start seeing more "things" offering wifi. The next time you're in New York City, you'll probably notice kiosks from Civiq Smartscapes, which add "smart communications infrastructure and applications" to city blocks transforming static objects into digital communications hubs. Totem and Sync.City offer similar but differentiated offerings.
2. Get Moving
Today we run around searching for a signal to satisfy our hunger for constant connectivity. Veniam promises that soon, the network will follow you. Enter the era of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology.
Forty-four companies from car manufacturers to tech giants are steadily working on autonomous vehicles. All of this scrambling is great news to companies like Veniam. As the network of self-driving vehicles grows, so does their ability to expand mobile wifi network nodes and collect more data.
In Porto, Portugal, home to the largest vehicular network in the world, hundreds of vehicles, including taxies, garbage trucks, and public buses are now connected. Across the world, shuttle buses on the campus of the National University of Singapore operate transit activities while they provide wifi and collect data. Veniam is at the center of both of these efforts.
3. Order the Hardware, Software and Cloud Combo
In the past, creating a company that followed a Swiss Army Knife approach could be a sign of a lack of focus. Today, it is a necessity as long as the innovation is integrated.
Take a look at Veniam's example. They move terabytes of data between vehicles and the cloud. This "vehicle-to-cloud" platform requires hardware, software and cloud technologies to be carefully orchestrated. There are ample opportunities in each of these areas (hardware, software) but the real value lies in the data.
Since data is the new oil, it's time to consider how your company can participate. Where are there opportunities for you to collect data? Or perhaps you can add value in the security, storage or sharing leg of the journey? Don't forget about the translation of information into actionable insights. Having data is one thing, but what you do with it is what counts.
So What's Next?
As more cities embrace 21st century digital infrastructure improvements, there will be continued opportunities for innovation. Veniam's model of offering people the connectivity they want while empowering data-based decision making simply makes sense. Integrated, win-win technology is what smart cities is all about.
But the future is unknown and much of the technology is evolving faster than the ability to understand or accept it. There will be many speed bumps. Regulatory quagmires, consumer confusion and outright lack of innovative thinking will slow adoption in many urban areas.
Will companies like Veniam be able to ride it out? Only time will tell. As we see with kiosks, there will be increased competition in the Internet of Moving Things. The technology will start to look similar and the leaders will be differentiated by their ability to sell it in to cities. This has been a real sticking point for a lot of promising startups. Let's just hope that companies like Veniam can survive the future long enough to create it.