Where it's based: Mountain View, Calif.
When it was founded: 2013
Why it's Fierce: What if every car on the road could turn into a mobile hotspot? How could that help bring coverage to areas where it's lacking now? That's the vision of Veniam, which is pioneering what it calls the "Internet of Moving Things." The company offers a solution of hardware, software and cloud technology to create a mesh network using cars as the network nodes. The company's technology works on Wi-Fi networks, 3G, LTE and the 802.11p standard for vehicular transmissions, as well as dedicated short range communications service (DSRC) in the 5.9 GHz band for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.
João Barros, Veniam's founder and CEO, said every vehicle should be connected for five main reasons:
- Vehicles are ideal for use as mobile hotspots to extend coverage, since they are normally where large numbers of people are;
- they can serve as sensors in smart cities and interact with utilities and traffic systems;
- they can serve as conduits for transmitting Internet of Things data;
- connected vehicles can form a mesh network to provide connectivity during disasters;
- and using V2V connectivity can help drivers avoid crashes and also can expand network coverage beyond traditional Wi-Fi.
Veniam is currently targeting two main areas: city-wide fleets and industrial locations, such as ports and cargo terminals. The company installs hardware in vehicles and uses an algorithm to determine which network to connect to so that the connection never breaks down. When Wi-Fi or unlicensed spectrum isn't available, the service falls back to cellular networks. Some data--such as the position of a car for car services like Lyft or Uber--needs to be transmitted immediately and would likely go over cellular first. However, other data can be stored locally and analyzed later, and Barros said that often includes data such as video from surveillance cameras mounted on cars or travel data from citywide fleets for insurance companies to evaluate.
In addition to one-time hardware and software installations, the company offers managed services via the cloud. Customers can get real-time fleet monitoring, data analytics and data streams from cars (such as surveillance video and sensor data), and even free Wi-Fi service via a dedicated portal. Customers pay per vehicle per month for managed services.
Veniam has deployments in Porto, Portugal, and is working on deployments in Barcelona, Singapore and elsewhere. In the Porto deployment, the company has a city-scale vehicular mesh network, including an entire bus fleet, taxis and municipal service vehicles, and offers free Wi-Fi service to more than 150,000 unique users. In Portugal, the company is working with Vodafone for cellular fallback.
Veniam has around 30 employees (including 20 engineers and six Ph.Ds) and its leadership team includes Robin Chase, the founder and former CEO of Zipcar, and Roy Russell, the former CTO of Zipcar. The company has raised $4.9 million from Union Square Ventures, True Ventures and Cane Investments, and is in the process of raising funds for a Series B round. The firm has also received $1.5 million in non-dilutive government grants.
What's next: Veniam plans to expand deployments to the U.S. this year. The company is looking at Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area and a few other cities, and is focused on cities that already have a fiber network and Wi-Fi network that Veniam can leverage. The firm is looking to partner with carriers and systems integrators as it expands.