Portuguese Startup Develops New Technology to 'Connected Cars'
Portuguese Veniam Works is ready to show the world how cars and vehicles can be literally transformed in Mobile Hotspots. The dream, born in two of the most important universities in the country: Oporto and Aveiro, by the hand of two young academic investigators and experts who are developing some of the most innovative technology in the world in this particular sector that is bursting globally now with giant brands like Microsoft, Google and Apple getting into it including their gadgets in other also well known global brands in the automotive sector. There’s no turning back, we already have connected cars in the market, but Susana Sargento and João Barros want to go even further in this particular field, creating mesh networks with brand new, optimized and reliable, patented technology made in Portugal. Smart Cities, Smart Citizens, Smart Cars, Smart Everything? Sure! We Interviewed Susana Sargento, co-founder of this Portuguese startup.
How does Veniam Works, appear in Portugal?
Veniam’Works is a Spin-off of 2 Universities, Aveiro and Porto (and in the Institute of Telecommunications, both in Aveiro and Porto), and is the result of the work done in these groups. Naturally, it started in Portugal, but with an International vision from the beginning, integrating 2 great International Entrepreneurs as founders, Robin Chase and Roy Russel, together with Susana Sargento 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 form 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, WiFi 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 Susana Sargento 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 are the progresses happening right now worldwide?
Sure, and the market is huge! We have all the cities in the world trying to be smart and more efficient, and besides providing Internet access, we are able to deliver all sensors, users, and transports information to provide machine-to-machine applications, such as traffic management, fleet management, deliveries, pollution control. In more controlled places, we can improve the overall operations in harbors, 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 the equipments for all this 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.
And in Portugal how far do you think we are 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 showcases to disseminate worldwide that they are here, working, and ready for expansion to the world!
What are the major obstacles that you find in our country? Lack of professional, specialists or creativeness or lack of open-minded administrations and hermetic corporative solutions?
Portugal is for sure great in specialists and professional people, and we have been able to have the best of the best with us! Although we have been also very lucky with the administration of our partners, yes, sometimes there are some obstacles that we need to overcome. In the end, we cannot complain with the open-mind of our administrations.
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 referred, they are the ones coming 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 the new brands of cars will take the vehicular technology installed from the beginning. By that time, we already 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 take in terms of reduced energy (controlled traffic and operations) and in terms of costs will make itself sustainable, and even providing 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 working 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 to the Chinese, Indian, or even American and European competence? Do you feel that our country could be in the forehead 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.
After 20 years of Journalism and Media Professional, I'm dedicated since 2008 to new projects related with Innovation and Technology. Consultant of many municipalities to the Smart Cities theme and Tourism sector based on the newest technologies and communication tools.