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Buses, garbage trucks, and taxis will soon act as moving Wi-Fi hotspots in U.S. cities

Turning pay phones into Wi-Fi stations is fine and dandy, but a startup from Portugal is taking things a step further by turning vehicles into mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Beyond expanding wireless Internet coverage, these vehicles can also collect useful and actionable data about a city’s infrastructure.

Veniam, a startup based in Mountain View, California, has integrated its technology in more than 600 buses, garbage trucks and taxis in its original home city of Porto, Portugal. The Wi-Fi network serves about 70,000 people a month. The moving Wi-Fi network absorbs 50-80 percent of wireless Internet traffic that would have otherwise happened on cellular networks, according to MIT Technology Review.

RelatedChicago, New York libraries will soon lend Wi-Fi hotspots to patrons

The mobile Wi-Fi network equips buses, garbage trucks and taxis with NetRider devices, which open up opportunities for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and data collection. This meshing of hardware, software and cloud solutions gives Veniam “the networking fabric for the Internet of Moving Things,” according to the company’s website.

A simple example of what Veniam’s network can achieve is found in a pothole: When a bus or taxi that’s part of the network hits a pothole, sensors can send that information to city hall, which can use it to identify areas where road repairs are required.

Here’s another example: If a participating bus or taxi passes a full trash bin equipped with the proper sensor, that information will be sent to the proper department so they can empty it at an optimal time of day.

Veniam recently announced $4.9 million in new funding. Its Wi-Fi network in Porto is free to all consumers, thanks to the sponsorship of local transportation companies and brands.

The company told VentureBeat that it would use part of its new funding to roll out its network in San Francisco; New York City; and Austin, Texas. Its first U.S. network will launch in the first quarter of 2015.