Portuguese city converts buses, taxis into WiFi hotspots

With the exception of certain passenger trains and buses, having access to WiFi while on public transportation can be hard to come by in most places. That's not the case in Porto, Portugal, however, where the city has converted hundreds of buses and taxis into WiFi hotspots. The massive network of router-toting buses and taxis was introduced this past fall, and is said to offer service to about 70,000 people every month — taking as much as 80-percent of the WiFi traffic that would otherwise be going through the cellular networks.

Over 600 taxis and buses have been fit with routers that allow them to function as part of the city's wireless network, something that doubles as a way to implement sensors throughout the city (such as on garage cans) and in public vehicles. That latter data is then used by city officials to help refine future planning.

This is the biggest network of its kind, according to Veniam, the startup company behind the initiative. Though the free access to Internet is no doubt the high point for Porto residents, the widespread Internet access and use of sensors presents some unique ways for the city to improve its efficiency.

In one case, for example, sensors in cars will relate data on potholes and the location of the vehicle when it hit the pothole, making it easier for city officials to identify where repairs are necessary. We've seen initiatives similar to this before — particularly ones that aim to improve trash collection — but the lack of widespread Internet access has proved a big stumbling block.

SOURCE: MIT Technology Review