In Porto, Portugal, picking up a free Wi-Fi signal is as simple as hopping into a bus or taxi. The city recently launched a Wi-Fi program that serves 70,000 people a month by offering free internet connections in more than 600 buses and taxis.
The program helps people keep their data usage down, and it also provides city planners information, since the Wi-Fi routers and special sensors also help collect data about when vehicles drive over a pothole or when garbage cans are full. This helps civic planners decide how to prioritise road repairs and garbage maintenance.
Cities have experimented with installing Wi-Fi routers in public places in all sorts of ways. In places like New York and London, there are initiatives that turn old payphones into hotspots. Porto's plan is unusual because it places routers on moving vehicles and doubles their practical purpose by using them as data sensors for city planning. The program, which is run by a startup called Venium, was funded with $US4.2 million by venture capitalists. If it helps planners choose more efficient methods for dealing with problems, it could end up providing a service that both saves the city money and makes travellers within the city happy. There are already plans for the company to expand to other cities, and it'd be great if other companies used this program for inspiration. The data bills are too damn high. [Technology Review]
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