Wi-Fi on the go on NUS roads

National University of Singapore (NUS) students boarding the campus shuttle bus.
National University of Singapore (NUS) students boarding the campus shuttle bus.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Students and staff at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Kent Ridge campus can now get Wi-Fi access while travelling within campus on the university's shuttle buses.

The university has paired up with telco StarHub and network company Veniam on a year-long trial to connect vehicles to one another wirelessly through a mesh network, which extends the Wi-Fi coverage on campus outdoors and on roads.

This makes the 39 campus buses effectively mobile Wi-Fi hot spots that students and staff can access on the go.

Such networks allow data to pass from one receiver to another. The buses can access the Internet when they are within range of 15 access points throughout the university.

A mesh network allows a bus that is out of range of an access point to connect instead to another bus near it within range, and piggyback off it to gain Internet access. Failing that, the on-board network units can also connect to 4G services broadcast as a Wi-Fi hot spot for users.

These units also gather data that can be used for research in urban challenges facing Singapore logistics and transportation companies.

"The vehicles, beyond providing coverage, also act as mobile sensors to collect data as they move around," said Dr Joao Barros, Veniam's chief executive. "You can also map information in real-time, like people flow, where they're coming from and going to."

Mr Stephen Lee, head of innovation, investment and incubation at StarHub, said: "This mesh platform at NUS allows StarHub to explore how we can use data generated from the platform to help companies in the logistics and transport sectors improve their operations and planning."

This trial is the first of its kind in Singapore and part of StarHub's Connected Labs initiative, which lets researchers test their ideas in a real-life environment. It is also part of NUS' Living Lab initiative,which tests new technologies for nationwide feasibility.

Because this pilot puts vehicle-to-vehicle communication to the test, there is potential for application in driverless cars as well, as such vehicles will have to communicate with each other quickly and effectively to prevent collisions.

"The deployment of wireless mesh vehicular technology will allow NUS to conduct research into areas such as wireless mesh network enhancements, commuting and mobility trends, and other technologies that will drive us towards becoming a Smart Nation," said Professor Lawrence Wong, deputy director of NUS' Interactive and Digital Media Institute.