Tyler Reynolds (YC ’14) and Stephen Hall (YC ’14) were at a Yale-Harvard tailgate when they discovered a problem: there were so many people using their smartphones, the two friends couldn’t get online. That is, until they stood behind the stands, where they could take advantage of nearby WiFi hotspots.
“We realized there are a lot of places with WiFi holes,” Hall says. The two joined forces with David Cruz (YC ’14) to launch Trinity Mobile Networks—a software startup that is helping carriers offload data demand to Wi-Fi hotspots. Their patent-pending, self-organizing network increases the speed and capacity of wireless networks. The team has already demonstrated that their software works on iPhones and Android devices and they are currently in talks with carriers. Trinity advanced their startup first through a Summer Fellowship at the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design and then during the 2014 YEI Fellowship, a 10-week bootcamp for accelerating Yale ventures. They recently received investment from the YEI Innovation Fund, a fund run in partnership with Yale, Connecticut Innovations and First Niagara Bank.
Here’s the issue. Mobile devices are driving the way we communicate, learn and share information. But with all of those smartphones in constant use, and limited network capacity, service gets sluggish—particularly at large gatherings when people are all using their devices simultaneously. The problem will only continue to compound as data-hungry mobile devices become ubiquitous.
Carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have to build more towers to keep up with demand—an expensive proposition, and one fraught with the difficulties of navigating local regulations. The Federal Communication Commission predicts that carriers will spend tens of billions in new tower construction over the next 20 years.
Trinity offers an alternative solution using peer-to-peer technology — mobile devices relay signals from existing Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing people to remain connected without clogging cellular networks. All of this is coordinated seamlessly via Trinity’s central server. “Wi-Fi has a short range,” says Reynolds. “Our software effectively turns phones into Wi-Fi repeaters. In terms of the hardware of the phones, nothing needs to be changed.”
They would start by tapping into public networks but any Wi-Fi network will work with their software. “Long term, we can significantly improve a carrier’s ability to offload data and reduce their infrastructure costs,” Reynolds says.