Helium Hotspots are a peer-to-peer wireless network that allows low-power IoT devices to send data to and from the internet. Anyone who owns a Helium Hotspot can earn $HNT, a cryptocurrency, as an incentive for providing public coverage. Recently the company also announced a partnership with FreedomFi, to help mobile network operators accelerate 5G coverage with consumer-deployed connectivity gateways. Here’s a complete overview of the company, and its mission to develop the “People’s Network”.
Helium is a pioneer in decentralised wireless networks. The company co-founded by Shawn Fanning and Amir Haleem (CEO) developed the world’s first peer-to-peer wireless network. The Helium Network connects IoT devices to the internet by incentivising hotspot hosts to provide coverage. The network is live today, with more than 30 800 hotspots, within more than 3,600 cities throughout North America and Europe, with expansion into Asia underway. You can check the latest live network stats on Helium Explorer.
The Helium Network
Helium’s thousands of hotspots create the “People’s Network”, a long-range wireless coverage for LoRaWAN-enabled IoT devices. This decentralised network is powered by the Helium Blockchain.
Helium Blockchain and Proof of Coverage
Based on a new, novel work algorithm called Proof of Coverage (PoC), the Helium Blockchain powers the largest, public, decentralised LoRaWAN Network in the world. This unique work algorithm uses radio waves to validate Hotspots are providing legitimate wireless coverage.
Now this is where things get a bit technical:
PoC “challenges” allow the blockchain to record more data about the quality of the network. In these challenges hotspots have three roles:
- Challenger – The Hotspot that constructs and issues the POC Challenge.
- Transmitter – Sometimes called “Challengee”. This Hotspot is the target of the POC challenge and is responsible for transmitting challenge packets to potentially be witnessed by geographically proximate Hotspots.
- Witness – Hotspots that are geographically proximate to the Transmitter and report the existence of the challenge packet after it has been transmitted.
LongFi combines the LoRaWAN wireless protocol with Helium blockchain so any LoRaWAN device can transfer data on the Helium Network. It is designed to transfer data bi-directionally over long ranges (more than 200x Wi-Fi), whilst maximising the battery life of compatible devices. Examples of network data include location information to track valuable items and prevent theft, environmental data like air quality or temperature, or data from machinery for predictive maintenance.
In exchange for transferring data via the LongFi protocol, the Hotspot owner receives Helium tokens. For more information on LongFi, you can read this blog post on the Helium Blog.
The Helium hotspots are what power the “People’s Network”. They’re super easy to set up, just plug it in (preferably near a window) and connect it to the network via the app. Once set up, you’ll be providing miles of wireless network coverage for millions of devices around you, using Helium LongFi. You will of course be rewarded with $HNT for doing so, and unlike other crypto miners it is very energy efficient, using merely 5W of energy!
In the early stages of the Helium project, individuals had the possibility of building a DIY Helium Hotspot, however, this option has since been removed. You do have the ability, however, to choose between multiple hotspots from approved manufacturers.
Here’s the current list of Hotspots available to buy:
Currently, all of these hotspots are incredibly in-demand, so if you’d like to buy one, keep in mind it won’t be arriving for a few months.
As you can see these hotspots all have similar prices, other than the HNT Outdoor Hotspot Miner by Nebra which can of course be set up outside. This is because they are all supposedly identical when it comes to functionality.
Having to spend around $400 upfront can seem like a pretty hefty investment, but with the amount of $HNT these things can mine, you’ll soon have broken even.
As I mentioned above, you earn $HNT by providing wireless coverage and verifying the Helium Network. Here are the different ways a hotspot will mine $HNT.
- CHALLENGERS (0.95%): The network chooses Hotspots to issue challenges, encrypted messages over the Internet, to a target group of Hotspots. Challenges are used by Proof-of-Coverage to validate wireless coverage. Hotspots can issue challenges from any location, not just to local Hotspots.
- PROOF-OF-COVERAGE (5.31): Hotspots earn a share of HNT for participating in Proof-of-Coverage and validating their peer’s wireless coverage. The amount each Hotspot earns depends on how often it is directly involved in Proof-of-Coverage activity.
- WITNESSES (21.24%): Hotspots that monitor and report Proof-of-Coverage activity (beacons) of other Hotspots receive a portion of HNT depending on how much activity they’ve witnessed, and the reward scaling of the Challengee.
- NETWORK DATA TRANSFER (32.5%): Hotspots receive HNT when they transfer data from devices on the network. The amount of HNT is allocated proportionally based on the amount of data a Hotspot transferred.
- CONSENSUS GROUP (6%): Hotspots are randomly elected to the Consensus Group to perform tasks. These include validating transactions and publishing new blocks to the blockchain. Group members receive a portion of the 6% distributed to the Consensus Group.
It is also important to note that the amount of $HNT that can be mined is halved every 2 years. Currently 5M $HNT is being distributed each month, this will then reduce to 2.5M in August 2021. However, this might not affect your earnings as the price of $HNT seems to be continuously going up, as the network becomes more popular.
The current price of $HNT on the 2nd of May 2021, is $19.18. Just today it has gone up more than 16%, and in the space of 3 months, has gone up more than 780%! This is because more and more people are becoming aware of Helium and it’s mission to create the “People’s Network”, and by the looks of things, people like it!
So if the price of $HNT continues with this upward trend, Hotspot owners may end up making more money than they are now, despite the halving.
Helium Hotspot 5G
Helium’s latest announcement is its partnership with FreedomFi, the open 5G company, to help mobile network operators accelerate their 5G Coverage. This is done using FreedomFi Gateways, a consumer-deployed connectivity device that pairs with 5G antennas.
These gateways will interoperate with the Helium Network, which enables gateway hosts to mine HNT by providing 5G cellular coverage.
The new 5G network will roll out to select cities in the U.S. throughout the course of 2021. It plans to expand into other countries and cover a variety of spectrum bands in the following years.
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