What is Helium?

Helium is a blockchain-powered decentralized wireless Internet Of Things (IoT) network. The core network is named “The People’s Network”. This network is a unique combination of blockchain, WiFi, and LoRaWAN that Helium calls LongFI.

The People’s Network differs from the standard LoRaWAN open-source network in a few key ways. To start with, let’s review LoRa.

If you’re already familiar with Helium, learn how to increase helium mining profitability.

LoRaWAN Background

LoRaWAN is a combination of two technologies:

  • Long Range license-free radio frequency
    • 915MHz – US/AU
    • 868MHz Europe
    • 867MHz – India
    • 923MHz – Asia)
  • WAN refers to the networking layers that support the devices using a low-power wide-area network

How Does Helium Differ from LoRaWAN?

First, the Helium blockchain is used to validate the low-power long-range radio network. The blockchain is the infrastructure that makes data communicated over the network immutable via the required consensus of the network. In addition, the blockchain exposes a way for the network to mint tokens that are rewards to hosts of the network and burned in order to communicate on the network.

Second, the Helium blockchain offers incentives for people to maintain the network and increase its coverage. Unlike Helium, LoRaWAN does not offer a financial incentive to build and maintain an interconnected network.

Helium Branding Map

Roles on the Helium Network

Miner – On the Helium network you are hosting a part of the Helium network. Hotspots are rewarded with $HNT by the blockchain for providing network coverage. Therefore, hotspots are paid when applications transfer data in a region of the network that the hotspot is managing.

User – On the Helium network you are leveraging the available network in order to transfer data from your sensor. In order to send data over the network, the user needs to burn HNT tokens and receive Data Credits. These credits are a requirement when transferring data on the network.

The People’s Network

The network is composed of hotspots, each of which requires a connection to WiFi or a wired network. The hotspots provide radio coverage for the Helium network which can reach much further than your regular WiFi signal. Depending on the geography and height of the hotspot’s antenna, a single hotspot will easily provide network coverage within a 500-meter radius.

Helium blockchain provides HNT to hotspots using a unique Proof-of-Coverage algorithm. Unlike other blockchain projects such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many altcoins, Helium does not require “miners” or hotspots to burn electricity or crunch a bunch of numbers in order to provide value. Instead, the blockchain issues challenges for locations around the globe that check to see if a hotspot is able to accept the challenge and prove that it’s offering coverage in the area.

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HNT Distrobution

Witnessing the challenge for another hotspot provides certainty to the blockchain that the challenge region has ample coverage. Because of the added certainty, Helium provides extra HNT tokens to the witness as well as the hotspot proving coverage.

At this time there are four companies that offer Helium hotspots. In the past, anyone could create their own Helium miner using open-source LoRaWAN hardware. That lead to a huge range in the quality among the hotspots with many hotspots being subpar.

Helium Miners

As of today, there are 29,436 active hotspots globally. There are over 200,000 hotspots ordered from suppliers that will be fulfilled by the end of 2021. How much can you make mining Helium?

Hotspot Vendors

Helium Hotspot Map

Does Anyone Use The Helium Blockchain?

The Helium network is definitely in the beginning stages yet there seem to be nearly infinite possibilities for application integration. Several companies are already working on applications for the Helium network.

  • InvisiLeash – Affordable pet collars that ensure pets are never lost
  • SmartMimic – Occupation Health, Social Distance Tracking, and Contact Tracing
  • Digital Matter – GPS Tracking for trailers, fleet, tools, and indoor assets
  • SalesForce – Allow access to networked resources with a simple swipe of a user’s badge
  • Lime – From Skateboards to Cars, tracking mobility devices wherever they end up
What Next?

Once the hotspots I’ve ordered arrive I will be creating an app that uses the Helium network using the provided documentation.

Increase your Helium Mining Profitability

Curious about the security risks associated with Helium?

For a highly detailed explanation of the Helium project, check out the white paper.