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Everything you need to know about Helium, the blockchain-based hotspot network

Everything you need to know about Helium, the blockchain-based hotspot network

Everything you need to know about Helium, the blockchain-based hotspot network
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By CNBCTV18.com Jul 20, 2022 4:53:51 PM IST (Published)

Founded in 2019, Helium is a Google-backed startup that’s on a mission to disrupt the telecom industry. It is a decentralised, blockchain-powered network which aims to provide connectivity for IoT devices and, more recently, 5G devices too.

Helium is a wireless network for IoT devices. IoT is short for the internet of things; it refers to a network of objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies so they can connect and exchange data with other objects and systems.

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It’s a network of devices talking to each other over the internet. Think tracking chips or the latest smart cars that can be unlocked with a mobile phone.
However, one thing that all these devices need to function is the internet. Currently, this need can be fulfilled by cellular data, WiFi or Bluetooth. While these connections serve their purpose, they are either expensive, power-hungry, or limited in range. This is where Helium comes in.
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What is Helium?
Founded in 2019, Helium is a Google-backed startup that’s on a mission to disrupt the telecom industry. It is a decentralised, blockchain-powered network which aims to provide connectivity for IoT devices and, more recently, 5G devices too.
How does it work?
The system revolves around ‘Helium Hotspots’, which are like WiFi routers that offer low-range, wide-area wireless (LoRaWAN) connectivity to IoT devices. Several of these devices band together to form a network that powers compatible IoT devices.
These devices use Helium’s proprietary LongFi protocol to communicate with each other. The protocol also enables the routers to exchange data with compatible IoT devices. However, these are usually minimal packets of information, such as environmental data, location data, or telemetry data from machines or devices.
Anyone can buy, set up and run these devices to earn HNT in return. HNT is the native cryptocurrency of the Helium Network.
How much can you earn?
There are plenty of hotspot devices listed on the Helium website. You can order an indoor or outdoor miner, depending on where you plan on keeping it. On average, these devices can cost up to $400, depending on the model you purchase.
According to an article by CoinMonk, you can earn as much as 5 HNT per day. At the time of writing, HNT was trading at $10.47, meaning you could make upwards of $50 a day. Therefore, even though the initial investment is slightly steep, it can still create a decent revenue stream in the long run.
Of course, how much HNT you earn through the hotspot depends on several factors, and the most important one is location. The closer your hotspot is to other hotspots, the better your rewards. The main aim here is to build a dense network of hotspots that can provide better coverage for IoT devices.
Proof-of-coverage:
The hotspots also serve as mining nodes. They run a proof-of-coverage (PoC) mechanism to ensure all nodes are delivering the network coverage they ought to. This is done through a challenge sent out to the various nodes, and it works like this:
Step 1: Challenger node transmits a challenge via an RF network within a specific location.
Step 2: Challengee (the node being tested) receives the challenge packets and transmits them to all other nodes nearby.
Step 3: Witnesses (the surrounding nodes) record and report the Challengee’s packets to the challenger, thereby creating proof of coverage.
This entire process ensures that all nodes are functioning and providing the network coverage as required. Note that the transmission power of these LoRaWAN devices is up to 200X that of conventional WiFi routers. Therefore, the PoC mechanism will involve several nodes, especially when the density of these devices increases over time.
The transition from IoT to 5G:
In April 2021, Helium partnered with the connectivity hardware firm FreedomFi to launch Helium 5G. This is a new spectrum, like LongFi, designed specifically for 5G smartphones and other compatible devices. This would make Helium the first consumer-owned 5G network in the world.
The system is similar to the IoT setup. Individuals/companies can buy and run 5G hotspots, and users can tap into this network using a FreedomFi sim card. Helium is also looking to onboard additional network operators to widen the 5G coverage.
Conclusion
As we move toward a world where every single device is connected to the internet, Helium’s IoT & 5G networks could see exponential demand. The systems are also several times cheaper than conventional infrastructure, making them a viable option for users and enterprises.
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