Helium is a decentralized wireless network that was created to provide connectivity to low-power "Internet of things" devices. Helium network is based on blockchain technologies and it offers a secure and cost-effective way to solve the problem of independence from existing telecom networks.
The Helium People's Network is based on the decentralized access point network that works on a new protocol on the unlicensed 900MHz band. It is built around two key elements: Hotspots and Devices. Devices send and receive data while Helium Network is designed to route data for them. The network is open and any device can be added if it uses the LoRaWAN wireless protocol. If you are ready to add your LoRaWAN device, you need to create an account on the Helium Console which is the management tool of the platform. The technology supports all the IoT devices, from lighting systems to pet collars. It helps people, organizations, and a wide range of industries to make use of modern innovations as Devices can communicate much further than Wi-Fi.
The Helium Hotspot is a LongFi access point that enables its owner to mine HNT tokens for providing the coverage. The Hotspots are made and distributed by Helium, though they declare on their official website that users can make their own items as this option is in alpha release. They offer a guide on setting a Hotspot mentioning that it is recommended for advanced users only.
In the past, the Hotspots were the main product that the company sold to the users interested in the network extension. In June 2020, they started offering a new exclusive product to Hotspot owners, Helium Tabs. This is a location tracker connected to the People’s Network.
At the time of writing, the Helium network covers more than 1,000 cities in North America and the European launch has been already announced. According to the official coverage map, the European Hotspots are mainly located in the UK.
There are two types of tokens that are used within the Helium blockchain: the Helium token (HNT) and Data Credits (DC). The Helium (HNT) is a utility ERC-20 token used to reward Hotspot owners and investors. It can be utilized in two ways: as a mining reward and a payment for network services (as a source for the DC generation).
There was no HNT token sale or premine. The first HNT was generated on July 29th, 2019, and a maximum of 5 mln new HNT can be minted per month to be distributed to Hotspot operators. The total amount of HNT is not limited. The HNT rewards are allocated in the following way: 66% is dedicated to the miners and 34% is dedicated to the Helium Company and investors. There's no precise formula for calculating an exact HNT amount that will be received over a certain period of time. It largely depends on the type of work the Hotspot performed at that time.
HNT token can be bought and sold on several exchanges such as FTX, OKEx, Binance, etc. HeliumEx (the People's Exchange) was launched in August 2020 as the project’s US-based cryptocurrency exchange. It is designed to provide an effective online trading market for HNT and offers a much safer way to exchange HNT using an insured custodian. HNT’s price on the exchanges is determined by supply and demand only.
It is easy to start mining HNT. You need to do is just to plug in a Hotspot with no further active actions. Make sure that your Hotspot is fully synced with the Helium blockchain. Hotspots can perform the following basic types of work to receive HNT:
Proof-of-Coverage. Miners who provide wireless network coverage are automatically and randomly offered to pass Proof-of-Coverage tests. It is necessary to prove that the participants’ Hotspots are located where their owners claim and honestly represent their location. This is required because the Helium Network is a physical wireless network with performance and success depending on reliable coverage created for its users. The testing mechanism is called “PoC Challenge.” If a Hotspot passes the test successfully, it will receive a reward in HNT.
Relay Device Data. Hotspots’ owners get HNT for the device data transmission within the network. The more such data a Hotspot transmits, the more its owner gets.
Consensus Groups. The miners that demonstrate the best proofs with the tests can be elected to the Consensus Groups. They get tokens for validating transactions and adding blocks to the blockchain. All the active Hotspots have an opportunity to be elected to a Consensus Group. At the time of writing, there are 16 miners elected to each group but according to the official information, it is possible that this number will increase with the growth of the network.
Helium’s Team, Advisors, and Clients
The project was launched by Helium Inc. Headquartered in San Francisco, this company was co-founded in 2013 by Amir Haleem, Sean Carey, and Shawn Fanning from Napster.
Amir Haleem is the CEO of Helium. He has extensive experience in the videogame industry. He was the CTO at Diversion, a gaming startup, in 2010-2013. He also worked at Global Gaming League and DICE (EA Digital Illusions CE AB).
Marc Nijdam is the CTO. He has over 25 years of experience in technological development. Prior to Helium, he was a Sr. Principal Engineer at Yahoo (2013-2015).
Frank Mong is the project’s COO. He joined Helium from Palo Alto Networks, where he was responsible for all product, industry, and solutions marketing. Generally, his technology industry experience is over 20 years.
Chris Bruce is the VP of Product and Technology. He is experienced in both product and engineering. At the same time, he is also a board member at Decentralized Wireless Alliance.
According to the official information, there are 13 advisors in this project. Shawn Fanning, one of the co-founders, is mentioned among them.
Helium works not only with individuals but also with large businesses that have already appreciated the benefits of this project. The key consumers of this kind are Nestle’s ReadyRefresh, a customizable beverage delivery service, agricultural tech company Agulus, Lime, a transportation company that specializes in micromobility, Conserv, a collections-focused wireless monitoring platform, and others.