Helium is a wireless network for IoT devices. IoT is short for internet of things; it refers to a network of objects embedded with sensors, software and other technologies so that they can connect and exchange data with other objects and systems.
It is a network of devices that talk to each other over the internet. Think tracking tags or the latest smart cars that can be unlocked with a mobile phone.
One thing that all of these devices need to work is the internet. At the moment, this need can be met by mobile data, WiFi or Bluetooth. Although these connections serve their purpose, they are either expensive, power-hungry or limited in range. This is where Helium comes in.
What is helium?
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 join 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 original cryptocurrency of the Helium Network.
How much can you earn?
There are many hotspot devices listed on the Helium website. You can order an indoor or outdoor miner, depending on where you plan to keep it. On average, these devices can cost up to $400, depending on the model you buy.
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, which means you can earn upwards of $50 per day. Therefore, even if the initial investment is a bit steep, it can still create a decent income stream in the long run.
How much HNT you earn through the hotspot of course depends on several factors, the most important of which is location. The closer to your hotspot other hotspots are, the better your rewards will be. The main goal here is to build a dense network of hotspots that can provide better coverage for IoT devices.
Proof of coverage:
Hotspots also act as mining nodes. They run a proof-of-coverage (PoC) mechanism to ensure that all nodes are delivering the network coverage they should. This is done through a challenge sent out to the various nodes, and it works like this:
Step 1: The Challenger node transmits a challenge via an RF network within a specific location.
Step 2: The challengee (the node under test) receives the challenge packets and sends them to all other nearby nodes.
Step 3: Witnesses (the surrounding nodes) record and report Challengee’s packets to the challenger, thus creating proof of coverage.
This entire process ensures that all nodes are functioning and provides network coverage as needed. Please note that the transmission power of these LoRaWAN devices is up to 200X that of conventional WiFi routers. Therefore, the PoC mechanism will involve more nodes, especially when the density of these devices increases over time.
The transition from IoT to 5G:
In April 2021, Helium partnered with connectivity hardware company FreedomFi to launch Helium 5G. This is a new spectrum, like LongFi, designed specifically for 5G smartphones and other compatible devices. This will make Helium the first consumer-owned 5G network in the world.
The system is similar to the IoT setup. Individuals/businesses can purchase and run 5G hotspots and users can tap into this network using a FreedomFi sim card. Helium is also looking for more network operators to expand its 5G coverage.
As we move towards a world where every single device is connected to the internet, Helium’s IoT and 5G networks could see exponential demand. The systems are also several times cheaper than conventional infrastructure, which makes them a viable option for users and companies.