Helium: Everything to Know
By Beluga Research August 6, 2023
- Helium is a decentralized blockchain network that enables the creation of a wireless Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.
- It is aiming to provide efficient connectivity for IoT devices.
- Participants set up and maintain hotspots, which act as wireless gateways and earn rewards in the form of Helium's native cryptocurrency, HNT
- Helium utilizes proof-of-coverage consensus and LongFi technology (LoRaWAN + blockchain) to incentivize network expansion
Helium is a decentralized blockchain network that enables the creation of a wireless Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. Helium was founded in 2013 by Amir Haleem, Shawn Fanning, and Sean Carey with the vision of creating a global wireless network for IoT devices.
The project gained significant traction with the launch of the Helium Network in 2019, which utilizes a combination of LongFi technology and blockchain to enable secure and low-power connectivity for IoT devices.
A Brief History
Helium's journey began with the development of a peer-to-peer file-sharing platform called Napster, created by Shawn Fanning in the late 1990s. Fast forward to 2013, and Fanning, along with Haleem and Carey, recognized the need for a decentralized and efficient connectivity solution for IoT devices. This led to the birth of Helium, which aimed to leverage blockchain technology to build a global wireless network.
Helium: Everything to Know
At the core of the Helium ecosystem is the Helium Network, a wireless network powered by a decentralized blockchain infrastructure. The network relies on a unique consensus algorithm called proof-of-coverage, which incentivizes participants to provide wireless coverage by validating and verifying wireless signals.
To participate in the Helium Network, users need to set up and maintain Hotspots, which are specialized hardware devices that act as wireless gateways for IoT devices. These Hotspots use LongFi technology, a combination of the Long Range (LoRa) wireless protocol and the Helium blockchain, to provide long-range and low-power connectivity.
In addition to providing coverage, Hotspot owners can earn rewards in the form of Helium's native cryptocurrency, HNT. These rewards are distributed based on the amount of coverage provided and the quality of the wireless signals transmitted. This incentivizes the growth of the network and ensures its reliability and availability.
The Helium blockchain serves as a decentralized ledger that records and verifies the ownership and transfer of Hotspots and IoT devices on the network. It also facilitates the issuance and distribution of HNT rewards, ensuring transparency and security within the ecosystem.
One notable aspect of Helium is its community-driven approach. The project encourages collaboration and engagement from its community members, who actively participate in network expansion, device development and ecosystem governance. This inclusive approach has contributed to the rapid growth and adoption of Helium.
To participate in the Helium network, users need a Helium Hotspot. A Helium Hotspot is a device that acts as a wireless gateway, providing coverage for IoT devices and earning Helium tokens (HNT) as a reward. Setting up a Hotspot involves connecting it to the internet and activating it through the Helium mobile app. Once activated, the Hotspot begins broadcasting its location and coverage, allowing IoT devices to connect to the network.
One of the unique aspects of Helium is its use of the proof-of-coverage consensus mechanism. Unlike traditional consensus mechanisms like proof-of-work (PoW) or proof-of-stake (PoS), PoC relies on physical coverage rather than computational power or token ownership. Hotspot owners prove they are providing coverage by periodically submitting proofs to the blockchain. These proofs consist of radio signals received from other Hotspots in the network. By validating proofs, Hotspots earn HNT rewards and contribute to the network's overall coverage.
Another notable feature of Helium is its LongFi technology. LongFi combines the Helium blockchain with a wireless protocol called LoRaWAN to enable long-range, low-power communication between IoT devices and Hotspots. This technology extends the range of the network, making it suitable for various applications such as asset tracking, smart cities and agricultural monitoring. The combination of blockchain and wireless technology in Helium creates a decentralized and scalable infrastructure for IoT devices.
Helium also has a unique token distribution model. The initial distribution of HNT tokens was done through a mining process called "The People's Network." Individuals could mine HNT by running Hotspots and providing coverage. This approach allowed for widespread distribution of tokens and encouraged network growth. As the network expands, new HNT tokens are minted as rewards for Hotspot owners, ensuring ongoing incentives for participation and network expansion.
- Low Power Consumption - Helium Hotspots operate on low power and can run for extended periods without requiring frequent maintenance or high energy consumption.
- Long Range Coverage - The Hotspots have an impressive range that allows them to provide wireless coverage over large areas, reducing the need for numerous devices to establish a network.
- Incentivized Network Expansion - The Helium network incentivizes individuals to expand the network by rewarding them with HNT tokens for providing coverage. This approach encourages organic growth and ensures the network's reliability and coverage reach.
- Decentralized Infrastructure - The Helium network is decentralized, with no central authority controlling or overseeing its operations. This characteristic enhances security, as there is no single point of failure vulnerable to attacks or manipulation.
- Scalability - The Helium network's architecture enables seamless scalability as more Hotspots are added to the network. This scalability ensures that the network can handle an increasing number of devices and maintain efficient communication.
- Cost-Effective - The Helium network eliminates the need for costly infrastructure investments by leveraging the existing internet connectivity of Hotspot owners. This significantly reduces the cost associated with network deployment and maintenance.
- Limited Use Case - Helium's primary focus is on IoT connectivity, which means its use cases are currently limited to applications that require low-bandwidth, long-range communication. It may not be suitable for high-speed data transmission or other specialized use cases.
- Reliance on Hotspot Operators - The Helium network relies on individuals setting up and maintaining Hotspots to provide coverage. If there is insufficient participation or a decline in Hotspot operators, it can potentially impact the network's coverage and reliability.
- Initial Investment - Setting up a Helium Hotspot requires an initial investment in purchasing the hardware. While the potential for earning HNT tokens can offset this cost over time, it may still pose a barrier for some individuals who are hesitant to make the upfront investment.
- Regulatory Challenges - As with any cryptocurrency-related project, regulatory challenges and uncertainties may arise. Different jurisdictions may impose restrictions or regulations that could impact the operation and adoption of the Helium network.
- Network Interference - The long-range capabilities of Helium Hotspots make them susceptible to interference from physical obstacles, environmental conditions, or other wireless signals. This interference can affect the network's performance and coverage in certain situations.