“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,”

– My Smart Fridge

Through its sentience, my smart fridge rightfully recognizes that I want to eat some questionable leftovers. The large red eye on the fridge door flickers as it speaks; through its internet connections it can determine that the leftovers are certainly spoiled.

This may very well be the future of the Internet of Things (IoT), a trend where for the better-or-worse, all electronics would connect to a wireless network.

 

Helium is Building the Future of Decentralized IoT Networks.

  • To secure and run the network, Helium has developed a blockchain and its own cryptocurrency.
  • HNT rose from just over a dollar in January 2021 to over $25 at the beginning of November.

 

Let’s dig into its mechanics and value as a vehicle for investment as it begins dabbling in 5G.

 

The Promise of Helium

The Problem:
Bandwidth is Unavailable in Many Remote Locations.

Many different professions make use of electronic sensors and handheld devices; imagine researchers cataloguing wildlife and sequencing DNA in remote locations. The Internet isn’t readily available and it turns into a costly troubleshooting endeavour to get these networks set up. With just about everything requiring internet access, many companies are racing to provide this bandwidth.

 

The Solution:
Create a Decentralized Network Secured by the Blockchain.

Anyone, including me and you, can buy a device from Helium that will let others connect to the internet. Instead of building large infrastructure or launching multiple satellites, the company can build up a faster and decentralized network by selling small devices directly to consumers. Helium hopes to partner with other network operators to continue to scale. Additionally, it incentivizes nodes and network providers through cryptocurrency rewards.

 

A Brief History of Helium

Helium was founded in 2013 by Amir Haleem, Shawn Fanning, and Sean Carey to capitalize on future IoT technologies. This would help everything from smart pet collars, sentient blenders and malicious AI’s named Hal to connect to the internet.

The network itself was launched in 2019 and has recently matured into an intriguing project, attracting enterprise investors including Google.

In a 2019 Decrypt interview, Haleem explained:

“We don’t try and participate in the network, and we don’t charge fees to use it. We incentivize others to become their own network operators. We nicknamed this thing the ‘people’s network.’ And that’s because it’s built by people.”

 

Meet the Team

Amir Haleem, Chairman and CEO:
Haleem has experience in video games as the CTO of Diversion and part of the original team involved in developing Battlefield 1942. He is a former esports champion gamer and founded the esports community sire esreality.com.

Fanning and Carey are listed as board members; though they are co-founders of the company, they are not involved on an executive level.

Marc Nijdam, CTO:
Nijdam has 25 years of experience in the tech sector working to commercialize researchers with hardware companies like Hewlett-Packard. His role involves design, scaling, and overseeing software and development teams.

Frank Mong, COO:
Mong is involved in sales, marketing and business strategy at Helium. He has spent two decades working within various cybersecurity companies in management roles.

Importantly, the page with biographies is easily accessible through Helium’s website and also includes an impressive list of board members. The transparency and relevant experience of the team inspires confidence in the underlying blockchain.

 

Helium’s Roadmap

Helium has a transparent roadmap on its side, detailing its various goals, split across the various quarters and halves of 2021. This is split into a few separate categories and goals:

Core features

Helium is involved in iterating and improving its validator protocols as well as enabling staking on the mainnet. In addition, they are developing Proof-of-Coverage protocols using network graph analysis to ensure that wireless network coverage is honestly represented.

Coverage

Helium wants to continue expanding its coverage to millions of devices. As well it is working on improvements to its Helium Wallet app for storing and receiving its cryptocurrency HNT, other credits, and managing hotspots.

Enabling Wireless Protocols and Blockchain Applications

This year, Helium is undertaking an expansion in the wireless protocols which they provide. Currently, it supports broadband for low-power IoT devices. In 2021, Helium aims to enable LTE/5G, WiFi as well as other networks. There is also a lot of technical detail about improving the blockchain applications of the project itself.

 

Helium’s Utility

The network is already compatible with Low-Power, Wide Area Networking (LoRaWAN) devices which are important for IoT sensors. You can also find available coverage for roaming through a crowdsourced roadmap. The HNT wallet is available for iOS and Android phones and is paired to various Helium Hotspots. It Also stores data credits and HNT tokens; it can also run through the ledger hardware wallet.

Supporting the Network

By helping secure the network through mining, you can earn HNT rewards while expanding internet coverage. However, this will involve buying specific devices and may be difficult if you don’t have experience with setting up wireless networks.

Staking and Validation

You can stake your HNT by delegating it towards a validator node; these nodes will use Proof of Coverage and Proof of Location protocols to ensure that information about hotspots is accurate and secure.

Proof of Coverage: This takes advantage of the properties of radio frequencies to interrogate and validate the network capabilities. Basically, it is always checking to see that nodes are working as they should be and that none of them lie about their support and capacity. Validators will receive a reward in HNT for providing this service. Unfortunately, there are plenty of bad actors taking advantage of this protocol, essentially receiving rewards without providing legitimate services.

 

Helium’s Market Milestones

Helium has a circulating supply of over 101 million tokens, with a total of 223 million tokens that will ever be issued; these remaining tokens will be distributed as rewards through Proof of Coverage. The price peaked at just over $30 USD at the end of October and there is plenty of room left for growth.

Helium recently announced a partnership with Dish Network for developing its 5G network capabilities. Mong explained: “Dish understands the potential blockchain can have on the wireless industry, and as the first major carrier to join The People’s Network, this partnership is real validation that the HNT incentive model is a powerful tool for deploying infrastructure at scale.”

There are currently 250,000 user-operated nodes around the world and this will continue scaling, aiming to deploy more than 40,000 nodes along with its partnership with FreedomFi by 2022.

 

Buy and Store HNT

Buying HNT

With the massive increase in Helium’s price over the past year, and their extensive documentation it is hard not to be impressed.

Binance Crypto.com
Ease-of-Use ✔✔✔ ✔✔✔✔✔
Trading Fees Up to 0.1% for spot trading Up to 0.8% for spot trading
Payment Method Debit or Credit Card Debit or Credit Card
Recurring Buy? Yes Yes
Other Notes Subject to regional restrictions in Canada Promotion, when you join, waives fees for 30 days
Security & Reputation Strong reputation and track record. FDIC Insured. FDIC Insured

Storing HNT

If you’re planning to use Helium on its network, you’ll need to use the Helium wallet. The wallet can be installed onto your phone or onto a Ledger hardware device for cold storage; this is probably the most secure way to store and use the crypto.

Hot Wallets Cold Wallet
Wallet Helium Wallet Ledger
Supported Platforms Command Line Interface Android,  iOS, Connects to any computer via USB
Supported on Cold Wallets? Yes – Ledger
Mobile App Available Yes No
Initial Setup 10 – 15 mins
Non-Custodial Yes Yes
Staking Yes Yes

The Case for Investing

Pros:
Solid Team and Transparent Milestones

If you invest in Helium you have an idea of what to expect. The founding team has experience in the field and have built a strong network of board members, advisors and enterprise partnerships. If you’re into tech, it may make sense to read through the documentation before deciding how much to invest.

In 2021, the price of HNT has gone up more than 2500 percent.

Cons:

While there is an interesting use case for IoT and sensors, it isn’t clear that the blockchain aspect of the project is actually functioning. Proof of Coverage has a problem right now as it is “hackable”, allowing people to collect rewards without providing legitimate services for the network.

The hotspot hardware itself is also expensive (~$500), and even though it lets you mine some crypto you won’t earn much unless there are multiple other hotspots in the area. Another company might be able to provide similar sources with tethering internet hotspots with decentralized devices but without actually using the blockchain.

 

Should You Invest?

If you’re heavily involved in the IoT space and interested in the technology, it is worth buying a hotspot (even if it doesn’t make you money). The use-case and concept is quite interesting though if you aren’t located in the US or Europe, your mining rewards won’t be very substantial.

 

Takeaways

Helium, is an ambitious blockchain project aiming to improve broadband access and 5G around the world. It has a solid team and a transparent outline for its development; however the technology might require a little bit of technical knowledge to understand.

Mining Helium and securing the network through Proof of Coverage, requires an expensive hot spot device.

There are also some issues with Proof of Coverage protocols and importantly, it isn’t really clear why a blockchain is required for this project to succeed. While it has secured impressive partnerships and increased in value 2800 percent in the last year, it’s unclear if Helium can scale outside the US and Europe.

If you like the blue sky idea and technical approach to a real-world problem, it could be worth investing into Helium.

If you’re also interested in the hardware side of this technology, read the underlying documentation and start using the network. Then if you like what you see, it may be worth purchasing a hotspot and mining; but note, the mining probably won’t make you rich.