The IoT network deployment of Helium has begun its course across the US. The firm trades IoT hotspots worth $495, set up for chores such as pet tracking, metering for smart water, etc. It already claims 1,201 hotspots deployed throughout the US till now.
There have been Helium hotspots set up in over 425 cities in the US with the biggest helium node concentration in the San Francisco area, with hotspots located from New York to Hawaii. Helium was co-founded by the Napster developer, Shawn Fanning, and is now anticipated to bring in funding worth $51 million backed by Google Ventures, FirstMark and Khosla Ventures.
The official website of Helium refers to the hotspot as “a hardware device that uses LongFi to connect low power, IoT devices to the internet over miles of range. The Hotspot sends and receives small amounts of data to compatible devices over sub-GHz radio waves and is not a Wi-Fi replacement.”
Some prominent features of the Hotspot according to the website include:
- Mining with the radio that provides wireless coverage. Hotspots receive a new helium cryptocurrency.
- Ability to create a wireless range using radio waves through several square miles.
- Hotspots are also energy efficient utilizing the same quantity of power that a LED light bulb (5W) uses
- Ability to scale. A single Hotspot can help hundreds of connected devices
The Hotspot features a LongFi Wireless Protocol, which is an open protocol suitable for long battery life and ranges up to miles in IoT devices. The Hotspots also earns Helium currency during the connection of devices and validation of the peer-delivered wireless coverage. The system is known as Proof-of-Coverage, and lets users earn more Helium while they are close to other Hotspots. The range is entirely based on the setup or environment for areas for about 10 miles. The denser areas have up to one-mile range.
The helium hotspot buyers can operate the P2P network in order to track or monitor devices operating on helium like the InvisiLeash dog tracker as well as a pollution monitor powered by solar energy, SPCPM.
The initial devices aren’t commercial, typically, except for the dog tracker. These are the devices that people can make on their own. In order to commercialize the technology, the company has rolled out an SDK or a software development kit. It is also integrating with Microsoft cloud, Google cloud, Blynk’s development portal for IoT, etc.
To offer users the building blocks for an IoT network operating nationwide without mediators like telcos, the firm called itself The People’s Network.
The next big American land grab is IoT network ownership to connect small devices like pet trackers and water-quality sensors beyond the reach of WiFi,
said Helium in an announcement. The firm also claims the requirement of hotspots 50-100 in number for the entire city coverage.
Earlier endeavors were made to get connectivity without US telecom providers, but they required deploying mesh WiFi networks covering blocks and small portions of cities. Beginning in the 2000s, typical freenet providers demonstrated how to broaden the free WiFi network range of 802.11b network with the help of a Pringles can. This notion expanded amongst giants like Cisco actively participating in the phenomenon. Although the mesh movement for WiFi has been wiped out, there is still an aura of optimism in tech innovation.