The Helium cryptocurrency has surged in popularity in 2021. While early investors have seen jaw-dropping returns and many of those hosting hotspots have been pleased with their earnings, there is a practical use case behind all of the hype. Unlike many other projects purporting to be the currency for this and the currency for that, Helium uses a blockchain to power a LoWaRAN network for the Internet of Things. Even since the early days, the network has been able to support production-grade IoT solutions. Many end-users will also find a strong incentive to host hotspots of their own.
The Helium value proposal is simple. Hotspot hosts participate in Proof of Coverage by broadcasting their WiFi signal in a low-bandwidth high-range format frequency known as LoRaWAN. Hosts are incentivized to build the network via the blockchain which pays out Helium tokens--$HNT. These are easy to exchange and have a real cash value. The purpose of the network is to provide a distributed LoRaWAN network cheaply. This is something that a telecom company could never provide. Each day, more hotspots are added to the network, and the Helium network grows stronger.
The LoRaWAN network is especially useful for those in need of low-bandwidth solutions, whether industrial, non-profit, or otherwise. It’s expensive, often prohibitively expensive, to have IoT sensors or devices loaded with hardware required to connect to cellular networks. You can easily connect a device to the Helium network, pay for data credits, and find that to be a more suitable solution. Just like cellular networks, coverage isn’t guaranteed at every point in the globe. In most major cities and now increasingly in smaller towns and more rural areas, The People’s Network is now growing faster than any other wireless network.
The advantage for an IoT solutions provider is that you don’t have to rely on others to provide all of the available hotspots. You can host your own hotspots, contributing to the coverage map while also earning rewards from providing Proof of Coverage. The advantage will be greatest for those operating in a fixed area compared to those with fluid service ranges.
For example, a company relying on Helium for electric scooter GPS data has an operational area that may span an entire country. If one of those businesses purchased some hotspots and spread them out, they wouldn’t come anywhere close to earning enough in rewards to support their endeavor or providing 100% of the coverage they needed.
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For a company with a more rigid operational area, such as a local utility company, a factory complex, a warehouse, or an agricultural operation, this proposition starts to make a lot more sense. A lot of businesses decide against implementing wireless IoT solutions because the startup costs can be high and providing coverage to all the devices can be difficult. Using the Helium network may be able to solve the second problem, while hosting your own hotspot(s) can greatly subsidize the upfront cost.
A single fully-featured IoT deployment, with a sensor and connectivity, can cost between $40-250 depending on what function it performs. Some businesses, even some hobbyists, may want to scale operations to include 10, 100, or even thousands of identical devices placed at different locations. You will want to check how the network coverage in your area is before proceeding, but you can always consider purchasing your own hotspots. Purchasing a Helium Hotspot, such as the best-selling product from RAKwireless, can cost about $450. Out of the box, one of these hotspots can easily cover a range of 400m (that’s a quarter of a mile). Many hotspots earn around 1 $HNT per day. Over the course of one month, at the current price, one of these hotspots can return about $375 in $HNT.
As someone interested in rolling out a distributed IoT solution, you’ll want to consider hosting a few hotspots. You get the best of both worlds. You’ll provide network coverage and increase the integrity of the network while also being able to subsidize and support your operations by earning rewards directly from the Helium blockchain. Prices can fluctuate and your own earnings are not guaranteed, but if you are building your own solution on top of The People’s Network, hosting some hotspots of your own can really sweeten the math on your capital outlay.