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What is Helium ?

What exactly is helium ? 


LoRaWAN is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect IoT devices to the internet. It is an alternative to cellular technology (Cat-M and NB-IoT). It is gaining traction in agricultural, industrial, and other commercial IoT applications. The LoRa Alliance website is a great reference to learn more about LoRaWAN technology.

LoRaWAN has been around for a while; so, what’s different now and what does Helium bring to the party? According to the Helium website, “Helium is a global, distributed network of hotspots that create public, long-range wireless coverage for LoRaWAN-enabled IoT devices. Hotspots produce and are compensated in HNT, the native cryptocurrency of the Helium blockchain.”

Let’s break this down. One of the main challenges LoRaWAN operators face is the physical build-out of their public network infrastructure. This requires capital, which investors will only provide if they see an appropriate return on investment (ROI). The network build-out also requires time and effort to obtain the permits and approvals to locate the hotspots on buildings and street poles.

The Helium blockchain is an open-source, public blockchain that was developed to incentivize the creation of a physical, decentralized wireless network. Instead of building out the network themselves, Helium is paying individuals in cryptocurrency to operate the LoRaWAN hotspots. Genius! Hotspot hosts are paid in Helium Network Tokens (HNT). By having individuals across the globe build and run their network, Helium has eliminated the growth pain points mentioned above. This is a very creative way to use blockchain technology to support a global wireless network. And the business model is working! As of this writing, there are 55,000 hotspots around the world and growing rapidly at more than 1,000 additions per day.

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