Helium Wants You To Pay In Cryptocurrency to Build Its Network for IoT Devices
Wed, April 14, 2021

Helium Wants You To Pay In Cryptocurrency to Build Its Network for IoT Devices

Helium could not use Bitcoin because it's "too resource intense" / Photo Credit: Wit Olszewski (via Shutterstock)


IoT connectivity startup Helium still needs to find a way to put the funds into the bank accounts of the people building its long-range, low-power, peer-to-peer networking system, as reported by Rob Pegoraro of Fast Company, an American business magazine. The idea behind the startup is to provide a trickle of bandwidth to IoT devices that may not be near a power outlet securely. That is, without relying on propriety technology at a cost too cheap to measure. 

“Those are things that aren’t possible today,” said chief operating officer Frank Mong. He added that Helium has no plans of building a network like AT&T. Mong stated, “We cannot do it as a single, centralized entity.” The firm announced that its decentralized network of over 1,200 hotspots deployed in people’s homes and offices had reached more than 435 cities in over 45 out of 50 states in the U.S., complete with a software development kit. Each of the $495 hotspots shares a broadband connection via LongFi, a wireless technology that transmits a little data “a long distance over unlicensed 900 MHz spectrum.”

Data transfers involving multimedia are too slow. However, Helium sees an opportunity in monomedia, particularly connected-gadget data such as temperature, pressure, and location that only require only a few bytes to transfer. For now, Helium is not charging access or offering any quality-of-service guarantees. But customers will have to pay with digital credits soon. That’s where Helium’s blockchain infrastructure will come in. Each hotspot is uniquely identified with a three-word phrase ending in an animal name. The phrase is automatically generated by the hotspot. The hotspot will mine the organization’s Helium Network Terror (HNT) cryptocurrency to verify the peer-to-peer network’s integrity and reliability.   

The firm opted for this approach to optimize energy efficiency, allowing the hotspots to draw only five watts of electricity. Mong added, “We couldn’t use bitcoin, because it’s too resource intense.” The idea here is that customers using the firm’s networks to transmit data will purchase credits in HNT instead of USD. But this type of transaction doesn’t exist yet. Mong said, “We hope it happens.” However, due to security laws, “Helium cannot be involved in soliciting exchanges to do that,” he said. But surely, it’s a leap of faith.