What is the Helium Network?
The Helium Network is a blockchain-based communication network. HNT is the crypto-currency built to facilitate this network and it’s construction which will help to connect the billions of IOT devices that are being deployed around the world. These devices need access to a long-range, low power, and inexpensive network to communicate with their users.
How Is Helium Different Than Other Wireless Networks?
Communications Networks are nothing new, in fact, they have been around for over 100 years — from the old Telegram networks built to transmit Morse Code over copper wire to the ultra-fast 5G networks Big Telco’s are deploying today. Despite the huge increases in speed and bandwidth, modern networks are all centralized using the “top-down” approach to the infrastructure that serves their content. The networks use highly controlled, centralized radio equipment that they themselves own. The maintenance of the network and what types of devices are allowed on them must undergo a strict review.
Even though Helium’s function is still to deliver information from one place to the next, it operates completely differently than these legacy networks. Helium is being designed as a decentralized “bottom-up” communications network. Instead of a central entity owning and controlling where wireless infrastructure needs to be deployed, Helium wants to give anyone the right to own and use hardware to provide connectivity and in return for that connectivity, they will be rewarded HNT, which is a cryptocurrency that can be used and converted like any other coin.
Who Gets to Set The Rules and How Are they Enforced?
The short answer is that the blockchain and group consensus are the referees of the network. There is a bit more to the story, the blockchain is being developed by the Helium team and the community. Because the network is rapidly growing, there are a lot of changes happening to accommodate its growth, so the blockchain is still being actively developed. These changes are known as HIPS, which are open documents that anyone can propose to make changes to the blockchain. Over the past six months, 5 major changes to the blockchain have occurred with many more in the works. If you are interested in what these HIPS look like, the Git page on each of the HIPS can be found here.
How Can I Earn Crypto and Make Money?
Earning HNT requires the use of a Miner. A Miner can come in many forms, but currently, it is a standalone device that has a LORA concentrator card and a Raspberry Pi with custom Helium firmware. The device requires access to the internet and needs to be connected to a antenna. It’s important that you mount the antenna in a open location that maximizes wireless coverage. Earning HNT can either be done by devices utilizing your miner’s connection or by participating in Proof of Coverage challenges. If you want some tips on maximizing your coverage, please check out the post of Antenna Tips.
I Don’t See HNT on the Exchange I Use, How Is It Convertible?
This is a legitimate concern, and I think it’s unfortunate there hasn’t been more guidance from the Helium team on this. The reason why is because the HNT Market Cap is only about ~80 million dollars (as of 1-3-2021), making it much smaller than currencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. More and more exchanges are picking up the coin and it is growing rapidly, so I think it will be easier to transfer as time goes on.
With that said, there are ways of “swapping” the coin for another cryptocurrency like bitcoin. A simple Google search should help to find an answer.
This Sounds Like a Cool Idea, But Are There Any Risks to Investing in HNT?
Yes, there are. The HNT currency and Helium are actively developing technologies still in their infancy. The idea of using the blockchain to solve the problem of connectivity is revolutionary, but there are risks.
Other competitors are seeing the huge potentials of a worldwide network like Helium and are testing the waters. Amazon is looking at building their own version called Amazon Sidewalk by leveraging their existing hardware, although many experts do not think they will be a direct competitor.
A Narrow Market
Another risk would be that the Helium Network is carving too narrow of a niche for themselves. There may not be a wide enough market to buoy the cost of building the network. As an investor, you should determine how many devices need to be using the network to get a return your comfortable with. I will provide my own opinion on the Market size: The IoT market is rapidly growing, businesses have become addicted to always-available data and metrics and the IoT market will be a major player in satiating that demand. Aside from business, consumers are rapidly increasing their demand for IoT devices. Things like key finders, doorbells, leak detectors, and intrusion alarms are all rapidly being deployed and will need access to networks like Helium. According to PRNews, the IoT market will grow to 1.3 trillion dollars by 2026. If Helium grabs just 5% of that market, it would become an extremely valuable network.
With that said, I am not an advisor nor am I employed by Helium, just someone offering an opinion so take my advice accordingly.
An Incompatible Use Case of the Blockchain
There is a possibility that the concept of the blockchain and its headless nature may be easily gamed by bad actors. In fact, it’s already happened in the past, called POC hacking. POC hacking is when miners falsely assert their locations and earn HNT erroneously. As the network grows however, this will become more and more difficult.
I Want to Connect My Device to the Helium Network, What’s the First Step?
Helium actually has a great how-to on this, and that should be the first place you go to. I would also suggest checking their coverage map and checking to see if there is a miner in your area ready to connect to. If there’s not, you can always purchase a miner for yourself and then passively earn HNT by providing coverage. You will have to setup and fund an account. In my experience, 10 dollars will provide you plenty of data to experiment with.
What is HNT News and Are They Affiliated With Helium?
This website is completely unaffiliated with Helium. Over the past few months I’ve heard a lot of misinformation and questions related to HNT & Helium and I think there may be a need to help others who had the same questions I had when I started.