Helium vs Match X: Which One Is Better?
Helium vs Match X?
This could get contentious 🙂
New shipping update from @CalChipConnect:— Helium (@helium) January 14, 2021
📦 Current RAK Hotspot Miner orders are starting to ship again to North America & Europe!
2⃣ RAK Hotspot Miner v2s ordered now are on track for tentative March 2021 shipment.
Get in touch w/ Cal-Chip on Discord: https://t.co/n8kPLZio65 pic.twitter.com/yrqd8uEn15
MatchX LPWAN miner in real deployment! Two SX1302 with crypto mining ability, and a big antenna to cover 100km!😎😎🤠🤠🤠 pic.twitter.com/12v6NOsnso— Sheen Hu Xin (@sheenhuxin) May 17, 2020
First, How Are Helium and MatchX Similar?
Both networks are crypto-backed telecommunications networks that use blockchain technology to reward special wireless radios with currency for providing communications connectivity to edge devices. These devices are currently low-powered monitoring computers (known as IoT devices) that send information back to their users, organization, or clients. Before Helium or MatchX entered the market to offer connectivity, the two traditional methods used were:
WiFi networks are an easy and popular way to send data, but there are drawbacks.
- They have a limited range – WiFi has a maximum coverage area of about 250 feet.
- They use a lot of power – WiFi was not designed with power requirements in mind, so it uses a lot of power to stay connected to the network.
- Unreliable signal – WiFi often relies on cheap consumer-grade hardware to deliver coverage. The signals are also sent over a congested spectrum.
Cellular Networks rely on a private company to provide you wireless coverage using cell towers. Cell networks’ greatest advantage is that it gives users the flexibility to operate across the country. However, there are drawbacks here too:
- Expensive– these networks have high costs to use and require devices to pay an upfront fee to use regardless of data usage
- Power Hungry– like WiFi, Cell Networks
- Locked Down – Cellular networks are very picky on what devices they allow on their networks and often require expensive certification processes before they are allowed on the networks
Are Helium & Match X are Both Trying to Fill the Same Niche?
Both networks rely on LORA technologies to transmit data (although Helium confusingly calls their version LongFi), which has a maximum transfer rate of 27kbps. LORA is exceedingly slow by today’s standards and is not suited to transfer images or other rich media content that the internet uses. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in LORA; it was designed to transmit information over long distances, usually for IoT devices. LORA enables low-power devices like water meters, streetlights, farming equipment, etc., to transmit information back to the cloud without all of the downsides of traditional communication networks covered below.
Both Networks are Leveraging Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Technologies
Both Helium and Match X are utilizing the blockchain to build a decentralized communications platform. Investors who purchased miners have rewarded cryptocurrency for providing the wireless backhaul for data transmission of their clients. The blockchain rewards Helium miners with standalone crypto known as HNT, while Match miners are rewarded with MXC.
How Helium and MatchX Are Different?
Although there are many similarities, there are significant differences too, and I think one may have a clear advantage on their chance at success.
Both Helium and Match X each have their own forums, subreddits and GIT pages, although the activity on them is different.
Helium currently has about 15+ thousand miners, many of them already providing coverage across the country. The community is extremely active, and Helium encourages involvement. Many of community members are participating in improving the network — either by commenting on HIPs, building edge devices, or educating others on proper antenna procedures. The Discord is constantly active, and there is a subreddit as well. The Helium Network is rapidly expanding, and they are allowing third-party vendors to develop miners to fill the gap. Currently, 5+ thousand miners are on backorder with many more to be made.
On the other hand, Match X is trying to play catch-up. Currently, the network has 3,400+ miners deployed. The smaller footprint means that there is a smaller following on Discord, and their forum seems to be less active. However, this may change as Match-X grows. The Discord is active, and questions are answered quickly by the devs. You can check to see where existing Match X miners are located here
Average Earnings for Helium and Match X
I hesitated to put this in the article because it’s highly variable and can change often. I would suggest not using current earning potential as an indicator of investment. Why? Because the long term value of the crypto is tied to the network’s long-term performance. Mining is a byproduct of the real value, which is offering worldwide communications to edge devices. Right now, investors are being compensated just for providing coverage, but in the future devices using the network will be the ones rewarding miners for connectivity.
Current Earnings for the Helium Miner:
Approximately 10-200 HNT per month (current HNT/USD exchange rate in the footer). You can more precisely determine your expected earnings by using Helium’s coverage map and selecting individual miners that are in your area to see their earnings.
Earnings are also significantly impacted by antenna placement too, if you’d like to learn more about that go here
Current Earnings for the Match X Miner
The MXC exchange rate is highly variable but currently is around ~950 MXC a month.
The prices of the miners is one of the biggest differences between the networks. Helium’s miner price was about 500 dollars about 6 months ago. But Helium has since partnered with 3rd party manufacturers to increase production and reduce the price. The RAK Miner, distributed by Cal-tech & manufactured by RAK, is currently 299.00 dollars + shipping.
Match X’s miner is significantly more expensive, at a whopping €2,499 (3,000 USD).
Helium’s and Match X seem to have different methods of profitization. Helium Inc is a large holder of HNT. Their success is tied to the increasing value of the crypto, not by selling miners. Helium is already allowing 3rd party companies to manufacture the miners. At one point, they even gave the keys to build your own miner for free. Unfortunately, this has been discontinued (if you want to know why check out my post on POC Hacking).
On the other hand, Match X wants to make their profit upfront – by selling you an expensive miner. The cost of the Match X Pro miner is currently 3,000 dollars.
The disparity in costs between the miners may have interesting downstream effects on the networks success. Because Helium doesn’t make any profits from miner sales, their incentive is for the network to succeed because if it doesn’t, they won’t be seeing any profits down the road. Match X will see more of their profits before the network is built.
How Does Proof of Coverage Work?
Proof of Coverage is a major part of blockchain-backed communication networks in the beginning phases of a network’s implementation.
Traditional Communication networks are typically built out before the users sign up. For example, a company finds investors that fork out money upfront which is then invested into the construction of a wireless network that covers a significant part of the country.
Blockchain Networks operate a little differently. They must find a way to incentivize investment of the network before users are willing to fork over the money to do it – It’s a classic chicken and egg problem. So they do this by heavily rewarding miners for offering coverage to an area, and they use special algorithms to verify their “Proof of Coverage”.
Both Match X and Helium offer some type of proof of coverage but do it slightly differently.
Helium Proof of Coverage
Helium primarily uses other miners to verify coverage. This happens when a miner is randomly chosen to “prove” its location. The miner emits a signal known as a “Beacon” if other miners around it “witness” this beacon by receiving the signal all of the miners are rewarded.
This method works well because it’s not just relying on a single miner’s assertion but is also verified by other miners. This reduces the chance of false assertions and incentivizes miners to increase their wireless coverage.
There are downsides though, one is when a miner is “Lone Wolfed,” or in an area where no other miners are able to witness its beacon. Another is POC hacking, where groups of miners are falsely asserted and act as false witnesses.
Match X Proof of Coverage
Match X algorithm is a bit more closed source about how it handles its POC algorithms, they say for “security reasons”. However, I think that a lot of it relies on the use of GPS for location assertion. This method is a bit easier to do than Helium and also doesn’t punish Lone Wolf miners like Helium does.
But there are many issues with relying on GPS data because it is very easy to spoof. For example, a bad actor could just hook up a simple GPS spoofer and falsely assert its location.
Helium has already had to deal with these types of exploits, and are already working on some fixes. If Match X hasn’t experienced these issues yet, it will, especially as the network grows.
What’s My Verdict?
Before I give you my verdict – and full disclosure here – it’s important that you know I own (2) Helium Hotspots. Before I decided to purchase these miners, I did a lot of research between the two companies. Ultimately, I picked the Helium Network. Here are some things that I thought Helium did better than MatchX:
More engaged community
Helium has more people working on the project. The Discord is full of talented people trying to get the network off the ground. And it’s not just developers, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm from many non-technical people on both Discord and Reddit.
Less Marketing, More Engineering
The Match X Website is really pushing hard the concept of “making money.” It’s all about profits and earning potential. On the surface, I think that’s fine. After all, the whole point is to get involved with a product that generates revenue. But because there’s so much focus on money, engineering takes a back seat. And I think ultimately that will be what determines the true worth of this business venture.
Helium is More “Open”
The Helium team has been very clear on their direction, and they are open about the issues they face. There also is quite a bit of active development occurring, and you, as an investor, are welcomed to participate. Helium has a GitHub dedicated to improvements (called HIPS), and you can even start up your HIP if you’d like. They also offer a coverage map that any user can contribute.
Helium has 5 times the number of miners, and it’s rapidly growing. It’s much closer to reaching “critical mass” than Match X
Superficially, there are many similarities between Match X and Helium. But upon closer inspection, the fine print and their respective tech are what is going to determine who succeeds. I’m glad that both of these networks exist, after all, competition is a huge driver of innovation.
Disclaimer: The author of this article owns (2) Helium Hotspots. This article is solely from the author’s perspective, should not be interpreted as investment advice, and is for informational purposes only.