Mark Phillips, VP of Business Development at Helium had a lot to say in RIoT’s recent Lunch & Learn about why people should be looking at Helium. It’s not because Helium was founded in 2013 by Amir Haleem and Shawn Fanning. (The name Shawn Fanning might ring a bell from his days at Napster.) It’s not because they are backed by venture capital giants. Instead, Mark thinks we should be looking at Helium because of their mission. Helium’s goal is to make it easier to build decentralized wireless networks.
Amir and Shawn wanted to offer an alternative to cellular connectivity by offering it on an open source network. They had successfully created a truly peer to peer wireless network. But, the team wasn’t done yet. In 2018 the team at Helium was enjoying a hard earned cocktail and someone had a thought, why don’t we put blockchain in the access point? Crazy idea, but it worked.
Helium has created a hotspot that has blockchain embedded, which has allowed them to create an incentive built network. The Helium network currently has over 3300 hotspots deployed with double that sold. It’s strewn across 50 states and 1,000 cities. Some hotspots can produce a 25-30 square mile network. The network uses LORAWan which allows for long range, low powered communication for devices sending small data. To ensure useful network coverage to people in a given city, Helium uses what they call ‘Proof-of-Coverage.’ According to their website Proof-of-Coverage is a unique work algorithm that uses radio waves to validate Hotspots are providing legitimate wireless coverage. That wireless coverage is considered to be the same as a cellular network. As of today, the Helium network has 15-20 cities that carry this promise. What makes the Helium network attractive is its low cost, ease of development and battery usage.
Mark gave us some exciting use case examples that are currently utilizing the Helium network from location tracking of pets and mobility devices (scooters/bikes) to Pharm Vial tracking. The most interesting of which revolves around smart agriculture. He introduced us to Joey Hiller and his Smart Chicken Coop. On a group chat with other Helium users, Joey said, “Let’s create something.” The use case he came up with was turning his parents’ chicken coop into a ‘smart chicken coop’. For under $50 dollars, Joey found a board and started the development process using tools provided by Helium. Once the connectivity was up and running, he then focused on making the physical prototype, creatively I might add using parts and scraps from an old copy machine, a motor, switch and wires. Today, the gate on Joey’s parents’ chicken coop can be controlled electronically via an app on a phone. Joey is working on a final prototype now. Check out the recorded Lunch & Learn below to see Joey’s process unfold!
As interest for this project is increasing, so is the Helium network in rural areas. Who knew chickens could be part of the catalyst for increasing the peoples network? For more information on Helium visit their website https://www.helium.com and to learn about Joey’s Smart Chicken Coop, visit joeyhiller.com or reach out to him on the Helium Slack channel ‘chat.helium.com’ .