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What Is Helium Network and HNT Token?

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by Oluwapelumi Adejumo · 7 min read
What Is Helium Network and HNT Token?
Photo: The Helium Blog

Here is everything you need to know about Helium –  is a decentralized blockchain-powered network for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

In an ever decentralizing world, a lot of platforms, technologies, and services are transiting into systems that are open and decentralized from centralized proprietary ones. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks have made it possible for the introduction of blockchain networks. Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), as well as other digital assets have shown over the years how important decentralized transaction ledger is. Helium (HNT) is a decentralized blockchain-powered network for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The main objective behind the creation of the Helium network is to incentivize the creation of physical and decentralized wireless networks.

Helium: Decentralized Wireless Network for IoT

Helium network is a decentralized wireless network that helps devices connect wirelessly to the internet anywhere in the world. It also allows them to replicate themselves without depending on satellites’ location hardware or costly cellular plans.

Powering the Helium network requires a blockchain with a native protocol token that is incentivizing a two-sided marketplace between coverage providers and coverage consumers. This makes wireless networks more commodity-driven by competition, available anywhere around the globe at a cheaper price. The Helium network has different applications across industries, being the first decentralized network in its category.

With its open-source and secure primitive, developers have the opportunity to build low-power, internet-connected devices at a cheaper and quicker rate.

Helium History and Team

The Helium Network was launched in July 2019. Its mainnet allows low-powered wireless devices to communicate with each other and transmit data across its network of nodes. These nodes exist as Hotspots, which are a combination between a blockchain mining device and a wireless gateway.

Amir Haleem, Shawn Fanning, and Sean Carey co-founded Helium in 2013. The objective of the Helium network is to prepare IoT communication for the future. The Helium team has continued to identify inadequacies in current infrastructure since its launch.

Amir Haleem, a co-founder, has a background in the esports and gaming industry. Meanwhile, Fanning played a key role in the development of a music sharing service that became one of the first mainstream Peer-to-Peer internet services in the late 90s. The service is called Napster. Finally, Carey held multiple development roles notably in Where, an advertising optimization firm, before joining the Helium team.

The Helium network team consists of experts with ample experience in radio and hardware, distributed systems, manufacturing, blockchain technologies, and Peer-to-Peer.

Key Components of the Helium Network

There are several components of the Helium (HNT) network that ensure that it carries out its duties seamlessly and without any hitch.

  • Proof-of-Coverage

Proo-of-Coverage (PoC) is an algorithm that Helium employs. Its job is to verify that the hotspots in the network are physically where they claim and that they are truthfully representing the wireless coverage for its location by the hotspot. With Proof-of-Coverage, the Helium Network and blockchain are able to leverage the unique properties provided by the radio frequency to produce proofs useful to the network and users of the network.

  • Proof-of-Location

The Helium network outlines a system that uses WHIP to interpret the physical geolocation of a device without requiring power-consuming and expensive satellite location hardware. Devices can make secure, immutable, and verifiable claims about their location at a particular time. And the blockchain is able to record that.

  • Helium Consensus Mechanism

The Helium network’s consensus protocol runs on certain principles.

Firstly, the Helium network permits Hotspots operating in line with Helium consensus rules and network specifications free participation in the network.

Secondly, the network provides no incentives for leveraging on factors such as cheap energy cost or the deployment of additional hardware in the same location.

Thirdly, the protocol should have the ability to withstand Byzantine failures in such a way that consensus is still reachable so far as participants are acting honestly. For this purpose, the Helium network is using HoneyBadgerBFT, a variant of BFT.

Finally, Hotspots lack the ability to censor, select or deselect transactions to be included on the block.

Other principles on which the Helium network’s consensus protocol is built include a high rate of confirmed transactions, as well as dependence on useful work.

  • WHIP

WHIP is an open-source, and standards-compliant wireless network protocol built for low-power devices over large areas. It operates on existing commodity radio chips available from dozens of manufacturers who have no proprietary technologies or modulation schemas required.

  • Helium DWN

Helium Decentralized Wire Network (DWN) provides wireless access to the internet for devices by way of multiple independent miners. It also specifies the Helium network and WHIP specifications by which participants on the network conform.

Routers pay networks of miners for transmitting data to and from the internet. In return, miners are rewarded with newly minted tokens for providing network coverage and delivering device data to the internet.

Helium Network Participants

There are three categories of participants on the Helium network.

Devices send and receive encrypted data from the internet using hardware compatible with WHIP. Data sent from Devices is fingerprinted, and those fingerprints are stored in the blockchain.

Miners provide Helium with network coverage via purpose-built hardware known as Hotspots. These hotspots provide a long-range bridge between devices and the internet. Users can join the Helium network as miners via the purchase or construction of a hotspot that conforms to WHIP. They also stake a token deposit in direct proportion to the density of other miners operating in the area.

Routers are internet apps that buy encrypted device data from Miners. They can pay several miners to obtain ample copies of a packet to geolocate a device without the help of satellite location hardware. This data is famous as Proof-of-Location in places where miners are plenty.

In addition, routers are the termination point for Device data encryption. They are also responsible for confirming to hotspots that device data reached the right location. Thus, the miner should be paid for the service.

Use of the Helium Network

The Helium network is already providing a decentralized connection for the Internet of Things (IoT). It also offers a similar service for the 5G cellular network offloading. Besides, it is responsible for the expansion of 5G service availability for IoT devices and smartphones operating in the US Band Citizens Radio Service (CBRS). Helium network hopes to collaborate with mobile network operators and mobile service wholesale whose aim is to augment their 5G networks.

Helium (HNT) Token

The HNT token is the native cryptocurrency of the Helium blockchain. The very first token appeared with the genesis block on July 29, 2019.

There are no provisions for pre-mining HNT. The token serves the needs of the two primary parties in the Helium blockchain ecosystem. Those are the Hotspot hosts and Network operators, as well as enterprises and developers using the Helium network.

Benefits Helium Brings to Its Users

The benefits of the Helium (HNT) blockchain are numerous.

Firstly, with traditional centralized telecom, the price of data continues to increase on a yearly basis. However, the Helium blockchain provides a decentralized format. It grows organically with the addition of more hotspots at a cheaper rate.

Secondly, Helium ensures that all communications on the blockchain have end-to-end encryption, making it the most suitable for sensitive information.

Further, sensors on the Helium blockchain unlike those on cellular chips help in conserving battery life. They could even last for several years.

Other benefits of the Helium blockchain include its ability to perform over wide ranges, as well as low operating costs.

Conclusion

The Helium blockchain has witnessed rapid growth after witnessing its hotspots increase from 7,000 in August 2020 to about 25,000 in April 2021. There is much work to do as the blockchain only has a presence in the United States and some parts of Western Europe. Asia presents a huge growth potential as hotspots have only begun surfacing in China. India, South East Asia, as well as Australia are other possible opportunities as there are no representations in those regions.

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FAQ

What is Helium?

Helium (HNT) is a decentralized blockchain-powered network for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

What issues does Helium address?

Helium network helps devices to connect wirelessly to the internet anywhere in the world, and also replicate themselves without depending on satellites’ location hardware or costly cellular plans.

Who are the founders of Helium?

Helium blockchain is founded by three individuals: Amir Haleem, Shawn Fanning, and Sean Carey.

What are the key components of Helium Network?

The key components of Helium include Proof-of-Coverage, Proof-of-Location, WHIP, Helium consensus protocol, and Helium DWN.

What is Proof-of-Coverage?

Proof-of-Coverage is an algorithm that was created for Helium whose job is to verify that the hotspots in the network are physically situated where they claim and that they are truthfully representing the wireless coverage that is being created for its location by the hotspot.

What is WHIP?

WHIP is an open-source, and standards-compliant wireless network protocol built for low-power devices over large areas.

What are the key participants of the Helium Network?

The key participants of the Helium network include Devices, Miners, and Routers.

How is the Helium Network secured?

The Helium network is secured using a Proof-of-Coverage which rewards users for contributing to the mining and ensuring stability. The PoC is based on the HoneyBadgerBFT protocol that is designed for node communication when conditions become unreliable.

What is HNT token?

The HNT token is the native cryptocurrency of the Helium blockchain.

How to earn HNT?

HNT tokens are earned by running the Helium Hotspot. Helium distributes rewards to the hotspots which have earned them at the end of the epoch. 

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