Available for all US residents through the Helium online store, Helium Hotspots provide low-power, long-range wireless coverage for IoT devices, in exchange for which owners earn rewards on the Helium blockchain. Each hotspot is one node for the blockchain, says the company, and based on initial testing, only about 50 to 150 hotspots are needed to provide complete coverage for an entire city.
"Helium Hotspots make up the foundation of a new type of network, one that rewards individuals for providing wireless connectivity," says Frank Mong, Helium COO. "Using an approach similar to Airbnb, this peer-to-peer wireless network can rapidly deploy complete coverage for cities at a speed not possible by large centralized entities."
"Owned and operated by a community of individuals means this network eliminates the chance that a single company can monitor data, throttle traffic, or be a central point for attackers," says Mong.
With the company's Hotspots, individuals earn rewards that are required for users of the network to transfer data. As the number of hotspots and users of the network increases, the system becomes more valuable.
"With this network," says Mong, "an explosion of new opportunities can become a reality: prevent wildfires with smoke or heat sensors, track pets for miles, so they never go missing, and bike owners can stop thieves from stealing their bikes using location detection sensors."
Based on the company's "LongFi" wireless protocol, Hotspots can be deployed by anyone, anywhere, simply by plugging into an existing router. The device itself is built from commodity hardware and open source software, enabling DIYers to build an Helium-compatible hotspot from parts.
Priced at $495 and measuring about 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches for the consumer model, the Hotspot is powered by a quad-core ARM A53-based application processor with 1GB RAM, and 64GB storage. Power consumption is about 13 W per hour.
Initially the Hotspots are available for purchase in the company's launch city (Austin,