A quick dive into the up and coming telecommunications company Helium Systems.
Helium Systems, founded in 2013, is a company based in San Francisco helping to build the The Helium Network, also referred to as The People’s Network. The end goal of The People’s Network is to build a telecommunications network that, unlike its peers in the industry, is decentralized and relies on a kind of connectivity marketplace used by members of the public.
Helium Systems and The People’s Network make use of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology in the form of their own cryptocurrency, HNT, to create this connectivity marketplace.
Helium’s cryptocurrency HNT, like bitcoin, can be mined. To mine or earn HNT, you deploy a Helium Hotspot built by Helium Systems, or a third-party hotspot compatible with the network. Once plugged into mains and connected to wi-fi, the device will begin transporting data between nodes. In return for providing the network, hotspot owners earn HNT. Business that want to use the network – say to power IOT – buy data credits.
A blockchain is a form of database, where information is stored in blocks that are then chained together in the blockchain. Each block contains information relating to the block that came before it. The blockchain is inherently chronological due to how blocks of data are appended to the front of the blockchain along with a timestamp. More importantly, the data is resistant to alteration, as each block containing information on the block before it means altering one block will alter all the others.
Ordinarily, a marketplace like the one used by Helium Systems would require Helium Systems to act as a central governing entity with a platform on which the transactions are conducted so they can monitor and record transactions to protect consumers. However, blockchain technology allows for this marketplace to be decentralized and still safe for consumers.
To put it simply, the blockchain’s data is immutable, while still remaining decentralized. For Helium Systems, blockchain technology is used to securely store a ledger of all HNT transactions in The People’s Network without needing to act as a central governing body and track transactions themselves.
Helium Systems is expected to be a key player in powering The Internet of Things – or IoT. The Internet of Things refers to the network of physical devices embedded with sensors and software allowing them to communicate with other physical devices like themselves via the internet. This could be anything from a smartwatch sending health data to a database or a network of sophisticated sensors in a factory or on farmland constantly providing data on productivity and efficacy.
Unlike conventional telecom, The People’s Network uses the new Low Power Wide Area Network – or LPWAN, which has low bit-rates but great energy efficiency and coverage. The technology can traverse great distances and heavy amounts of obstruction like buildings.
The IoT contains many devices constantly communicating with each other. However, many of these devices don’t actually need to transmit much data. This makes LPWANs like The People’s Network the ideal network for these devices. By using The People’s Network, the devices run through their battery life much more slowly, and can be spread out without needing miles of fibre optic cable connected to them.
Helium Systems was co-founded by 4 people: Amir Haleem, current chairman and CEO of the company, Mark Ranalli, Shawn Fanning who was a cofounder of the peer to peer file sharing service Napster, and Sean Carrey.
Helium Systems has a number of noteworthy investors, whose total contributions up to now number almost to $164 million. These investors include Khosla Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Multicoin Capital, and GV (formerly known as Google Ventures.) Union Square Ventures, as an example, has had numerous high-profile successful ventures such as Duolingo, Coinbase, and Twitter.