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How does a Helium Miner work and what is LoRaWAN?

Helium mining is becoming a very hot topic leading into 2022 and you’re probably wondering, what is a Helium Miner, how does a Helium Miner work and what is LoRaWAN?

Key points:

  • Helium miners form a LoRaWAN network for low bandwidth, long battery life devices
  • LoRaWAN is a networking protocol built atop the LoRa communications protocol. It is a decentralised network, unlike similar protocols such as NB-IoT and LTE Cat M that are operated by large Communication Service Providers
  • Helium miners provide the incentives required to scale the LoRaWAN network
  • IoT device numbers are projected to reach into the 10’s of billions in the coming years, making it a highly lucrative industry

What is the purpose of Helium Mining?

Unlike other cryptocurrency’s, where mining coins has a singular focus, Helium miners serve a second purpose: Establishing a people powered wireless communications network for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The internet of things is a technology revolution that promises to connect everyday objects to the internet. Your smart-watch, smart-lock and smart-meter are all evidence of the IoT revolution.

Since the large majority of IoT devices are either mobile or located in remote areas where wires are hard to reach, these devices instead use wireless communications protocols to talk to one-another or the internet.

Some wireless protocols you are probably familiar with: Bluetooth, WiFi or 4G LTE, for example. Each protocol serves a slightly different use case, with some dimensioned for high data throughput, while others aim to preserve battery life or extend coverage range. LoRa (Long Range), the wireless protocol of Helium miners, addresses the latter by being geared towards IoT devices with low data rates and batteries that need to last for years not days.

We are getting used to incredible data rates – the fifth generation of cellular communication, 5G, now offers ludicrous data rates in excess of 4Gbps – however, many devices simply don’t need this bandwidth and never will. Your lightbulb for example, can be on or off, which theoretically can be achieved using a single bit. Even an RGB globe, with brightness control, only requires 10s of bits to control. It’s these kind of devices that your Helium miner will support.

What is the purpose of Helium Mining?

What is LoRaWAN and how does it work?

To fully capitalise on the power of IoT and move data to and from devices anywhere in the world, connection to the wider internet is required. An extension of the LoRa protocol, known as LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is the networking layer that connects LoRa devices to the internet. Helium miners are the LoRaWAN gateways running the LoRa protocol that talks to IoT devices out in the world, as well as traditional networking protocols such as TCP/IP that talk to the internet.

While promising as a IoT wireless protocol, LoRaWAN has a problem of incentives. The value of the LoRaWAN network is directly proportional to the land area covered by signal from LoRaWAN gateways, and at first glance, only those utilising LoRa IoT devices have the incentive to set up a LoRaWAN gateway. Furthermore, with many open source LoRaWAN stacks available, there is little incentive for a model similar to current cellular telecommunications, where a small number of large companies invest in the wireless access infrastructure and charge you to connect.

Helium miners solve this incentive problem and provide the essential activation energy the LoRaWAN network needs. Through a proof-of-coverage framework, individuals are financially incentivized to install LoRaWAN gateways, whether they care about IoT devices or not. This results in better coverage of the LoRa signal, giving users the confidence to use LoRa devices, drastically increasing the value of LoRaWAN networks.

What are the benefits of a Helium Miner?

In addition to delivering a very useful side-benefit of strengthening the LoRaWAN network, this proof-of-coverage approach is also more sustainable than the methods of other cryptocurrency’s where raw computation is used to mine coins, consuming a large amount of resources in the process. Not only are Helium miner’s low power, there is diminishing returns on installing an increasing density of nodes in any one geographical area, preventing an unnecessary amount of miners.

The internet of things will always be a multi-protocol landscape with technologies such as Bluetooth or WiFi here to stay. LoRa, however, serves an increasingly important niche among the billions of IoT devices connected worldwide. With the number of IoT devices expected to explode in the coming decades, Helium miner ownership will encourage a growing slice of these devices to use the LoRa protocol. By overcoming the activation energy required for LoRaWAN to scale through network effects, Helium miners can help LoRaWAN reach a critical mass, where we will see an explosion in device numbers and profitability of the technology.

If you’re interested in joining The People’s Network, you can secure yourself a miner here.

Disclosure: The links provided in this blog are affiliate links. Helium Miners Australia will be paid a commission if you use these links to make a purchase.

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