Helium Network Gives Clues to Practical Uses of Crypto

“That crypto-powered incentive model actually made sense in this case,” Mong said.

So the company tore up its old business model and opted for a new one. Instead of building its network itself, Helium would make it entirely decentralized and let users build it themselves by purchasing and connecting their own access points. Participants would be paid in crypto tokens and could vote on proposed ideas to modify the network. If the price of these tokens increased, they would earn even more money and create even more hotspots.

The new model, released in 2019, worked like a charm. Crypto fans rushed to set up Helium hotspots and start generating crypto tokens. They exchanged tips on Reddit and YouTube to increase the reach of their hotspots, attaching them to tall buildings or installing antennas on their roofs. Some hotspot owners claim to have earned thousands of dollars a month this way, although revenues have dropped as new hotspots have been added to the network.

This, I have learned, is one of the superpowers of crypto – the ability to launch projects by offering an incentive to enter on the ground floor. Not everything could be improved by tying to a cryptocurrency mining scheme. But in the case of Helium, crypto made sense as a way to encourage participation and give hotspot owners the satisfaction of building something they owned.

Arman Dezfuli-Arjomandi, a computer programmer in Philadelphia who hosts a podcast on Helium, told me that the network’s decentralization was the biggest selling point.

“If this network was built on a centralized platform, there’s always a chance that the platform could go public or be acquired, and suddenly all this physical infrastructure that was built by lot of people is at the whim of the society that owns it,” he said. .

I can find a lot to like about Helium. Unlike many crypto projects, this is a real product used daily by real people and real companies. Those involved are not brazen speculators, and most seem genuinely interested in creating a decentralized wireless network. (A cardinal rule of Helium’s 140,000-member Discord chat server is that you’re not allowed to discuss token prices.) And that’s going to get more useful in the coming months, as new point types 5G access devices allow data to be sent over the network at higher speeds.

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