Evolution of Usage on the Helium IoT Network

In an article written in 2022, following an unwarranted and poorly executed attack that reduced the value of the Helium network to the nascent consumption of data, erroneously overvalued at $6600, I began monitoring the usage of the network over the months.

To give some context, Helium is a DAO governing the operation of several networks: LoRaWan (IoT), CBRS (4/5G), and WiFi. A DAO is a distributed organization using blockchain to govern its operational processes. This project is one of the pioneers of what we now call DePIN (Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks), which bridge the virtual world of blockchain with the physical world around us and generally translate into service offerings consumable in the traditional economic circuit, competing with equivalent services in the traditional economy.

Helium is the largest deployed LoRaWan network in the world. It is used for roaming by numerous telecom operator networks and natively by many companies deploying fleets of connected objects. For my part, since 2021, I have been the first to provide commercial and open access to individuals and businesses to this network to connect their objects, through the service Helium IoT Console delivered by IngeniousThings. For this reason, I pay particular attention to monitoring usage on the IoT network.

This network has some peculiarities: being decentralized, it is an infrastructure that can support multiple service providers like myself and allows anyone to be their own network core to support their own fleet with end-to-end encryption. Furthermore, it charges for its usage per message rather than per object annually, opening the field to many use cases with low transmission or short lifespan.

When I wrote the first article on network usage in 2022, I also tracked the evolution of consumption over the months. It was interesting to note at the time that a large part of the consumed volume came from attacks on Nova Labs services (which support community servers) and from some servers that seemed to practice a sort of data laundering through transfer. Once these undesirable effects were cleaned up, by early 2023, the amounts associated with object traffic were around $1200 per month, corresponding to 120 million equivalent messages exchanged each month on the network. By May 2024, the volume of legitimate data corresponded to $2700 per month, doubling what it was a year earlier.

Helium IoT daily activity as of June 2024 (in $)

Helium IoT is still not a $6600 per month business as criticized in 2022, but it is a solution that transfers 270 million equivalent messages per month, and if I consider my ratios as one of the main network operators, this would correspond to about 300,000 active objects on the network. Part of these objects comes from traditional operator fleets, as indicated, since the Helium network is widely used for roaming.

Thus, in 2022, the share of roaming on the network was 25% of the traffic. Today, with an estimated 1.6 million messages exchanged per day with other networks, this represents 17% of the traffic. While roaming is overall on the rise with 600,000 more monthly messages in roaming (+60%), the share decreases, showing a faster growth of native traffic on Helium compared to the growth of objects on traditional operator networks.

We can estimate the number of active objects using the Helium network natively at around 250,000, indicating the deployment of more than 100,000 new objects in 12 months. A deployment volume that illustrates good prospects for the entire IoT ecosystem.

Helium-IoT.eu, which I operate as a connectivity provider and private network core host for Helium, illustrates this growth and allows me to tell you more about widespread use cases. I operate over 30,000 objects, 20,000 of which are active. This is paying traffic whose cost can be quite similar to that of traditional operator offers annually depending on usage, but often much lower. Over the past 12 months, the active object fleet has doubled, and the number of paying customers has tripled, very good indicators for the future.

Among the main use cases, I note a strong dominance in metering, particularly in Eastern European countries. This type of application requires a very large fleet of objects for a very low data volume and finds in the Helium network a low-cost network with consumption-based billing, month by month, rather than an upfront annual billing which is much higher. There are also many use cases in asset tracking, which translates to higher data consumption but benefits from a dense network in North America, Northern Europe, and Eastern Europe. The density allows for good location accuracy, including triangulation. The third most representative use case concerns environmental monitoring in farms and hotels where large fleets are deployed.

The Helium IoT network has been operational for only three years. It suffers from the poor understanding of what blockchains are and the bad reputation that cryptocurrencies have in the collective imagination. However, it is important to remember that its use does not involve either for businesses. Intermediaries like me interface with traditional companies, offering ordinary service payments and billing. Despite this, it convinces with its strengths, as illustrated by its growth.

If the IoT network, which aims to be a low-cost world, is still far from the $6600 criticized in 2022, we need to take a step back and look at what is happening on a more global level. The Mobile DAO, launched about a year ago, covers CBRS (4G/5G) and WiFi networks. It is only operational in the USA for regulatory reasons but supports a much higher revenue market. In a country where telecom communications are both extremely expensive and of poor quality compared to European offerings, the position offered by Helium is interesting. Thus, network revenues are much higher in the mobile part, representing 96% of the financial volume related to data transfers.

Helium Mobile and IoT consumption per day related to network usage (in $)

Thus, per month, $60,000 of communications are used by mobile communications in the USA. Finally, after only a few months and with strong growth underway, Helium might already represent an annual business in the real economy approaching a million dollars.

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