Helium Data-Only hotspot with RAK WisGate Edge Prime

RAK7240

It’s time to extend the Helium network out of the city centers ! Now as most of the Helium Pioneers have stacked a lot of HNT, it is time to reinvest a part of it to grow the attractivity of the network and improve the future value of the token as a consequence. At least it is my point of view on what every Helium participant should start doing. Each hostpot revenue is currently sufficiently high to participate to network extension with Data-Only equipment.

Data Only Hotspot are LongFi (LoRaWan) gateways not doing mining, they are just relaying data and, as a consequence, only earn token for packet transfer. If the network use becomes high, this could be an interesting revenue.

Data Only Hotspot target 2 different use-cases:

  • Low density area, they are the zone where you don’t have a big chance to have many other hotspot around and full hotspot price won’t make it interesting regarding the low chance to get PoC reward. Basically, they are good to deploy in the countryside, mountains … to extend coverage but not expecting high revenue. This is important to do to enable used-cases based on a large coverage for the network.
  • Professional networks. This is the main, short term, interest of Helium Data Only Hotspot. Service providers using LoRaWan are mostly relying on private networks with owned equipment’s. These equipment can be migrated or deployed on the Helium network with Data-Only Hotspot without risk of market shortage, larger reliability and lower cost and lower bandwidth and power consumption than full miners. Service providers get different advantages for doing this: get benefit of the existing Helium coverage worldwide (as primary solution or as a redundancy) and get some income for transferring other LoRaWan communication.

For my first experimentation with Helium Data Only Hotspot, I made the choice of RAK Wisgate Edge Prime because this device is reasonable price for high end experience. It is outdoor, with LTE, supporting PoE under $400. This is really fitting well with the second use-case : professional deployment I noticed above. I will later review the Dragino lower cost gateway for addressing the first use-case.

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Storj – a blockchain for storing data

Storj is a blockchain in competition with cloud providers like Amazon to offer a decentralized data storage managed over a blockchain. This is the kind of project I like as they are running blockchain to offer tangible services in the real world and competing with existing business in a new way.

I previously did some experimentation with Sia proposing the same thing but I’ve been really disappointed by the way it works. I’ll detail it later in the blog post. So I decide to create a Storj node to offer storage and also try using Storj to store some of my data.

Storj have an advantage compared to cloud provider, the warranty of a high level of protection of your personal data. The data is spread over multiple nodes and strongly encrypted. In term of price, I’ll detail it also later in the blog post.

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The Sensecap Helium miner

Sensecap is one of the Helium miner official hardware. This one has been made in collaboration with Seeed a big hardware maker and provider.

The production and distribution has started on July 2021 and that solution is really promising to help solving the shortage issues currently seen in the Helium market. As a reminder, Helium growth has been from 15.000 hotspots to 100,000 hotspot in less than 8 months. In a period of global shortage in semi-conductor market it is quite challenging for the hardware provider and the current estimates are about 200,000 – 400,000 back orders.

Sensecap coming batch of 10,000 and more units are really welcome, with the promise of selling produced only devices instead of pre-orders. It sounds like a good choice now days.

So let’s review the technical part of the Sensecap miner.

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Filter X-Forwarded-For Apache

The XFF HTTP field can be used to obtain the remote IP when a http server is located behind a reverse proxy. If the remote proxy does not clean the XFF field you can’t trust it. The worst is that this field can be used for injecting code in your website.

I’ve been a such issue in a security plugging logging and not filtering the remote IP field. As this one came from XFF, it was possible to inject javascript into the database remotely and execute that JS when displaying the dashboard of the “security” pluggin.

One of the option to solve this is to clean the XFF field (or reject the request when the XFF is not clean). This can be done with a simple configuration in the http config file (or htaccess)

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP:X-Forwarded-For} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP:X-Forwarded-For} !^[0123456789.\ ,]{7,36}$
RewriteRule ^ - [L,R=404]

Here, empty XFF and XFF container anything else than numbers and some other char, lower than 7 char and higher the 36 chars will be rejected with a 404 as Last operation.

Satellite’s IoT is now ready for use with Kineis

Kineis nano-sat Photo credit Kinéis et Héméria

Even if you think it is the first time you heard about Kineis, you are basically wrong in some ways ! This company is a recent “Startup”, existing since June 2019 but for real, they are managing an IoT offer based on top the famous and quite experienced Argos system, started in 1978 and now operating more the 22.000 devices running application like animal tracking, ocean safety and many scientific programs.
The service is running over the 8 satellites currently in orbit, making Kineis the most advanced satellite IoT solution commercially available as of today.

Thanks to the polar orbit of the satellites, the whole earth is covered, no white zone, no blind spots from pole to pole, ocean to desert, device are communicating from everywhere, autonomously.

This blog post is the first of a series made with the help of Kineis to introduce you the technology and my experience with it. As usual, there is no sponsoring for these blog posts but a close work with Kineis as the offer is only open to business companies currently.

Companies like Exotic Systems, Arribada or Advanced Tracking, have already started to make products using Kineis network for asset tracking applications mainly.

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Nebra Helium miner review

Nebra indoor miner customer box

After reviewing the Rak Wireless miner in a previous blog post, after receiving my own Nebra miner, I’ll give a review of it.

The Nebra miner is one of the different Helium miner machine. It is at first a LongFi (LoRaWan) gateway. It includes a software to run it over a blockchain to create a global IoT network. you can get more details on what is helium in the linked blog post.

This review is on a Nebra batch #1, it is possible that some of the given information will not be valid in a couple of weeks when the batch #2, #3 … will be delivered. No need to precise it but this is an end-user review. I’ve ordered and paid my miner. I’ve no link with Nebra.

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IoT actors ecosystem framework

The IoT actors ecosystem framework

IoT ecosystem is rich of many different actors providing solutions and services in different areas.

I’ve tried to create a framework to position these actors. Many of the existing actors can be in multiple blocks but each of these is a standalone viable business where you can fin existing actors.

In the following pdf file, you will get the details of the different blocks to understand their role, the type of service provided and sometime some exemple of companies acting in this domain.

Helium RAK Miner review

Rak Wireless Helium Miner v2

Rak Wireless is one of the Helium miner provider, currently the main one. This miner is based on a Rapsberry PI 4 but we will see that it’s not the only part in the miner as Helium Blockchain is not about computing but radio communications.

So the Rapsberry Pi is not the most important parts of the machine, it’s the LoRa concentrator, a piece of technology capable to listen simultaneously on 8 different radio channels and decode really low level signals around -139dBm, basically 0.00000000000001 mW of signal power…

In this post we will detail the technical details about this miner and the interesting aspects. I will also detail my installation experience, this one is not especially specific to RAK as the installation process is quite similar with all the different miners.

In term of radio, the different miner are equivalent and in term of processing the power of a Raspberry Pi 3 is good enough to run the blockchain. More over in the coming month the addition of the Validator in the block chain will drastically reduce the number of complex operation inside the miner. As a consequence, the performance is not an important criteria. This is to say, currently the tech specifications are not really important in the miner choice and I won’t detail a lot that part.

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