Migrate any LoRaWAN gateway to helium network as a Data-Only hotspot

Migrating existing LoRaWAN network to Helium or joining Helium for new deployment is accessing to the world largest LoRaWAN network and enable your devices to be deployed in the large covered zone. By doing this you extends the community network and as a counter part getting benefit on future data transfer and immediately get an access to the low cost ecosystem (data transfer, network server, high redundancy network…)

In a previous post I explained how to configure a RAK Wisgate as a Helium Data-Only hotspot. In a such situation your LoRaWAN gateway becomes a hotspot relaying the Helium traffic and getting some little rewards for the data transfer. The more important is to extend the coverage. This way of doing is good but I’ve got some issues on the field: The data transfer from the hotspot to the blockchain (even if just the state channels) is high and the software, currently in alpha, is not totally stable. When deploying a gateway is isolated area to provide new coverage, honestly, these two issues are blocking points.

The second important consideration is the existing gateways, already deployed on the field: they are currently used for private networks. They have been deployed some years ago and are not in the compatibility list of Helium hardware. Even if they are, deploying a new software on them, remotely can be a problem.

For these different reasons, I’ve been investigating a different approach by creating centrally hosted hotspots connected to different LoRaWAN gateways through the legacy Semtech protocol. This is what we are going to detail on this blog-post.

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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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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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First steps with Helium IoT network

Helium is a crowdsourced-crypto-blockchain-Iot network working with LoRaWan. With all these trendy name, for sure they had the key elements to raise a large amount of money. That’s great for the development of this technology.

I’ve decided to write about this IoT network after an interesting talk given at the Zurich IoT meetup today (thank you CoVID-19 for making us the opportunity to reach such event, today online, bad things can get positive sometime).

Helium is a crowdsourced network. It means, like for TheThingsNetwork or Amazon Sidewalk, the infrastructure, at least the gateways part (antennas) are provided by anybody, basically you and me. That way the network deployment costs are really limited and the network have no boundaries.

Compared to TTN, Helium network is “crypto-blockchained” basically, the gateway owner are mining different challenges like registering some network change, proving the location of a gateway, cryptocurrency transactions… For this work, for maintaining the network architecture and relaying the messages, the gateway’s owner are earning HNT (Helium Network Tokens) ($2.24 each today).

Compared to TTN where you make it running for free, just because you are convinced about the sharing economy, Helium base its business model on a promise of getting some money back from your investment the gateways (+energy, communications…).

Helium is an IoT network, a LPWAN for being more precise. It relies on LoRaWan standard protocol & gateways. You need to add an Helium miner software on a backend system to make it running.

So they are looking to Uber-ize the telecom domain, at least this is what they are expecting.

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My little Bitcoin experience – Asic mining

Following my previous post on bitcoin I’ve start mining with ASIC to continue playing the technology. I’ve started with a small USB ASIC providing 2GH/s. This is equivalent to 200 times the power of my Xeon server and it was really easy to install, running on a Raspberry Pi to simplify the usage.

This post details this experience and gives some advices for one wanted to experience mining.

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My little Bitcoin investment & mining experience

I do not count the time I looked at Bitcoin in the past since about 2011-2012. Every time I started thinking about mining there was an investment to do (like GPU, then ASIC) and I never trust enough this money to make this investment. So as a consequence I never jump into this techno by the past, more than to understand how it works and learn.

Now Bitcoin in reaching some unexpected peaks ( > 15,000€ ) and it really looks like a bubble everyone is talking about, so as a mad man, I through it was the perfect time to start playing with this money. Trust me, as a guy who started investing in Internet technologies in 2001, you may never follow me on such decision !

Starting playing with this was an interesting learning opportunity, so this post will relate this experience and the different things I found in the bitcoin ecosystem.

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What left in BlockChain if you avoid talking about crypto and money ?

A new try for this website : my first video post !!

The topic is blockchain and to avoid you to have to support my terrible french accent the talk is in French.

This is a try, so please comment the video to see if it make sense for me to continue that way on this support with such topics.