COTX-X3 helium miner review

After reviewing different Helium miner like RAK, Sensecap, Kerlink, Nebra… now comes the Cotx-X3 miner. This miner has a long story and a bad reputation, due to something not really clean the maker did with the first units.

This is not related to the hardware quality and I’ve been happy to buy some of them for reviewing it. This miner is a full miner, based on a standard design using a Raspberry Pi 4. It has the particularity of having a front screen and an audio jack ! Don’t laughs, the reason is simple, this device has a different usage before becoming an helium miner.

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Deploying Helium-ETL instance with API

Helium blockchain ETL is basically a copy of the Helium Blockchain into a database. That way you can query the helium blockchain history to build apps like monitoring, tax management…

The Helium blockchain API project is connected to the Helium ETL to get an easy access to these data.

I’m currently building a tool to monitor and alarm a fleet of hotspots (stay tuned) and it currently uses the Helium API (api.helium.io). But helium APIs are a bit overloaded and not made to support high rate querying from each of the application any member of the community is developing. So I’ve been decided to make my own instance of ETL and API for my own purpose. This is the experience I’ll describe in this blog post:

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Helium Kerlink Miner iFemToCell

Kerlink Helium Miner iFemToCell

Kerlink is a LoRaWan hardware player since the first ages of this technology. This French company has equipped most of the operator’s network and is used to propose high quality industrial products.

The iFemToCell is not a new product. It exists since a couple of years and I already tested the IFemToCell 4 years ago. Recently the company has created a Helium edition we are going to review in this blog post.

This is an interesting device as it is a kind of hybrid between a light miner and a full miner. Even if the Kerlink platform is powerful, it is far away the power of a raspberry Pi and certain operations like consensus group can’t be performed. As this is now delegated to Validator, this difference have no impact on rewards. In another hand, this device is consuming less power and it is possible to power it with sun more easily. This is quite interesting.

Let see what is this device and what is specific during its deployment.

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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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