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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IoT slidedeck 2021-07 update

On regular basis, I’m updating my IoT slide-deck used for trainings, MooC and conferences. You can find in the attached pdf more than 260 slides about IoT market, use-cases and technologies.

Feel free to use it for your own training, presentations, content is free to use, please just place a link to this website as a counterpart.

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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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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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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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LoRaWAN soil moisture solar device using Helium network

My child have a small garden where he has tomatoes, mint, different vegetables and fruits. We want to know when it is the right time to water it.

This was also an opportunity to use my Rak Wisblock kit fro something else than just writing some blog post. I’ve chosen to connect the device over Helium network because I’m making different tests on this network currently but it is also working on TheThingsNetwork the same way. So you can use the network most covering you around.

The data will be displayed on Cayenne Mydevice for getting a quick dashboard for displaying the information. In this blog post I’m going to describe the main steps and the needed hardware to make your own device.

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Low Cost LoRaWan Field Tester

When deploying a LoRaWan network, we need to verify what is the coverage. Eventually before deploying a Hotspot for Helium network we need to find the best place to reach as much peers as possible. A field tester is a simple, mobile, tool to help you decide the best location and monitor the coverage in a zone.

There are many different existing solutions on the market, I have used some of them in the past like the Adeunis field tester. The problem of the existing device is usually the price and the absence of backend application to report the network seen signal. The solutions are usually around 200 – 400€ and I was looking for making something less expensive for makers and hotspot owners.

Thanks to the Seeed Wio Terminal, a low cost Arduino like terminal with a cool TFT screen and buttons, it makes it a nice platform to make a LoRaWan Field tester with a good UI.

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What is the real cost of Helium communication ?

Helium network is a crowdsourced network using a blockchain. There are multiple transactions related to the Helium devices communication. Usually, we talk about the message transmission transaction corresponding to a flat cost of 1DC ($0,00001). That said there are some questions:

  • what is a message definition ?
  • what are the other blockchain transaction impacting the communication cost ?

In the post we are going to review the answer to these questions and I’ll propose a spreadsheet to modelize these cost with some example to see the different kind of real message cost you should take into account in your business model.

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