San Francisco-based Helium is developing a fee-free peer-to-peer network for internet of things (IoT) devices.
The company was founded in 2013 by Amir Haleem, Napster co-creator Shawn Fanning, and baby monitor startup Sproutling founder Chris Bruce.
The company announced on Wednesday that the Helium Hotspots are now available to order for all US residents through the Helium online store.
The Future is Peer-to-Peer
Today’s connectivity options for IoT devices fail either because of cost or complexity. To avoid these mistakes, we had to rethink our approach to connectivity. Similar to Napster, which changed the music industry forever, Helium intends to put connectivity into the hands of the people, igniting a generational change to the telco business model.
The Helium Hotspot provides many square miles of connectivity and acts as a node for the Helium Blockchain which provides the underlying technology for the reward system.
The People’s Network provides a secure and cost-effective way for devices to send data to and from the Internet. Each hotspot provides coverage over many square miles and can support thousands of devices to enable an entirely new class of devices. Based on initial testing, only about 50 to 150 hotspots are needed to provide complete coverage for an entire city.
Helium Hotspots also act as mining nodes within the Helium blockchain. Unlike other miners that process energy-intensive alogrithms as part of a Proof-of-Work mechanism, the Helium Hotspot instead uses an innovative Proof-of-Coverage protocol; a challenge-response system designed to verify other Hotspots on the network are legitimate.
Helium already has some big partners lined up, including Invisileash (pet tracking), Lime (scooter sharing), Agulus (farming tech), and many more.
“From our exploration and testing, we were able to determine opportunistic locations where Helium could add the most value with a new network built and owned by you, The People’s Network,” said Frank Mong from Helium in the company’s blog.
Helium Hotspots make up the foundation of a new type of network, one that rewards individuals for providing wireless connectivity.
“Using an approach similar to Airbnb, this peer-to-peer wireless network can rapidly deploy complete coverage for cities at a speed not possible by large centralized entities,” adds Mong.
The result? A secure, ubiquitous, and affordable network that enables companies to focus on applications and use cases, not cellular plans for devices or managing network infrastructure.
“Owned and operated by a community of individuals means this network eliminates the chance that a single company can monitor data, throttle traffic, or be a central point for attackers,” explains Mong.
Although initially launching in the US, Mong says, “we intend to expand network coverage internationally. For anyone outside the US, the best way to participate is to join the waitlist here. Over thousands of people from over 100 countries have already signed up on the waitlist.”
Helium raised $15 million in series C financing co-led by Union Square Ventures and Multicoin Capital, with participation from existing backers Khosla Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), FirstMark, and Munich Re Ventures. (Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff previously invested.)
According to a report by VentureBeat the fresh capital brings Helium’s total raised to $51 million, and it follows on the heels of a $20 million series B round in April.
Helium sells a $495 hotspot — Helium Hotspot — that sips roughly the same amount of power as an off-the-shelf LED light bulb (12 watts), according to VentureBeat. It plugs into a home network and encrypts traffic device-to-cloud, leveraging blockchain tech to onboard and validate devices, and it reaches up to 200 times farther than conventional Wi-Fi routers thanks to the LongFi protocol. Helium claims that only 50-100 hotspots are needed to cover an entire city.