Despite not having dabbled in cryptocurrency, I’ve found myself slightly crypto-curious of late, more as a by-product of doing some research into blockchain technology than out of an ambition for investing in it. Of particular interest is Helium, because it rewards people for creating LoRa hotspots using a Helium-compatible gateway device. Not only can these gateways be used to mine Helium cryptocurrency, called HNT, they also serve the greater good of expanding LoRa coverage without relying on network providers to invest in building out infrastructure. Simply put, it lets people’s wallets do the talking and also provides LoRa connectivity for nodes in covered areas.
I’ve therefore had half a mind (bear in mind, I only had half to begin with) to ask one of our clients if I could borrow a compatible gateway to play around with – partly to see how much a ticket into this circus costs and whether it’s worth the price of admission, but mostly to find out whether it’s overcrowded with boffins who do it for a living and act as the ringmasters of the show, leaving little to nothing to be gained for clowns like me.
As it turns out, Chris Viveiros, the technical director of Otto Wireless Solutions, saved me the bother by going full-on crypto-crusader on a Helium buzz. I urge you to read his article (http://www.dataweek.co.za/16437r), where he goes into minute detail about his testing methodology and results, including pitfalls such as a clone of his gateway operating out of Croatia. It’s a thoroughly good read and well worth your time. Also, Massive Chocolate Koala. And Striped Basil Crocodile. I shan’t elaborate but leave that dangling as a cryptic enticement to read the article.
A recent article by Fortune magazine suggests that the ‘utility’ value of Helium is attracting investors, over and above the financial value of the HNT currency itself, and highlights the fact that “Literally the whole world is its addressable market.” Underscoring this sentiment around Helium as something of an investment ‘unicorn’, the company raised $200 million and was valued at more than $1 billion after its latest round of funding. This latest fundraising session raised four times more money than all previous rounds combined, although it’s worth mentioning that the HNT’s value has been highly erratic over the past 12 months, rising from R194,52 in June 2021 to a high of R808,72 in November, only to sag to R120,24 as at 25 May 2022.
It’s not only its market cap that’s ballooning, so too is Helium’s geographic footprint. At the time of writing, the total number of deployed Helium hotspots stands at 824 159, with 64 708 of those having come online in just the last 30 days. More than 62 000 cities and 174 countries are currently covered, including South Africa (albeit very sparsely). You can track these figures in real time through the dashboard at https://explorer.helium.com/hotspots/
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