Does Your Helium Hotspot Need A Security Camera?

Do you wor­ry about your off grid hotspot get­ting stolen?”  I get that ques­tion a lot.  My short answer is “No”.  In gen­er­al, I fol­low what I con­sid­er a few secu­ri­ty best practices:

  • Make it hard to find.
  • Make it hard to get to.
  • Don’t leave your valu­ables unprotected.

In the world of Heli­um off grids, how­ev­er, you can’t always meet those cri­te­ria.  For one, you’ve got to assert your loca­tion.  Any­one in the world can get pret­ty darn close to where you should be.  So, hid­ing your valu­able thing, in this case a Heli­um Hotspot, is hard.

For my off grids, a love of the moun­tains and hard work com­bine nat­u­ral­ly to make my installs hard to get to. They’re not impos­si­ble; I mean, I’m not the only per­son on the plan­et who can car­ry a giant back­pack 6 miles one way.  TJ Fer­rara, for one, does that much bet­ter than I do.  Still, for most peo­ple, the juice is not worth the squeeze.

That brings us to an inter­est­ing aspect of a Heli­um min­er:  They’re not real­ly worth any­thing to a thief.  Once the hotspot is attached to your wal­let, it will faith­ful­ly deposit HNT into your wal­let, no mat­ter who has phys­i­cal con­trol over it. 

Still, an off grid isn’t just a min­er.  It’s the anten­na, and the solar pan­el, and the bat­tery, and a long list of acces­sories you need for the whole thing to work.  I’ve heard of thieves tak­ing every­thing BUT the min­ers.  In fact, they left the min­ers dou­ble bagged.  Yeah, weird.

In that par­tic­u­lar instance, the thieves did some­thing  incred­i­bly stu­pid which led the orig­i­nal own­er to find his stolen off grids and recov­er them, but you don’t always get that lucky.

One of the obvi­ous deter­rents is a cam­era, so I start­ed look­ing around for one I could use.  I want­ed a cam­era that was rugged enough to be out­side, would com­mu­ni­cate over LTE so I would­n’t have to hike out to check it, and would keep a run­ning “mem­o­ry” that it uploaded to the cloud, so if some­one did get their grub­by lit­tle dick­beat­ers on my gear, I’d be able to down­load their pic­ture with­out hav­ing access to the mem­o­ry card.  I also want­ed the thing to give me more than just one view; I want­ed some of that pan & tilt action.

Trail cams are the obvi­ous fit here.  Sur­pris­ing­ly, a bunch of ’em are miss­ing some crit­i­cal ele­ment.  Either they don’t have con­nec­tion to solar so the bat­ter­ies run out, or no abil­i­ty to upload to the cloud, or no abil­i­ty to move around and give me a wider view and scope. 

I set­tled on a ReoLink Go PT.  It met my cri­te­ria, although I made a few mod­i­fi­ca­tions when it arrived.

First, I paint­ed it tan.  The thing arrives in a blind­ing white, and just on gen­er­al prin­ci­ple I want­ed it to blend in at least a lit­tle bit.

Sec­ond, I replaced the fab­ric strap for pole (or tree) mount­ing with a hose clamp.  Way more sta­ble, and I’m guess­ing will last far longer.

Third, I mount­ed the solar pan­el arm with a bolt and a zip tie.  It ain’t the pret­ti­est install you’ve ever seen, but the folks at ReoLink seem to only account for peo­ple mount­ing this thing to flat sur­faces, and the pole diam­e­ter I had was­n’t enough to get all 3 rec­om­mend­ed screws in.

With my prep work done, it was out to one of my favorite places to test this out on an off grid Heli­um Hotspot install.

Now, one of the most fre­quent ques­tions I get asked is, “How do you get per­mis­sion to put it out there?”   It’s pret­ty sim­ple; you just ask. For the record, yes, I have per­mis­sion to put this hotspot here.  This is the result of a mul­ti-year rela­tion­ship that has involved spend­ing blood and trea­sure on all sides.  We flew a heli­copter out here for the ini­tial install of a weath­er sta­tion years ago where we cus­tom fab­ri­cat­ed the pole, drilled and mount­ed it to the rock, and have main­tained the site for years now.  There’s no real secret to it:  Find the own­ers of the prop­er­ty, fig­ure out what (if any­thing) they want, and pro­vide it to them. 

With that out of the way, there’s only one ques­tion left:  Does the cam­era work to stop thieves?

I think of it this way.  A secu­ri­ty cam­era is like a reserve para­chute:  You hope they’re a com­plete waste of mon­ey and you nev­er need to use ’em, but if you do, they’re worth every penny. 

As far as the mount­ing & use of it, it’s dead sim­ple.  If you can put togeth­er an Ikea kitchen sink, you’re about 4 intel­li­gence lev­els above what it takes to get this cam­era to work.  Plug in, sign up, and play. 

With that said, I have had a few instances where the cam­era does­n’t imme­di­ate­ly con­nect when I pull up the app.  So far, just quit­ting the app and re-load­ing it seems to work.

The big down­side is the month­ly data cost for the cloud imagery.  Still, it’s less than run­ning a min­er; I bought a 10 GB/month plan for $35 on Mint.  Mint is super easy, and for the price of 30 rolled tacos and a few high priced cof­fees every month I’ll get high def pic­tures of some­one’s bald spot as they’re steal­ing my hotspot set­up.  Worth it. 

That brings me to the last high point of the ReoLink PT: you can pan and tilt the thing. If I want to catch a rad sun­set out there, or see my bud­dies paraglid­ing while I ham­mer away on the key­board, or even watch as the coy­otes howl up at a gib­bous moon on a sum­mer’s eve, I can dial in and check ’em out.  That, my friends, is worth every penny. 


One response to “Does Your Helium Hotspot Need A Security Camera?”

  1. Wow, what an inter­est­ing arti­cle. You did a great job shar­ing with us that set­ting up secu­ri­ty cam­eras close to our off-grid hotspots could pos­si­bly deter thieves from steal­ing them. I know a friend who’s been liv­ing in a remote area near South Car­oli­na for almost a year now and always los­es his hotspot once in a while. Nev­er mind, I’m just gonna make sure he con­sid­ers this option so the per­fect instal­la­tion can be made in the end.

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