How To Place Your Hotspot On A Commercial Building



Want to get your hotspot up on that tall com­mer­cial build­ing, but you’re not sure how to approach the build­ing own­er or man­ag­er? I’ll walk you through how I do it, includ­ing tem­plates and how to talk about Heli­um with non-cryp­to enthu­si­asts. I know, I know. You want to skip for­ward to right before you tilt up the tow­er, like this: 

Relax, we’ll get there. Let’s go through how that can happen.

First, remem­ber this: Make sure they win. You’re going to win, we both know that. Set that aside and focus on them.

Sec­ond, know who you’re deal­ing with. Is it an own­er? A facil­i­ties man­ag­er? A cor­po­rate enti­ty? You’re engag­ing in busi­ness. Do your home­work. Be professional.

Third, make sure your agree­ments are clear and clean. They don’t have to be long 19 page doc­u­ments detail­ing every last thing. They do have to be use­ful for all par­ties. Get the fol­low­ing in writ­ing: What you’re going to be doing, how much you’re going to pay, and how often you’ll pay out. 

Fourth, see num­ber one, above. Think about how this might ben­e­fit their busi­ness. If you can walk up to the build­ing own­er with some way for them to make more mon­ey or spend less, you’re 80% of the way to a done deal. Whether they need to track vehi­cles or peo­ple, or weigh inven­to­ry, or get tem­per­a­ture alerts, or count how many cars are parked in their lot, there is almost always some way that a LoRa sen­sor can help out.

You don’t have to have a per­fect fit, but if you can show that you care about their busi­ness and bot­tom line, they’ll be a lot more open to your proposal. 

Fifth, keep it pro­fes­sion­al. Don’t plan on set­ting up some­thing that’ll fall down when it’s windy, or leak when it’s rainy, or fall apart because you used cheap parts. This is a busi­ness. Be a professional.

Once you’ve thought about their life and how you can improve it, plan out your first con­tact with them. Ide­al­ly you’ll have some­one you both trust in com­mon. It could be a fam­i­ly mem­ber or a friend, or it could be a ten­ant that both you and the build­ing own­er trust. If they’re a total stranger, make sure you’ve done your home­work on their build­ing (how old is it, how high is it, how many ten­ants do they have, what’s the aver­age rent in the area, etc). Build up a men­tal map in your mind about how your place­ment pro­pos­al will ben­e­fit them.

Speak­ing of a pro­pos­al, have some­thing writ­ten up and ready to hand over. Here’s a short exam­ple. The tem­plate is here.

LoRa Gateway Proposal – Rooftop Placement

Gris­tle King Inc (GKI) pro­vides LoRa radio (LOng RAnge) cov­er­age via a small device and anten­na installed on a 15’-20’ high mast anchored with a non-pen­e­trat­ing remov­able roof mount.

A LoRa gate­way (Long Range radio and small com­put­er) is used to pro­vide cov­er­age for Inter­net of Things (IoT) sensors.

IoT can range from remote weigh­ing of ingre­di­ents to count­ing the num­ber of peo­ple pass­ing through a door­way to remote sens­ing of park­ing spots, tem­per­a­ture and humid­i­ty track­ing, and more.

Each IoT sen­sor trans­mits encrypt­ed infor­ma­tion which is received by the gate­way, then passed by the gate­way to the inter­net for data pro­cess­ing and visu­al­iza­tion. Sen­sors are typ­i­cal­ly cheap and long last­ing, with life expectan­cy rou­tine­ly in years.

A typ­i­cal gate­way install­ment involves pro­vid­ing a pow­er source and inter­net con­nec­tion to the gate­way, then cus­tomiz­ing a sen­sor deployment.

In this case, the ini­tial sen­sors will be scales cus­tom-built to remote­ly mon­i­tor ingre­di­ent stock levels.

The gate­way pro­vides “per­mis­sion­less” cov­er­age to any­one who wants to use it, so if oth­er busi­ness­es with­in the cov­er­age area of the gate­way want to build or employ their own solu­tions using LoRa they can do so by buy­ing data cred­its. Data cred­its run approx­i­mate­ly $5–10/month per sensor.

Gate­ways typ­i­cal­ly use about as much pow­er as a light bulb and as much data as a Net­flix user.

More on LoRa tech­nol­o­gy can be found here:

GKI pro­pos­es a month­ly host­ing pay­ment to XXXXXXXX of $XXX/month to use build­ing inter­net & pow­er. GKI will install the gate­way and asso­ci­at­ed hard­ware. All instal­la­tion costs and any dam­ages result­ing from the instal­la­tion to be borne by GKI.

Here are the essen­tials of a pro­pos­al: It should quick­ly and clear­ly describe what you’re doing. It should show the busi­ness­es own­er how they and those around will receive a ben­e­fit. It should be low risk for them (no drilling holes in their roof). Final­ly, it should be boring.

That last one is where most of you stum­ble. You’re excit­ed about Heli­um. You want to share how cryp­tocur­ren­cy and the blockchain is chang­ing the world and how much long range cov­er­age you’ll be pro­vid­ing for all these devices (that typ­i­cal­ly don’t exist yet) and how this is the ground floor, and LET’S DO THIS

I get it. I’m excit­ed too, but busi­ness own­ers did­n’t get to own a build­ing by lis­ten­ing to excit­ed peo­ple talk about dreams and the future, and espe­cial­ly about Bit­coin or Doge or.…what was this again, Helium?

Trust me. Keep it bor­ing and prac­ti­cal. Point out where they’ll win. Make sure they DO win. If a busi­ness own­er can rent out 6 sq ft of their roof for $150/month, that’s $25 a square foot. That’s a win.

Ok, now that you’ve pre­sent­ed your pro­pos­al and they’ve signed off on it, you’ll have to con­nect your Heli­um Hotspot to its lifeblood: Pow­er, and the internet. 

You can go off-grid, which is (depend­ing on where you live) about 3 times as expen­sive as stay­ing on a hard­line. The enor­mous upside of being off grid is you don’t have to con­vince the build­ing own­er to get into their router and open up port 44158, or plug in to their pow­er, or make any holes in their build­ing in order to run cable. All of those can com­pli­cate or upset a deal.

Still, off grid is hard, and expen­sive. If you can show the build­ing own­er that you know what you’re doing, that you’ve ter­mi­nat­ed eth­er­net cable before and punched through build­ing envelopes, and that open­ing up that port on their net­work is some­thing you can do behind your back with a blind­fold, they usu­al­ly put you in the cat­e­go­ry of “tech­ni­cal geek who can do any­thing” and they’ll give you the run of the shop. That opens up your grid-con­nect­ed options.

What I’m say­ing in a round­about way is to make sure you learn a lit­tle bit of the lan­guage of con­tract­ing and net­work installing. Don’t go in there say­ing you’re going to run “inter­net cable”. Don’t say, “I think I might have to drill a hole in your roof, let me go buy a drill.” Don’t ask them if you can “get on their WiFi for a sec”. 

Know what you’re talk­ing about. Be a pro­fes­sion­al. Have the right tools to do a good job. Here’s my list of essen­tial Heli­um deploy­ment tools if you need some guidance.

This brings me to my last point, which is rela­tion­ships. I know you want a mag­ic piece of paper that you just throw at a build­ing own­er and they toss the roof key back at you and say, “Have at it.” That does­n’t hap­pen. Build­ing own­ers are just like you; they want to turn a prof­it and they want to work with peo­ple they like and trust. The prof­it part is straight­for­ward. The next part comes from build­ing relationships. 

Show up on time. Be pro­fes­sion­al. Think about their needs before yours. Try and improve their life. Have fun and be joy­ful when you work. Always look for pos­i­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties where all par­ties win. Always build the relationship. 

That’s the kind of per­son I’d want putting a [what­ev­er it is you want] on top of my build­ing. Would­n’t you?

Best of luck with your deploy­ments, and if you need help I’m avail­able for hire.

Rock on! ~Nik@GK


25 responses to “How To Place Your Hotspot On A Commercial Building”

  1. Great post and help­ful! I find it inter­est­ing that around where I live and I’m sure in oth­er loca­tions across the world, res­i­dents are will­ing to have hotspots in their homes for real­ly cheap by these “groups” that own 100 + hotspots. This one group charges $10/per month and eas­i­ly mak­ing 300–500 HNT/month of 1.

  2. Am I doing it wrong by offer­ing com­mer­cial build­ings a stake of the earnings? 😀

    I should be offer­ing less.…

  3. There’s not a “wrong” way to do it. If they take a stake in earn­ings that opens them up to all the tax impli­ca­tions of cryp­to. If they just pay a flat USD (or local cur­ren­cy fee) they don’t have to deal with any of it. I’d rather keep the load on the pret­ty light when it comes to paper­work and tax liabilities.

  4. Pete Danylewycz Avatar
    Pete Danylewycz

    Hey Nik,
    Great post! Thanks for shar­ing. Quick ques­tion? In your post, you talk about drilling
    holes and using an eth­er­net cable. Is that even nec­es­sary? You can hook up HNT min­ers wire­less­ly using WiFi instead of a direct con­nec­tion to the router. Is there a rea­son you rec­om­mend or pre­fer using a hard­wire connection?


  5. Hi Pete, you can def­i­nite­ly use a WiFi con­nec­tion, but I’ve found an eth­er­net con­nec­tion far more stable.

  6. David Fant Avatar
    David Fant

    Hi Nik, we want to offer an out­door solu­tion that does­n’t require an eth­er­net con­nect should it not be read­i­ly avail­able. Can you rec­om­mend a 4G LTE modem option that works well with the RAK hotspot?


  7. David, I’ve used a IBR-650C for all my off grid deploy­ments; indus­tri­al grade. I’ve heard good things about the RUT240. Full write up on off-grid over here.

  8. Dustin Avatar

    Hey Nik,

    As always, thank you for the super knowl­edge­able post! One quick ques­tion I have is:

    Did you use an eth­er­net surge protector?


  9. Hi Dustin, I did­n’t, noth­ing beyond a stan­dard injector/splitter.

  10. Hey Nik, great post here. May I ask if any hotspot min­er can work with lora tech­nol­o­gy with­out the HNT data cred­its because one of your rea­sons in that post was the future usage of this product.
    Greet­ings Nick

  11. It’s not so much any hotspot min­er as any device that can run the code. I’ve used Rasp­ber­ry Pi4s with the RAK2287 hat & con­cen­tra­tor. You can build your own that won’t earn cred­its but will pro­vide cov­er­age fol­low­ing Heli­um’s instruc­tions, here.

  12. I just received this infor­ma­tion from Bob­cat today regard­ing tem­per­a­tures and reduc­tion of per­for­mance at high­er temps. I’m cur­rent­ly wait­ing on my bob­cat and had plans to mount the hotspot in my attic to reduce required Coax length. Locat­ed in Austin Texas I know attics can get up to 140 degrees if not more. You hav­ing put these out in direct sun­light I was won­der­ing your take and expe­ri­ence so far with your out­door units. Won­der­ing if I need to rethink this. Any con­tri­bu­tions you have will be appre­ci­at­ed thank you. Here is the link I received from Bob­cat. There is an includ­ed study of this phe­nom­e­non that’s over my head.

  13. Hi Matt, I’ve only deployed RAKs and DIYs out­side, they’re doing fine. Not sure about the Bob­cat, though it’s got to be the same basic components.

  14. Do you attach guy wire any­where when uti­liz­ing the 15–20ft masts. If so, is it pos­si­ble to do so with­out drilling?

  15. Hi Bri­an, yep, I use stain­less steel guy wires and attach them to sets of CMUs (Con­crete blocks).

  16. Hey Nik,

    Can I ask what’s the usu­al amount you offer to the owner?

  17. Hi Mar­co, I’ve done any­thing from 20% to $150/month.

  18. Brian Kenney Avatar
    Brian Kenney

    Are you con­nect­ing these to a build­ing ground? It seems to be an iso­lat­ed sys­tem. What are your thoughts specif­i­cal­ly for solar pow­ered (no wires) units that are on rooftops.

  19. Hi Bri­an, yep, you should be con­nect­ing these to a build­ing ground. Solar pow­ered units on rooftops can be an excel­lent call, it’s main­ly a ques­tion of eco­nom­ics and main­te­nance. If the build­ing own­er is OK with you tap­ping into pow­er & inter­net, usu­al­ly far cheap­er to do that.

  20. Do you build the mast? Do you have more detailed roof setup?

  21. Yep, check out this post on that setup.

  22. fotuisaac Avatar

    Hey Nik, how do you pay your hosts? Cryp­to and Fiat? Do you use Stripe? Also is the pro­pos­al you have on here used as sort of a con­tract that your hosts sign?

  23. USD or HNT split. I don’t use Stripe. The pro­pos­al I use is just a gen­er­al tem­plate; that’s all the one com­mer­cial build­ing own­er need­ed to see.

  24. I guess a bet­ter way to word my ini­tial ques­tion is what do you pay your hosts through? Is it via Ven­mo, Cash App or do write them checks?

  25. The com­mer­cial build­ing own­er bills me, the split I do through Hotspot­ty and the Heli­um app.

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