Getting 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: https://www.semtech.com/lora

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.

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

19 thoughts on “Getting 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

    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. 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. Hey Nik,

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

    Did you use an eth­er­net surge protector?


  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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