It’s been a little over a year since I started deploying Helium Hotspots. In that year, after deploying Hotspots both on grid and off grid on homes, commercial buildings, and (my favorite) in the mountains, I’ve learned a ton about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the most of the Helium experience.
I’ve had the great privilege of helping hundreds of clients deploy their hotspots as well, whether it’s a family in Oregon putting one up on their house or a fleet owner out of NYC deploying thousands. What I’ve learned from all this can be summed up in three main points below.
First, Helium is simple.
It can seem intimidating, and the details can get overwhelming, but at the end of the day, the deployments that earn the most provide 4 types of coverage. I call this WUPU coverage. Here’s what WUPU stands for:
Wide — The coverage your Hotspots provides should have as great a range as possible. It should go from right where your hotspot is, and waaay out to the visible horizon. Your first job when deploying a Hotspot is to make sure you can get the antenna in a place where it has a ton of long, open views. Being blocked in by trees, mountains, or buildings can kill your wide coverage.
Unique — Any network benefits from a little redundancy, but not too much. The coverage your Hotspot provides (IF you want a high earning Hotspot) should ideally be something like a 75/25 split between unique and redundant. Now, that’s more of a guideline and very difficult to assess, but as a general rule of thumb, if you want a high earning Hotspot, put it in a place that opens up new ground for the Helium Network whilst also providing a little redundancy for other Hotspots close by.
Proveable — We prove our location solely through the strength of radio signals as assessed by the laws of physics. We don’t use GPS as it’s too easy to spoof. I know, most of us don’t know how to spoof GPS. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, and the Helium Network has to protect itself against all attack vectors, one of which is GPS spoofing. Helium does that by relying on your Hotspot to transmit and receive precisely measured radio signals, and to compare those measurements against humanity’s understanding of physics. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do, and Helium is ALWAYS working to improve it.
You prove your location by correctly entering the details of your antenna and your locations so Helium knows what variables to enter in their distance/signal strength equation. If you enter incorrect variables, you can expect to miss out on rewards because your “proof” is not matching up with the expected outcome.
Useful — Finally, high earning coverage is useful. The Network has to be useful to provide value, and the highest earners generally process actual data on the Helium network. They may not process a lot of data right now, but a high earning placement will always be in a position to process a ton of data from a variety of sensors.
While the rewards for processing that data are small now, we can expect that to grow, and grow, and grow over time.
Second, Helium is complicated
Helium is more or less an ambitious engineer’s dream. It’s a system that grows itself through basic human incentives. Because these incentives are so powerful, there’s a constant game of cat and mouse with the good guys (the majority of the Helium community) and “gamers”, or people who are gaming the system to cheat and earn more HNT. As HNT gains in value, these incentives become more powerful, attracting smarter and more capable gamers to attempt to exploit the system.
This ends up as a battle between many very smart competitors. The stack of talent at Helium Inc is gob-smackingly capable, but the array of skills that gamers bring to the table is equally impressive.
That’s great for a robust network, but it can make things difficult to understand for those of us who are not technologically savvy. Knowing the difference between a packet forwarder and a miner, a gateway and a sensor, a server, a router, and a Validator and the languages they all speak can mean the difference between earning a ton of HNT or having to (frustratingly) sit on the sidelines wondering why your miner isn’t working.
This complexity is both the shield that protects us and the obstacle that can temporarily slow or stop our earnings. In order to participate in the Helium Network at an above average level, you’ll have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and learn a little more about radio signals, code, and the physical act of deploying Hotspots (and specifically, getting your antenna in the right location and up high.)
Third, Helium as an avenue for both personal growth and wealth creation is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
As you may have already experienced, just learning about the Helium ecosystem can expand your world in ways you never thought possible. Whether you decide to get geeky and build a test setup just to see how the whole thing works, or you wade through the complexities of HIP 15 & 17, Helium has a way of forcing you to expand your capabilities.
Take it from me; at the start of this thing, about all I knew was that *something* was going on. I didn’t know about turning a Raspberry Pi into an HNT earning Helium Hotspot (which you can no longer do, though you can still build a non-earning one). I didn’t know about code. I’d never used Docker, or Python (or BASH, or Shell, or anything).
I knew that I could work hard, use tools in a workshop, read and study just as well as anyone else on the planet, and I put in the work required for extraordinary placements. Everything else I learned on the job. You can do the same. I’ve done it and I’ve watched and helped hundreds of people do it; I know it’s possible.
That leaves us with the final piece of Helium, which is wealth creation. When I saw a Hotspot down the street from me making the equivalent of US$3,000/month back in September of 2020, well, I thought the same thing you would: How do I get into this?
As it turns out with many cryptocurrency and blockchain projects where you find it early, that journey of discovery has turned out well for me so far. Crypto in general can create life-changing wealth, and Helium is no exception. I’m not talking about just me, although it’s certainly changed my life from one where I struggled to pay off credit card debt to one where I don’t check my bank account before buying groceries at the store.
Anyone who is involved at this early stage, who takes the time to learn about Helium and how best to participate in the eco-system in order to grow the Network in healthy ways, and takes action, well, they’re going to change the course of their financial lives.
That’s been one of the coolest parts for me; sharing this journey with YOU, and making sure you’re along for the ride. Very early on (my very first Hotspot), I had a good friend step in and hold my hand as I walked through the steps of getting a Hotspot put together and online. It helped build an extraordinary friendship, and was such a positively charged example of how one person can help another achieve independence that I am driven to try and pass that experience on to you.
This blog is one of the results of that. All of the information on here is free, so you can follow my journey, learn from my mistakes and victories, and develop your own understanding of how you can best participate in Helium. If you’d like a guided tour, well, I offer that too.
About 5 months into this, after writing the first few articles (the Rough Guide and the one on choosing an antenna specifically), I started getting phone calls from people needing help. At first it was fun to get those, especially the one at 9 o’clock at night from the Ukranian guy out of Buffalo considering a 1,000 Hotspot purchase. It was like being in a spy-thriller movie. “Chello, I hav some qvuestions for you.”
Still, my phone started ringing non-stop, so I had to manage my time somehow. I started charging for consulting time, walking people through a condensed version of all I’d learned about Helium. I found that conversation usually takes at least an hour, sometimes longer. At the end of the hour, you have a much better understanding of what to do, and almost invariably we’ve corrected a few misunderstandings about Helium. Like I said above, Helium is complicated.
After doing hundreds of those consults, I developed a standard flow that addressed 80–90% of all misunderstandings, and tailored the other 10–20% to individual questions for each unique situation.
I decided to record that standard flow and make it available for more people at a much lower price than my one-on-one consulting fee. This makes it more affordable for more people and gives you the ability to learn when you’re ready and not on my schedule, which can be booked out further in the future than you want to wait.
That recorded presentation is here if you want to check it out. In just under an hour it’ll take you through all the most important parts of the Helium Network, and cover most of the things I cover on this site. To be very clear, you can get the same information for free if you read every page on this site; this is just the faster, easier, more efficient way of getting information into your brain. Your choice, your time. Rock on, Helium peeps!
p.s. If you’re wondering what happened to that 13 dBi antenna in the video, well, check it here. 🙂