Lessons Learned From A Year Of Helium Deployments

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. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From A Year Of Helium Deployments”

  1. Ordered in May. Deliv­ered in Sep­tem­ber. 10x’d my expo­sure and have been enjoy­ing the process to built a fleet of them. The installs are chal­leng­ing and reward­ing for a good set­up. Thanks for your con­tent. Glad I found you on youtube this evening

  2. How do you get landown­er per­mis­sion to place these free stand­ing hot spots out in the wild?

  3. Hi Alex, just ask ’em. If you can fig­ure out who owns it, what the restric­tions are, and what might ben­e­fit them, that’s a great start. For long term place­ments I’d con­nect with local WISPs.

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