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Friday, December 2, 2022

After all, cryptography may have a purpose

One of the most often asked concerns by crypto sceptics is: What is it that you can truly accomplish with cryptocurrency, other from financial speculation and criminal activity?

A difficult topic to answer, in part because the majority of successful (and legal) cryptocurrency applications to far have been in the financial or financial-adjacent industries. I Numerous cryptocurrency exchanges, non-financial trading platforms, and video games that incorporate the purchase and sale of crypto tokens are available. Although many crypto projects have had what I call “normie utility” — that is, they have solved problems for people outside the crypto world that aren’t primarily about buying and selling digital assets and that would be impossible to solve using normal, non-crypto technology — there have been few examples of this so far.

The network is made up of devices known as Helium hot spots, which are tiny devices with antennas that are capable of transmitting little quantities of data across vast distances via radio waves. These hot spots, which cost around $500 each and have a range of 200 times greater than regular Wi-Fi hot spots, share their owners’ bandwidth with adjacent internet-connected devices, such as parking metres, air-quality sensors, and smart kitchen appliances, according to the manufacturer.

Helium, which was created in 2013, did not start out as a cryptocurrency startup in the traditional sense. His creators attempted to establish a long-range, peer to peer wireless network in the traditional manner — by encouraging individuals and companies to establish hot spots and connecting them together — but they were unsuccessful. However, they were unable to recruit enough members, and the network came to a grinding halt.

During an all-hands Scotch-drinking event in 2017, Frank Mong, Helium’s chief operating officer, told me that the firm was on the verge of going bankrupt when an engineer proposed that more people may be ready to put up hot spots if they could earn bitcoin in the process.

As a result, the firm decided to abandon its previous business strategy and adopt a new one. As opposed to constructing its own network, Helium would make it completely decentralised, allowing users to construct their own networks by purchasing and connecting their own hot spots. Participants would be compensated in cryptocurrency tokens, and they would have the opportunity to vote on proposed improvements to the network. If the value of those tokens increased, they would be able to earn even more money and open even more hotspots.

The latest model, which was introduced in 2019, performed flawlessly. Crypto enthusiasts rushed to build up Helium hot spots in order to begin creating cryptocurrency tokens. They exchanged advice on Reddit and YouTube about how to extend the range of their hot spots by connecting them to tall buildings or installing antennae on their rooftops, which they learned from one another. Some hot spot owners claim to have earned hundreds of dollars each month in this manner, while revenues have decreased as additional hot spots have been added to the network.

This, I’ve discovered, is one of cryptocurrency’s superpowers — the capacity to jumpstart projects by offering an incentive to investors to join in on the ground floor early in the process. Not everything could be made better by tying itself to a bitcoin mining programme, as some believe. However, in Helium’s instance, cryptocurrency made sense as a tool to stimulate involvement while also providing hot spot owners with the gratification of knowing that they were contributing to something they owned.

Does it provide a solution to a non-crypto problem? Yes. It is estimated that there are millions of linked gadgets in the globe, and connecting these devices to the Helium network is substantially less expensive than purchasing a separate cellular data subscription for each item. Because of the vast range of the hot spots, Helium’s network is able to reach areas where traditional Wi-Fi and cellular networks are unable to.

It is possible that installing a Helium hot spot in your home will be in violation of your internet service provider’s terms of service due to the fact that it will entail reselling a part of your bandwidth. Customers of Comcast Xfinity, for example, are prohibited from using their connection “for any purpose other than personal and noncommercial home usage,” according to the terms of service. For the time being, internet service providers have refrained from taking action against Helium users in large numbers, but that might change.

Despite these drawbacks, one aspect of Helium that I like is that it has mostly avoided the hoopla and exaggerated promises that have surrounded many other cryptocurrency ventures. It is not promising to transform business and culture, to liberate us from government censorship, or to alter the fabric of our everyday lives in any significant way. It’s basically a valuable piece of real-world infrastructure that’s been linked to a crypto-mining system, which enables the entire thing to function without the need for a large corporation to get in the way.

Taking part in the Helium network, even in such a little manner, is a rewarding experience. I’m making a little amount of money while also allowing devices in my community to connect to the internet at a lower cost. So I’m taking it to the guy in the most unassuming, uncomplicated, and low-stakes manner imaginable. The emotional allure of other crypto-powered programmes that reward you for taking a risk on something new and unknown became apparent to me after a few days.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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