Wireless is expensive. So Amir Haleem, Napster co-creator Shawn Fanning, and baby monitor startup Sproutling founder Chris Bruce set out to create an alternative. The San Francisco company they founded together in 2013 — Helium — is developing a fee-free peer-to-peer network for internet of things (IoT) devices, and it today announced the closure of a funding round that’ll set the stage for said network’s expansion.
We’ve been fans of disruptive wireless for many years. It’s why we launched Super WiFi Summit many years back hoping to spur the white space revolution which never really happened.
Helium seems to have the same idea in mind.
They can cover a city with 50 to 150 hotspots and provide coverage to IoT devices. The hotspot costs $495 and can reach 200 times further than a typical WiFi router.
An Arm-based, battery-powered chip designed to attach to devices like ride-share scooters, pet collars, and water and air quality sensors connects to nearby Helium Hotspots and wirelessly transmits data at a rate of 5 kilobits per second. (Helium’s cloud backend applies analytics to this data, which the company supplies to clients.) In exchange for sharing their internet connection with these chips, Hotspot hosts earn rewards in the form of cryptocurrency — the Hotspots act as mining nodes within Helium’s blockchain using a proof-of-coverage challenge-response protocol designed to authenticate other devices on the network.
Fred Wilson is very excited about this investment and his thoughts are worth a read.