The Network

Helium, LongFi & LoRaWAN® explained

The world of today is ever advancing towards an environment that could be described as a realm akin to Gene Roddenberry’s vision in his creation of the Star Trek franchise, particularly from the Next Generation era onwards.

Home automation is by no means a new idea, but how we interact with it now involves bringing numerous devices “online” for universal access in real time.

This global real time environment extends beyond the home in the form of various technological gubbins such as GPS trackers for pets, children and transportation devices all encompassed under a collective terminology as the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

However, one problem presents itself and that is once a connected device leaves the coverage of a Wi-Fi router that device is no longer able to work the way it was intended. Its connected functionality is lost beyond the confines of the street, or worse, the front door of one’s own premises.

A solution to this has been reliance on the cellular networks, the very same who have provided our mobile phone coverage for numerous decades. The downside of this is limited or congested coverage alongside the requirement for a SIM card in each device or an embedded eSIM supported by the network.

In addition, cellular networks have been a notoriously expensive option even with an affordable monthly data plan considering just how little data is consumed by IoT devices.

As innovation ushers in new hardware the need comes with it to provide a compatible system that allows its integration. This is where Helium comes in to operation with its LongFi network.

One can view Helium as a global mesh Wi-Fi network similar in concept as the BT with FON service, but it must be emphasised that Helium does not use the same family of protocols that belong to the Wi-Fi Alliance. Instead, Helium uses Long-Fi, which is compatible with the LoRaWAN protocol (Long-Range Wide-Area Network) broadcasting on license-exempt radio frequencies within the sub-gigahertz bands. Frequencies for this purpose range from 868 MHz in Europe to 923 MHz in Asia and have greater propagation characteristics than those in use for Wi-Fi.

Spectrum

Taking a moment to look at the fundamentals of radio telecommunications, whether it is via a copper wire or wirelessly through the air, frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum are used to transmit information from site to site.

There are, however, limitations due to antenna sizing, wave propagation types (surface, ground, sky), curvature of the Earth and inverse square law.

To describe this law of physics in lay terms, imagine light that is emitted from a lamp. It is seemingly dimmer at a distance than it is in close proximity. Yet, the light source remains constant in its output.

Lamp
Photo credit: Pi_ed_ _pi_p_er__ from Pexels

Here, we can envision the filament in the lamp as the antenna and the light as radio waves.

While inverse square law explains the intensity (irradiance) at a given distance from the source, it is the ability of a wave to move through a medium that dictates effective range.

In the case of wireless transmission, that medium is the air and any physical obstacle. For wired distribution it is the resistance of the material used as the conductor of a cable.

A Mobile Network Operator (MNO) may often tell its customers that it cannot guarantee indoor coverage due to the nature of various building materials and their effects on the passage of radio waves.

So there is, of course, a trade-off between capacity and practical range. Higher frequencies will suffer greater energy losses as they are absorbed even by atmospheric gases, satellite communication being notorious for cloud and “rain fade” anttenuation, whereas lower frequency terrestrial transmissions are mostly unaffected in all but fringe areas during unfavourable weather conditions.

Indeed, higher frequencies offer greater throughput to stream HD movies and transfer large files at a fast rate, but with this great ability there follows a detrimental consequence in terms of effective range, whereas lower frequencies overcome this issue at a cost of limited bandwidth capabilities and the requirement of larger antennas.

A combination of the above explains why audio radio broadcasts can be heard internationally, television transmissions viewed at a regional level, home Wi-Fi networks confined locally to the street and an infrared remote controller limited to a modest room’s length with a clear line of sight.

A great example of this effect is that of sound waves, where only the bass frequencies can be heard by the human ear when a neighbour plays music on their sound system.

We can overcome this limitation by increasing the amount of energy used to transmit, but without careful network design, interference will ensue as a result. It is neither efficient, practical nor desirable to deploy numerous high powered base stations at multiple geographical locations for two way radio communications.

Up until this point, the reference to frequencies has referred to what is called the carrier wave. This is a waveform that contains an input signal with speech or data information and is why radio stations famously hold the “AM”/“FM” title relating to amplitude modulation and frequency modulation followed after the carrier frequency i.e. 105.4 FM.

Channel widths and bonding also influence available capacity.

With this fundamental knowledge, one can now understand the ideal nature of the Helium network as an infrastructure for IoT devices.

Sub-gigahertz radio frequencies offer excellent coverage and building fabric penetration at relatively low power. This also benefits the device’s battery consumption levels. IoT devices require very little bandwidth to transmit their data, so lower frequencies are not a concern here. After all, a sensor or GPS tag is not going to be streaming a boxset on Netflix.

The People’s Network

The construction of this network does not solely depend upon investment in new infrastructure by major telecom or corporate giants. Instead, private individuals can freely choose to become a “host” in what is essentially a peer-to-peer wireless network.

Whether the keen hobbyist or private investor, the great thing about this deployment is that base station sites do not require the tenuous acquisition process that traditional infrastructure depends upon. Now the bedrooms and living rooms of the general public are the bases for telecommunication masts.

Secured by blockchain, lengthy or troublesome leasing negotiations are a thing of the past as hosts are rewarded with HNT cryptocurrency.

All of the above coupled with license-exempt frequencies means rapid deployment and global coverage on an unprecedented scale truly making this #ThePeoplesNetwork.

Free Hardware

Jarvis tel.net offers an opportunity for prospective hosts to participate in network deployment without any financial risks involved, whilst still being able to earn a percentage of HNT.

Simply by clicking HERE, one can sign up to become a hotspot host without any financial commitments.

You will be provided with a free Helium hotspot delivered free of charge to your premises enabling to you earn rewards in the form of cryptocurrency, blockchain being the very means the network is secured by.

Once your hotspot is operational, you can also request a free promotional window sticker.

Hotspot