Wifi, Bluetooth, and cellular are the traditional answers. Each has their limitations in IoT.
- Wifi has limited range and, outside the home environment, usually needs a separate device-only network because of different authentication requirements. If you’re doing a handful of devices it’s fine, but it doesn’t scale to thousands easily.
- Bluetooth’s range is even more limited, requiring the installation of Bluetooth gateways. Bluetooth is also not very secure.
- Cellular is relatively ubiquitous, but it can be expensive and hard to manage.
Every large IoT project spends a lot of time and money designing and managing the connectivity infrastructure. This friction reduces the appeal of large-scale IoT deployments.
, a long-range (10km), low-power wireless protocol for IoT. Scott Lemon
told me about LoRaWAN recently and I’ve been playing with it a bit. Specifically, I’ve been playing with Helium
, a decentralized LoRaWAN network.
Helium is a LoRaWAN network built from hotspots run by almost anyone. In one of the most interesting uses of crypto I’ve seen, Helium pays people helium tokens for operating hotspots
. They call the model “proof of coverage”. You get paid two ways: (1) providing coverage for a given geographical area and (2) moving packets from the radio to the internet. This model has provided amazing coverage
with over 700,000 hotspots deployed to date. And Helium expended very little capital to do it, compared with building out the infrastructure on their own.
I started with one of these Dragino LHT65 temperature sensors
. The fact that I hadn’t deployed my own hotspot was immaterial because there’s plenty of coverage around me.