In brief

  • Helium has partnered with semiconductor giant Semtech to integrate IoT devices on its network.
  • Helium is open source and peer to peer. It allows users who run hot spots to earn crypto for running the network.
  • Since last year, Helium has grown to 745 cities in the US and boasts other major partners such as Nestle and Lime scooters.

The blockchain-enabled Internet of Things just got a major boost.

Semiconductor giant Semtech announced yesterday that it has joined forces with San Francisco-based crypto startup Helium, the firm behind a new low-power, peer-to-peer wireless network. The collaboration will see Semtech integrate low-range Internet of Things (IoT) devices with Helium’s decentralized, wide-area network.

Semtech, listed on NASDAQ as SMTC and valued at $2.5 billion, might just be the perfect partner for Helium. The semiconductor company’s low-range (LoRa) protocol, products, and partnerships could be exactly what Helium needs to grow the activity and expand its nascent network.

Nicknamed “the people’s network,” Helium burst onto the scene last year when it launched an open source, blockchain-based peer-to-peer wireless network that allows users to run hot spots all over cities, which IoT devices can connect to and transfer data. 

Helium, co-founded in 2013 by CEO Amir Haleem and Napster creator Shawn Fanning, is similar to a cell network but meant for low-power devices, such as trackers and sensors. Anyone can own or build their own hotspots which mine Helium tokens (HLM) every time they perform an action on the network.

“The general public will see tremendous benefits to having access to a low cost and widely accessible network for IoT devices without the use of cellular data plans,” Helium Chief Operating Officer Frank Mong told Decrypt. “Everything from location tracking dog collars to connected home sensors, these devices will make our lives easier and more informed.”

According to Mong, the partnership stands to benefit both businesses and consumers in many ways. “Owners of factories or large companies can place one Helium Hotspot at the center of their operation to provide coverage for their entire property (indoor & outdoor), or multiple Hotspots to provide coverage for an entire city,” Mong said. 

“The coverage provided from 50 to 100 Hotspots across a city provides enough reach for applications like micromoblity, supply chain, agriculture, residential security, location (consumer and enterprise), and more to thrive without cellular costs,” he added.

The issue of cost is key. According to Helium, its network can provide coverage to IoT devices at a fraction of the cost as legacy telecom companies like AT&T. “That’s why I think the cell companies haven’t been able to penetrate deeply into this world,” Helium CEO Amir Haleem told Decrypt last August.

Mong mentioned the network’s partnership with Nestle ReadyFresh, which monitors office fridges, as an example of an early success story on Helium. Agulus farming software is another, said Mong. The firm uses “off-the-shelf technology, such as automation, vibration sensors for machinery, location trackers for equipment, sensors for temperature, soil, and movement, air quality, supply chain and more,” he said.

Semtech, for its part, is bullish on the prospects of its new partnership. With Helium now committing to use the semiconductor’s low-range devices and protocol, “the massive deployment” of a low-range network in the United States is now “becoming a reality,” Semtech VP Marc Pegulu said in a statement.

The Helium network has quickly grown since launching late last year and is now available across 745 US cities, such as Austin, New York, and San Francisco. And now, with  Semtech on-board, it’s poised to grow even further, said Mong.

“This opens up an entire new world of possibilities to a large ecosystem of over 8,000 LoRa developers who can create, scale and deploy their IoT innovations to companies and consumers throughout the US and soon, worldwide,” he said.