PodCast EP056 - Airbnb for telecommunications - Frank Mong, COO, Helium

EP056 - Airbnb for telecommunications - Frank Mong, COO, Helium

Dec 09, 2019

In this episode of the IIoT Spotlight Podcast, we discuss how Helium is providing universal and affordable connectivity for IoT devices, provided by people, and secured through a blockchain.

How do you provide connectivity where there is no infrastructure?
How do you incentivize people to contribute to an open-source connectivity ecosystem?
What are the connectivity challenges facing IoT device manufacturers today?

Frank Mong is COO at Helium, where he is leading the global go-to-market strategy for the company. He is responsible for sales, marketing and business development at Helium. Before Helium, Mong spent 20 years in cybersecurity including CMO at Hortonworks, SVP of Marketing at Palo Alto Networks, and VP/GM of security at HP. frank@helium.com

Helium is building the world’s first peer-to-peer wireless network designed specifically for IoT devices. Helium's technology will help spark a wave of innovation by enabling a new generation of small, mobile, low-powered IoT devices that include remote wildfire and agricultural sensors, micro-mobility trackers, and more. helium.com

Use cases: Helium.com/enterprise
Developer resources (software, hardware, firmware, connectivity documentation): helium.com/developers
Buy Helium Hotspot: helium.com/store

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Automated Transcript

[Intro]

Welcome to the industrial IOT spotlight your number one spot for insight from industrial IOT thought leaders who are transforming businesses today with your host Erik Walenza.

Welcome back to the industrial IOT spotlight podcast. I'm your host, Eric Walenza CEO of IOT ONE. And our guest today will be Frank mung, COO of Helium. prior to joining helium in 2017. Frank gained 20 years of experience in cybersecurity as COO of Hortonworks as VP of marketing at Palo Alto networks and VP of security at HP. Helium was founded in 2013 by Shawn fanning, the founder of Napster and aims to provide affordable and universal connectivity for IOT devices through the use of a decentralized network, owned by people and secured through a blockchain together, we discuss the connectivity challenges facing IOT device manufacturers today, and how Helium's peer-to-peer wireless network could reduce costs and improve coverage and open spaces as an alternative to cellular coverage. We also explored the role of blockchain and crypto tokens and securing the network and providing an incentive model for the individuals who build the network by deploying helium hotspots. I hope you found our conversation valuable, and I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

[Erik]

So Frank, thank you so much for joining us today.

[Frank]

Thank you, Erik. It's a pleasure to be on.

[Erik]

Frank, before we dive into helium and the technology and the business model, I want to just share a little bit of your background because you have really quite a deep background in cyber security. So people know who they're talking to. So you've, you've worked with Hortonworks with Palo Alto networks with HP. Can you just give a quick overview of what your roadmap has been and how you ended up now joining a startup helium?

[Frank]

Sure. It's always been in cybersecurity. It did start in early days and they started as well. When I first started my working life, I was at a startup called ignite technology is a company focused on managed security services or managed firewalls back in 1999. And when I was 23 or 24 at the time, it was the innovation companies and individuals were first connecting to something called the internet and using something called Netscape browser. If you remember back in those days. So that was definitely revolutionary time for us those years, it's really been focusing and honing in on different aspects of cyber security, running product marketing there, and you don't want to trend micro to run marketing, both of which are antivirus companies. And I steered away and went into more general management roles in cyber security and at Palo Alto networks where I was the senior VP of product marketing for the next gen firewall business. And and then I took a jump and went into more of a COO type of role. And really, I think at that point I realized I, I did not, you know what? I wanted this to be different. I wanted to really challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. And that's sort of when my search for startups started up again, really thought through about what it would mean to actually be at a startup again. And I found helium or helium found me through a trust live ventures, which is their series, a investment company.

And after meeting with his team and I realized, you know, helium is definitely a company that I'm interested in and what sealed the deal for me was my meeting with the cofounder Amir Halane. We realized that he and I have a lot in common growing up. We both love video games. He goes like to tinker with hardware and really the mission and the challenge is what sold me figuring out how to build a ubiquitous networks for IOT devices to connect to that. And that was it. And here we are two years later.

[Erik]

Yeah. Great. And it's yeah, really quite, quite the team behind helium and quite the ambitious mission as well. So shaping future by rewarding anyone for creating a global decentralized wireless network for billions of machines. So that's just at least your, your mission as it is on, on LinkedIn. Can you just give us the high level, why is this important? Why is, why is the work that Helium's doing important for the future of the internet?

[Frank]

Yeah, I think the challenge of internet of things, IOT. So for folks that aren't familiar, you know, we're talking little sensors, little devices, potentially autonomous machines that have to do simple work, or maybe it's complex work, but they need to connect not just inside a factory or inside the smart building, but think outside of the building and going outside of traditional where wifi sits. Right? So if you think about extending outside the buildings, the only connectivity option is cellular. It's not easy tooling to create something from nothing using cellular is actually quite difficult. And so we saw an opportunity as a company, we saw an opportunity to change that. And part of that is having an existing wireless network that can compete with the conductivity of cellular, not from a speed perspective, but from a coverage perspective for IOT and just built for IOT.

[Erik]

Right. And that's one challenge. How do you do that? And then the second piece of that is how do you make it extremely easy and simple for anyone that has a great idea or has an application that they want to bring to reality? How do you make it super easy and simple for them to build on that, on that platform? And usually when you, when you think about super easy, super simple to build in involves open sourcing involves a community of folks with their likeminded that have the same interests, really build a network, using a decentralized method. It involves a lot of, I think a lot of components beyond just wireless technology, but I think the key component is incentive. How do you incentivize individuals, consumers to create a network that's ubiquitous that works for everything. And once you're able to do that, how do you get folks to build the technology and applications using that? That is it, that's the challenge we're in that's the road we're on right now is to create that two sided marketplace of both network operators who are consumers and individuals and network users who may be a simple hobbyists building IOT devices for it could be a large enterprise that wants to deploy millions and billions of machines.

And then you're using the helium tokens in order to create that incentive model. Can you give a, just a quick overview of what are the different elements? So you have the helium hotspot, the connectivity device, you have the helium tokens that provide the incentive mechanism. What are the other elements and how do these fit together into

[Frank]

The comprehensive solution that enables this marketplace? Sure. There's probably three components, three main components to think about one is the healing spot itself. It's a, it's a standard off the shelf hardware we're running on LoRa technology. So it's LoRa hardware and lordships built by syntax or any compatible version of that. And to make that work and to make that run and as low cost as possible, we use off the shelf componentry complementing that LoRa technology. So we have a processor in there. It's a dual core processor. We have, I think is something like, I want to say six gigs of Ram 64 gigs of storage for SSD space on the hotspot itself. And we created a open source protocol running on the Lord hardware. And the reason we had to do that is because our networks are not essentially owned. So we could have used some of the other protocols out there like lower went in because that requires a centralized server for data and key management.

We are decentralized because there is a second component in there, which is the blockchain. The blockchain is a homegrown invented by helium from the ground up in our blockchain, similar to big point that most of your audience buys a Bitcoin is where Bitcoin has proof of work for hashing and rehashing data. Our proof is proof of coverage. And so if helium as created a blockchain that can allow the healing hotspot to communicate with other hotspots nearby and create a trusted that word automatically. And that that trusted network involves reliability, health, security of network to prove that they're providing coverage, that the coverage is, is healthy, it's reliable, it's secure. So that's the second component of what we've built and that, and that for the hostile attitude, prove that when they prove it, they mind the cryptocurrency Helion. So this the work they've done, I used to prove that they provided coverage.

So as, as a reward for doing that work of proving is providing coverage. They the us let's mine, the cryptocurrency, and then the third component is really the users using the network. How do you get people to build on top of that network? And that's where Helium's open source SDKs and API APIs, and all of our developer kits come into play. It's doing everything possible to make it easy, affordable, and simple, to onboard new applications. And whether it's software or hardware onto the healing network. Folks can take a look at our new designs and our specs and code and build their own hotspots that they want. So those are probably the three main components that build up what we've created.

[Erik]

Frank, when you look at who's purchasing the helium hotspots, are we talking about small businesses that want to develop their own networks to serve their devices? Are we talking about enthusiasts who are particularly interested in the technology of wireless connectivity and want to be part of this, this trend? Are we talking about well, intentioned individuals like my mother who might not know very much about the technology itself, but wanting to provide connectivity for her neighborhood,

[Frank]

I call them crypto enthusiasts, people that are into cryptocurrency that probably have a Coinbase account that purchase some Bitcoin or Ethereum. They tend to also be very interested in, in helium. Hot-Spots from a purely from a mining perspective, mining cryptocurrency, and they're, they liked this technology because it's very consumer friendly. We're probably the most, consumer-friendly both IOT wireless gateway hotspot, and a very customer friendly blockchain that kind of takes away all the technicalities of blockchain and cryptocurrency and really makes it a nice user experience. And so those are two early sort of adopters of our technology. The healing definitely, you know, if your mother knows what blockchain is or sorry, knows what big point is. She would be potentially interested in this because the hospital, it's also very low power. It's like five Watts of power. So it's like a led light bulb, right? It's not, it's not going to consume a whole lot of energy that's noticeable.

And so from that perspective, it's fairly low cost over time. But it, it allows you, anyone that understands how to use a smartphone and apps to get going. And that's attractive for a lot of folks. That's sort of the profile of our initial adoption. We actually did a survey recently. I think we asked about, I want to say 280 people who've purchased. Hot-Spots like, why? Like, why did you buy hotspots? And it was interesting that overwhelming, roughly 60% of the respondents told us that they purchased a hotspot because they want to build a network. They want to have a sense like that they're an entrepreneur and they can own and operate a network, which, which I think I I'm, I'm surprised, but not surprised because if you think about what we're doing, it's very analogous to Airbnb. We're enabling people to become network operators and everyday folks, average people like Airbnb has enabled average people to become hotel, hotel, hotel management, where they can rent their room or rent their apartment to anyone Helium's doing the same with the network, your home network at home can become something that you can leverage. And the, you know, we're trying to create the other side where others want to use your network and we'll, you know, we'll, we'll reward you for it. So that system, like an Airbnb is what we've done for what we think we've done for telecommunications. Really, really changing that model.

[Erik]

Yeah. And I, you know, of course for Airbnb people that are not necessarily doing this out of an idealistic, you know, objective, but it's, it's because there's an ROI on, on an asset that's otherwise being under utilized. And certainly that's the case for many people's internet, much of the time, right. Where we're not utilizing it. But I guess this is a little bit early to point to what the ROI is, but is there any indication of what somebody might expect to return on a hotspot that's in a moderately, the medium use case present,

[Frank]

We don't know, and that's not part of how we sell. It's not, you know, we can't talk about potential future gains and we're not involved with that at all. So it's unknown. And so for someone to purchase a hotspot today, and the ones have really believe in the idea that you're doing this to build a network, you're doing it to become an independent network operator in a very simple and user friendly way. And then the hope is that someday just becomes big someday. The network becomes extremely useful and it's something that's highly valued. And in that world, every everyone in that ecosystem wins. So, you know, it's definitely not for everyone, but you know, there are those that believe that, and we're super happy. They're there with us. Sure.

[Erik]

Yeah. Well, you don't, you don't need everybody. I guess if you have a couple of hundred people

[Frank]

That's right.

[Erik]

Says that a so limited quantity available for a us ordering 77% sold. Are you able to share with us the number that are out in adoption right now?

[Frank]

Yeah. So if you actually download the app, there is something called a blockchain viewer. So in our app, you can actually see the total number of hotspots that are out there today. And so I think like right now, the exact number of hotspots installed across the United States is 395 hotspots. The predominant cities that are covered are Austin, Texas, San Francisco, Boston, Massachusetts, Chicago, Atlanta parts of Florida. And then we've got I would say another handful, another dozen cities. We only launched in Austin, Texas first. And that was August one. That was our first city that we launched in San Francisco has a nice network because of our employees and friends and family who are doing a lot of the early alpha testing with us. What we've done over since August one is we've started to really test our supply chain and we've shipped hotspots to various customers that ordered really just so we can make sure that our logistics is sound and iron out the wrinkles and correct mistakes, which there are a lot of them it's early days.

And so we're learning quite a bit about that, but everything we've done so far is assembled in the United States. We're building everything in San Jose. We're not offshoring this anywhere else. And so we're proud of that for the same time. It's very, very expensive. You're in Shanghai. So, you know, it could be a lot cheaper. We built this in Asia somewhere, but we've elected to do it in the United States for security reasons because our encryption keys and primary injections are happening on site in our factory. And we're going to keep it that way for as long as we can. That's what that means in our next shipment is coming out October 15th. So just in a less than two weeks, we're shipping thousands of units across the United States. And this indicator that you see online today is for a November shipment. So we're probably going to start doing monthly rollouts where if folks order, we should be able to fulfill within 30 days, max probably less. And so right now, because we're shipping in unit volumes of just thousands, not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, it's very expensive. And it's almost just in time manufacturing, which is costly for us. And so we try to batch the orders as best we can. And that's what that bar is indicating. So that bar is indicating in November, should change shipment, which is a couple of thousand, a few thousand quantity. And then we have another batch for December, which is a few thousand more.

[Erik]

Okay. So if you're putting out a few thousand, a few hundred thousand a month, when do you expect to have sufficient? I mean, I guess this is still a city by city, but when do you start to have sufficient coverage where you can go to, let's say a large corporate that maybe they need a solution that can serve them, you know, in a significant portion of the U S and you can go with a viable proposition and say, listen, the network is ready for you. We've got the top, you know, the top 50 cities or 20 cities or whatever. And we have this percent average, 50% average coverage in these cities. Do you already have a kind of a roadmap for when that be?

[Frank]

So when we ship in October 15th, we will be in 263 cities across the U S and some cities will have more density than others, but I would say 10 to 15 cities are, will be very well covered. And these are the major metropolitan cities, United States like San Francisco Bay area, Austin, Texas, New York city, Bronx Boston Boulder, Colorado, other parts in Texas, as well as Atlanta, Georgia, and beyond. So those are in Chicago as well. So those are kind of the typical major Metro areas in the United States should be very well covered at that point.

[Erik]

Great. And then if I'm, let's say I'm I'm manufacturing smartwatches, or, or bikes, and I want coverage for my device, then I go to you and what's the conversation? What do I have to install in terms of hardware and software to, to join the network?

[Frank]

Yeah. So first and foremost, we're open sourcing all of our tech and the open source SDKs and KPI's are coming out. I believe that beta is coming out towards the end of October, that will be a set of tools that developers would need. And then we would have a hardware development kit that's scheduled to be released towards the end of the year. And that would include other wing boards, development kits, reference designs for whether it be a farm dog color smartwatch or, or some kind of tracking device for bikes and scooters. All of those things will be available. We have a lot of stuff in there get, get hub, which will release. We have over 200 developers already that's on the waiting list. And some have already started developing with us in our early alpha. And so all the tools that developers need will be there for them very, very soon within the next couple of weeks.

[Erik]

Okay, great. Do you, do you have any visibility in terms of what the cost of the hardware might might be in comparison to other, let's say the legacy or the protocols that they're using today, or the, the solutions that they're using today?

[Frank]

Because we're, we're on a Lora hardware, existing Lora devices that a lot of developers in the world of IOT understand or have played with should, should just work, we'll build on what they will need as long by the long fight SDKs and long by API. So that's zero costs really. They can take their existing hardware and modify it to be compatible with the healing network. I think anything beyond that, it's exploring the latest and greatest hardware, which is off the shelf. So nothing should be too pricey, nothing should, everything should be fairly competitive in price based on volume, but certainly to complain around with the test, it's, it should be pretty simple. We're going to package up dead kids for folks. I don't have pricing on that, but we're going to try to make it as competitive as possible and as easy as possible to adopt the healing network and our open source technology,

[Erik]

And then connecting the device. And so let's say the manufacturer has adopted the necessary technology to, to sync to the network. The device is now on the street, and it will then pair automatically with whichever helium devices is closest, or how does this pairing happen?

[Frank]

It's really cool because we're on a blockchain. Every hotspot is running a node, an independent Nova and blockchain. And what that means is the blockchain knows how to wrap the traffic. And so the owner of that sensor does not need to worry about the onboard of the device. They just simply need to ship it out there into the world. As soon as it talks, a helium hotspot that understands long flight will hear the sensor and know how to route that traffic back to its owner, fully encrypted. It's using something. We called an UI organizational unique ID. That will be a private key public key pairing between the device and the cloud database for that particular device owner. And doesn't matter where you are in the world, everything is permissionless and from a wireless onboarding perspective, it's ubiquitous. So there's no concept of roaming cause you don't need to roam. And that's a huge advantage of what we're trying to build, which is it's a public network it's decentralized, it's owned by the people. And if your device is talking long thigh and the healing that data get back to you, regardless of what country you're in, regardless of whose network it is, it doesn't matter essentially is built in. So that, that hotspot delivers the data.

[Erik]

Okay. Interesting. I guess two topics that come up, one is security, and I know this is your background. And the second is, let's say government regulation. So I suppose some governments are going to be more receptive to having a, a new network. That's not under the control of state owned enterprises, for example and, and others less. So maybe we talk first about security. So I imagine that companies always very sensitive about their data. And now the data is moving through devices that are being owned by a lot of individual. And I'm sure that blockchain has a role here, but how do you ensure that somebody is not hacking into a data stream?

[Frank]

Yeah, so each device that's out in the world will be called an ECC chip where the private key is an injected. This is a private key. This actually sitting in hardware and only the owner of the device has the public key to decrypt that data. As soon as the data's collected on the sensor and it's transmitted over the air, the hotspot, here's an encrypted packet essentially. And the hotspot does not know the contents of the data. It cannot unpack it. Doesn't have the keys to unpack that data. What it does is it looks at the organizational unique ID. It looks in a blockchain to see where, where the destination addresses and it's an encrypted address. And that address then then the data is sent to that address. And once the address received the data, the credit then goes to that hotspot.

So the hotspot will get credited for transmitting the data. And that's part of, part of our mining protocol. The other aspect of, so that's, that's sort of one aspect of security is that that data from collection to motion it through a public network is fully encrypted. And it's never unencrypted until it hits the sensor owners database and their private key is the only thing they can unlock that data. So there's the security, at least in transit is fully secured. Once it hits the customers AWS or Azure or Google cloud instance that then us where the processing of the data occurs in processing of your keys. The other aspect of security is on the blockchain itself because every hot-spots a node on the blockchain, the blockchain is immutable. And so it's a collective peer to peer network where there is an attempt to tamper the blockchain.

It takes 51% to overrule consensus. If you have a network of thousands or tens of thousands of nodes, it is a lot of work to try to take over with network. It can be done, but it's very these hotspots and these nodes require you to be in a unique location and you have to prove your location. We can't just be a virtual machine. On some instance, you can't create hundreds of thousands of virtual machines to try to fake the blockchain if it won't work. So we have the, you know, we're sensory resistant. We, you know, we're trying to protect yourself against civil attacks and DDoSs and so forth. So all that, all of that is built in to our blockchain logic. It's native to what we do is that hopefully answers your first part of your question. The second part of the question really is I think less about government philosophies or more about what empowering their people to do, right?

Especially in a world of IOT, if regardless of your government mission, government philosophy, if every person under your care and your government in your country benefits because they get a chance to own and operate something in this case for devices, I think the incentive is there where everyone will want to do it and they'll want to continue to do it just like Airbnb and other things. It's, it's good for everyone. I don't know why government would be against it, especially in the world of telco. It's so expensive to build infrastructure. If you can offload that to the masses, give them a, give them, give, give them a piece of the action. I don't know why, how it's hurtful anybody. Sure.

Yeah. Maybe the point here is a little bit more that there's, there's very strong legacy players that, and it's a highly regulated industry. It has this been an issue for the other players that the Sigfox and roll out have they been coming up again in lawsuits or I don't know about lawsuits, but if you think about, you know, at and T and Verizon, they have their own approach, their, their supporting things like NBC IOG and LTM. Ultimately we, we, we think those are flawed approaches because of a small little sensor has to pay anything close to three, $4 a month on a data plan to provide somebody temperature information, as an example, that's never gonna work. It just doesn't scale, right? It should be fractions of a penny. And of course, traditional telcos, aren't really interested in that business because they don't have to be there and providing great service for traditional cell phones and iPhones and Android phones. And every, every person that has a cell phone plan is a product right? Every year it gets more expensive. It's a great business. Why leave that business? Why not focus on that farm? That as long as you can, and if there's a budding IOT, you know, emerging market that's happening, we'll let that grow. I mean, I think that's the best, best handled by disruptive technology, disruptive entrepreneurs, perhaps the people and let them grow it.

[Erik]

Yeah. Yeah. Perfect. I think you're, you're probably right there that this is right now, not interesting to them. And by the time it becomes interesting to them with the landscape will look quite different, right? 5G what is going to be the potential impact? I think there's a lot of, there's a lot of hype and probably some of it is well placed and perhaps some is misplaced, but how do you see 5G impact your business in the future?

[Frank]

I see zero impact. I think your audience in the world of industrial IOT knows so far, I think 5G is a farce. It's just a lie. There's nothing unique about it. It's, you know, to truly get gigabit speeds or fiber, like speeds on your phone, you need a back haul to carry that through. Right. And so how many, how many homes are there in the world that have fiber back haul? It's certainly not the majority. There may be a minority of that happening in new buildings and new Metro areas, which is great. But for you to get the amount of data you need, right? Imagine streaming, you know,  4K on your phone using 5g for 10,000 people at the same time, that pipe massive, but then you have to be super close to the gateway. It may not even go a block.

You have to be within half a block of by gateway to get that kind of. And so what I've heard is one, that's incredibly, that's a lot of hotspots. That's a lot of gateways that telcos will have to deploy. It's insane. It's an insane amount of equipment, which is expensive, right? So again, we're getting back to building infrastructure. If you had to put a 5G gateway and on every block to provide 5G service, I don't know how that's, how is that possible? How is that even possible? What kind of costs is going to incur? Right. It's just ridiculous. And so then you think, okay, well, great. Well maybe it's not every block. Maybe, maybe we go every, every five blocks, every 10 blocks, guess what? That bandwidth goes down to like LTE speeds. Oh, that's what we're on. Right? We're on four GLT or are we that's what the world's on? So I don't know how this is any different. I think ultimately the idea of Fiji unfortunately, is the doing of like guys like Qualcomm, the, the, the phone makers that should have makers, they have to iterate, they need everything to refresh their network equipment. Guys. It'd be the Erickson's of the world that were selling telco equipment. If you don't have a new standard new chip, there's no swap, right? There's no infrastructure change. So there's no revenue. So to me, I think the whole thing is just a game they have to upgrade. But, but in any case, you see this more as them upgrading towards a higher bandwidth towards streaming videos, more efficiently, not, not serving

[Erik]

Sure. I mean, at best, at best. My understanding was that that that was at one of the propositions. Although I know that the standard is still incomplete. So I think there's a lot of but at least that was one of the propositions was that five G would be also better suited towards low bandwidth devices small data packages and so forth. But yeah, I guess we won't, we won't know if that is the reality for some number of years.

[Frank]

There's 5G has chip technology that uses low power that we can run on a little, a little lithium battery for my three years. Maybe I doubt. I doubt that's the value prop. I haven't seen that. I haven't seen anything actually other than 900 megahertz. Right.

[Erik]

Okay, great. No, it's funny. I was, I was having a conversation with somebody earlier, let's say last week, who was just convinced that 5G was like flipping the switch and then IOT was going to all of a sudden BA be everywhere. And I'm thinking generally, when we're talking to people about, you know, making IOT use cases work, this is not the, you know, I mean, they have a lot of, they have a lot of problems, but you know, this is not the necessarily the core one here. Let's talk about one or two specific use cases of maybe some of your early adopters. You'd mentioned ag tech earlier. Maybe that'd be a good starting place.

[Frank]

Yeah, certainly. So we have a customer located in South Carolina and they're a company that provides telemetry for greenhouse farming, things like vegetables and fruits year round. And what they've done is help their farmers leverage technology and healing. And the healing network by building out sensors can measure soil conditions and air conditions, temperature across all the greenhouses from acres on the land, using a one, one helium HOSPA as the collection point for those sensors, and then routing that data back to their analytics platform to help the farmers better manage their crop yield over time. And so that's, that's a great example of leveraging the technology for, for farming purposes to help improve yield and manage that, manage that land abuse over years. The, the great thing about that is that they don't have to deploy wifi across their property. They don't have to use, you know, cellular, which could be very expensive and there are certain areas on their land that doesn't get cell coverage either.

So that's problematic as well. So just really use them a lot of the problems. The sensor typically, depending on use the sensor is very low power. So you can plug a sensor into, into the soil and you kind of forget it for a couple of years and not have to worry. Those are all cool things. In addition to that, they've, they've also been testing a lot of our tracking sensors that send GPX GPS coordinates back to the farm owners. So heavy equipment machinery that's on the farm can be tracked, whether it's in use or not in use. And apparently staffed on farm equipment is decently high, and this there's at least a problem there. And so having an independent sensor that's operating on the battery that can last for awhile is very useful for them from a tracking equipment perspective. And that, you know, that kind of ties into a lot of what we've seen around bike sharing and scooter sharing and cities. I don't know how things are in Shanghai for you, but in the cities across the U S there are tons of scooters. One of the companies that we've been working with is line that is that's servicing 200 plus cities around the world, and they've been testing our, you know, our technology in San Francisco and Austin for some time now on basically keeping their scooters available on the streets for customers to use. And if is because they're highly mobile, they're easy to steal, but they can track them down with our healing them.

[Erik]

Were they using for connectivity before? I was curious about that, cause they all have some sort of cellular for transactions. The problem with the cellular implementation is they're mostly all, all these guys, all these scooter companies, sharing companies are using the cheapest possible cellular available. So that's likely to G in a lot of, to G in the U S certainly is getting decommissioned. So cartridge is really poor and it's not great. And so having helium as a backup, sort of as the, as the aide or the LoJack, let's say for scooters has been really helpful for them.

[Frank]

Yeah. Well, I know in China, some of these bikes were being manufactured for something like 40, $40, you know, CapEx. So, so I imagine even if there's a $1 a month subscription on, on the, you know, I don't know what that would actually look like, but that's already a significant cost for them to bear. So I'm sure they're also happy, happy to find an alternative, how many devices can one helium hotspot, potentially service.

We don't have real world numbers because we have fairly good density across cities, but I imagine it'd be probably like 300 to 500 a burst. So remember these are not sustained. They're not sustained connections. So there are bursts of data that are sent. And so depending on application and use, if it's simultaneously, I'm guessing three to 500 sensors talking exactly at the same time, exactly the same nanosecond is supported for hotspot. But if you have a couple of hundred hotspots in the city, you can sort of multiply that out, decent, decent coverage for the number of devices on it on a moment in time.

[Erik]

And if we had a device like a, a smartwatch, which was not just sending kind of simple bursts of data, but was, you know, maybe streaming audio for a conversation or something, would that be feasible or, or is that required too much bandwidth for the device to manage?

[Frank]

I would say likely not a good idea only because for us to achieve, you know, a hundred square miles of range, the data packet has to be small. So we're talking 24 bytes to 20 kilobytes at the high high end. So I would argue voice is probably not a good application. However, text messaging or email limited email could be fine. And so if communications is, is the application of need, certainly you can create some, you know, old form pager system or old form, like the old blackberries text, each other simple things. Gotcha.

[Erik]

Gotcha. Okay. But so really designed for IOT machine to machine

[Frank]

That's right. That's right.

[Erik]

That we're missing here. That's a, that's critical for people to understand it.

[Frank]

I think probably questions I get the most when talking to potential folks who are interested in using the network is network coverage. And so I think maybe just reiterating how fast we're creating coverage is important. August 1st we shipped Austin, Texas, and within, I would say four or five days, the entire city of Austin was covered October 15th, we're shipping to 263 or 64 cities. That means within four or five days, there will be 264 cities with healing coverage. And that's the days, right. Days, worst case couple of weeks. I mean, that is amazing. So if you think about it, that is bringing a network to market in lightning speeds, that's never been seen before. I think, I think that's the power of the helium incentive and leveraging the people that create this is that that incentive model creates a hyper speed for deploying infrastructure that's useful for enterprises and industrial IOT essentially. And so that's something to think about. That's a hard idea to, to understand, because it's hard to believe that there are people out there, thousands of people willing to pay $500 for the hotspot for the sake of mining crypto, but you know, it's a whole new world out there times are changing

[Erik]

Well, Hey, I, I believe it. I mean I think finding 10,000 people to pay you know, a bit of money for, for a new technology and, and ownership of a new business model, I think that's that's something that is very feasible today. The challenge for you then is, is going to be to engage in with the the device manufacturers device operators and getting them on board.

What would be, if somebody is interested in exploring how their device use the network, what's the best way for them to get in touch with helium or, or to inform themselves around what the steps would be?

[Frank]

Sure. Yeah. Check out our website, helium.com. There's a number of, I think, great resources on there are helium.com/enterprise talks about the use cases that we've already share. Some of those also, if they're a developer and they want to develop devices to operate on the healing network, check out helium.com/developers. There are great resources. Certainly. Is there a focus on listening to your show that are interested in buying the hotspot.com/store page? Take a look. And if anyone's interested, just send me an email@helium.com or sales@helium.com. And we're happy to talk more about how they can onboard devices to network, or you want a discount on the hotspot, contact me. I'm happy to share a promo code for them to use.

[Erik]

Okay. Awesome. Well, I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for taking the time to brief us on what your ability to hear. I think this is, incredible. I mean, we really do need new solutions to make connectivity more affordable and simpler. So I wish you all the success and really appreciate your time today.

[Frank]

Thank you, Erik. Appreciate it.

[Outro]

Thanks for tuning in to another edition of the industrial IOT spotlight. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter at IoTONEHQ and to check out our database of case studies on iotone.com/casestudies. If you have unique insight or a project deployment story to share, we'd love to feature you on a future edition. Write us at team@iotone.com.

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