Maker Mind MelD Summit

Dal Gemmell – Telcos aren’t the future. You are.

Analysts predict in the next few years a tsunami of 20-30+ billion connected devices. However, the current networking infrastructure is too costly or complicated for IoT devices.

Not satisfied with dominating our phones and computers, telco giants want to own connectivity for everything else; to control how we connect with billions of devices and collect data from our interactions with the everyday world.

What if there was another option? A new kind of open, decentralized wireless network powered by blockchain and built by individuals that delivered range and roaming capabilities similar to cellular without the high cost or battery drain.

In this session, learn how to leverage this new peer-to-peer wireless network to collect data from any IoT device, with a Helium module (or a make-your-own module using off-the-shelf components and the code Helium released under open source licensing) and transfer it to the cloud in minutes.

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About the speaker

Dal Gemmell has worked in product marketing and product management leadership roles focused on delivering solutions for a broad target audience, from SMBs to large enterprises, at various cybersecurity companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500’s and those in between. His current role as Head of Product Marketing and Planning involves both product marketing, product management, and generally doing whatever’s needed to make Helium, the world’s first peer-to-peer wireless network, successful.


Peter Dalmaris: Hi everyone, and welcome to this Special Maker Session. In this session, Dal Gemmell will show us how to create a wireless Internet of Things applications with a Helium Hotspot and LongFi, a new wireless protocol optimized for range and battery life for low bandwidth IoT devices.

Peter Dalmaris: I'm Peter Dalmaris, an online educator and maker, author of Maker Education Revolution, and founder at Tech Explorations. My mission is to help people learn electronics, programming, printed circuit board design, and lots more. Most importantly, I want to help as many people as possible to enjoy the technology education adventures.

Peter Dalmaris: In this session, I'm excited to introduce Dal Gemmell. Dal worked in product marketing and product management leadership roles at various cybersecurity companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 and those in between. His current role as head of product marketing and planning involves both product marketing, product management, and generally doing whatever is needed to make Helium the world's first peer-to-peer wireless network successful.

Peter Dalmaris: In this session, Dal will show us how to connect any IoT device to a new kind of peer-to-peer wireless network in which participants have part ownership. This new kind of network is open, decentralized, powered by blockchain technology, and built by individuals like you and me. This new kind of network delivers range and roaming capabilities similar to cellular networks without the high cost or battery drain.

Peter Dalmaris: Dal will show us the way to build and use such a network using the Helium Module or by bringing your own off-the-shelf components that run the open-source code that Helium has released.

Peter Dalmaris: To me, the prospect of owning part of the network that my devices use to connect to the internet is a real game changer, not so much for my little personal network of two or three IoT devices now, but for a future public network of 20 billion devices or more. So, Dal, thank you for joining me today. How are you?

Dal Gemmell: Great, Peter. Thanks for inviting me. I'm really looking forward to sharing some information with your audience.

Peter Dalmaris: Myself, I was looking at your presentation, I thought this is a real treat. It's like we are now looking at something completely new when it comes to network technologies and how our IoT devices access the internet. So, I'm really keen to watching your presentation and hear what you've got in store for us. I've got one question before we begin if that's okay.

Dal Gemmell: Sure. Absolutely.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. So, here it is, so we already have quite a few ways to connect our IoT devices to the internet, right? So, we've got 4G, and 5G is coming up, great bandwidth there and availability. Wi-Fi is pretty much everywhere. And then, learning how to use these technologies and include them into a project is relatively straightforward. It's much easier than it used to be in the past.

Peter Dalmaris: So, my question is, why do we need something new, like the Helium Hotspot and even a brand-new wireless protocol like LongFi, and then you put in blockchain there as well? And it just seems a bit complicated, at least for me as a hobbyist and maker. Why do we need something new?

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. That's a great question, Peter. And this is, basically, what my presentation is about. But if you think about the Internet of Things and where we're at, we used to have this very controversial tagline that said IoT has failed. And what that meant was where we are today, are we really where we should be in terms of everyday things being more connected and making our life better?

Dal Gemmell: And I would say, actually, we're not quite there yet. We're actually quite a ways away. And if you think about a lot of it comes back to connectivity. Now, you mentioned a few options out there. There's actually a lot more options. And that's part of the problem, is just there's the cost of connectivity and the complexity involved.

Dal Gemmell: So, you mentioned Wi-Fi, so Wi-Fi, everybody's got it, it's out there. But the range is very limited, right? And so, if you want to go beyond, say, 300 feet and connect devices, it's very difficult. There's also authentication involved if you want a device to connect to a different Wi-Fi network. Typically, you will have to enter user credentials. And for lots of many devices, that's just going to work.

Dal Gemmell: And, also, in terms of battery life, Wi-Fi, it's fantastic. You can stream YouTube, video, Netflix. But there is a cost associated with being able to stream that much bandwidth and that is related to battery. And what you see with people is that, with devices, they don't want to have to constantly change batteries. They want to have these devices out in the field, providing this data for months, if not a year, without having to change a battery.

Dal Gemmell: And so, battery - thus my segue - into cellular. So, cellular, in terms of coverage, yes, it's quite ubiquitous. The problem is cost and battery life. So, people just aren't willing to pay, potentially, up to $10 a month for a smart dog collar that could track where their dog was in the neighbourhood, which is a nonstarter. And, again, battery life. How often do we need to recharge these things? So, again, it goes back to that problem.

Dal Gemmell: Also, cellular 5G, again, the telcos, they're looking to find ways to charge more money from people, not less. And so, a way to justify charging more is being able to provide more bandwidth. And so, you can do everything from your phone and, potentially in the future, AR, and VR, you can do that remotely. But that's expensive. There's a lot of infrastructure involved. And it's very costly to maintain that. And so, how do you get back that initial investment from all that infrastructure and maintenance? You need to be able to charge users as much as you possibly can.

Dal Gemmell: But what about for just plain IoT devices where I don't need all that bandwidth. I just need to send small packets of information about location or air quality or humidity or other environmental factors that are important to me, but I just can't justify some of the cost that a cell company would charge.

Dal Gemmell: I mean, that's part of, again, I have a presentation that dive into it. But we feel there's a better approach that doesn't involve companies that can dictate cost and we think there's a better way.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. As you were talking, my brain was thinking that these traditional networks that we now use to connect machines with other machines, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, 5G coming up, and a few other types of networks, these are really made for humans to be the actual nodes, right? So, if you want to consume a YouTube video, Wi-Fi makes good sense, 4G makes good sense. We're talking about big data, long sessions, things of that sort. And, of course, that's where these telcos make money, if you download a YouTube video of a cat, perhaps.

Peter Dalmaris: But a node, like an Arduino node, that just wants to send a number of the temperature reading, doesn't need the same kind of approach in the technology that we deploy to connect to the internet, something that Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, et cetera, were made with humans in the loop. Where what you are proposing is that if we don't have humans in the loop, we just have machines, the characteristics are totally different there. And, therefore, it makes no sense to use a human centred network for machines to speak to each other. And that's when you come in and that's what you're going to show us now.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. Absolutely.

Peter Dalmaris: Right. Yeah. And when you have 20 or 30 billion of those devices, it makes sense to optimize how you deliver data to and from those devices and how you connect them. So, that's what the next generation of the networking for machines or speaking of machines [inaudible].

Dal Gemmell: And how you can quickly scale out this infrastructure, and the fact that infrastructure isn't owned by a single organization that can start doing things like throttling data. They can do things like reading your data, selling your data, stuff like that. We've seen a lot of [inaudible] from a number of industries, and this one really feels like it's ripe for a change.

Peter Dalmaris: That's a very good point as well. Like, you see what happens when telcos in particular can dictate what data is privileged to get past, whether it's Netflix or YouTube data that is privileged. And, of course, that's like a light case scenario. It can get even a lot worse than that. And imagine if that now goes to the connected devices in the IoT world where your factory's or your home's data is delayed because it happens to be in a plan that puts it behind other more important payload, I guess. And we really don't want that. We want to have a level playing field for our future IoT centric internet.

Peter Dalmaris: All right. I want to know more about that, though. Show us how it's done.

Dal Gemmell: Let me jump into this presentation. So, I'm just going to briefly talk about Helium, the company I work with. So, Helium has been around since 2013, and it was really founded with this mission to make it easier to attach devices to the internet. It sounds like a really simple, simple thing, but it's actually very, very difficult. But I think if you talk to anybody, we recognize that the potential is huge.

Dal Gemmell: And back then, we were supported by a number of organizations who felt strongly about this opportunity and potential as well, including Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, First Marc, Marc Benioff, and some other folks. So, what we believe is that IoT has really been held back by the networks that are existing or available today, and they're basically inadequate.

Dal Gemmell: And what is required is a different type of network. So, a type of network where devices can run for years on battery, tiny form factor, you can do things like location tracking very accurately without using cellular range is very important, making sure that everything is open source and non-proprietary. So, if you think about it, the internet was first starting and they tried to do everything with proprietary technologies like how much progress would the internet have made. Not very much.

Dal Gemmell: So, we feel this is very, very important. And, also, security is always top of mind. So, if you think about the problem, it's very interesting, it's how do you build a purpose-built network for IoT devices? So, something that can connect over very long ranges and battery life can last for months, if not years.

Dal Gemmell: But when you talk to engineers, there's a trade-off. It's range, battery life, and bandwidth. And so, something that you have to give up is bandwidth. But, for us and for IoT, we feel that's okay because, again, you're not trying to stream Netflix over this network, you're just trying to stream very small packets.

Dal Gemmell: And so, we came up with something we're calling the first peer-to-peer wireless network. And what that is, is it's really about taking more of an Airbnb approach to wireless infrastructure. So, if you had a clean slate and you said, "You know what? We want to create a purpose-built network for IoT, how do we do it?" Long range, really long battery, and just small packets of information.

Dal Gemmell: Well, there's really two ways that you could do it. One way is, you could say, "You know what? We're going to deploy a bunch of infrastructure. We're going to, basically, try to become like a mini-telco. So, we'll build a bunch of towers and we'll build this network. It's going to take a long time. It's going to take a lot of money. But that's the approach we're going to take."

Dal Gemmell: The problem is that besides the money and the time, at the end of the day, are you really that much better than a telco? Just like Airbnb, when they were first starting out, they saw this big opportunity in accommodations, but they didn't try to go head-to-head with somebody like Marriott or Hilton or Hyatt. They said, "You know what? There's a better approach here. We see this pent-up demand. We know there is a supply out there. Let's marry the two together."

Dal Gemmell: And so, that's what we're doing with Helium. So, we're creating this incentive build network. And the idea is that anyone can participate in building this network. Anyone can buy what we call a hotspot, plug it into their home, start providing coverage, and also start earning this cryptocurrency which is the incentive part.

Dal Gemmell: And if you do that, then the thinking is that you sold the cold start problem or the chicken and egg problem, because as a hotspot owner, I plug it in, I start earning this cryptocurrency while I'm providing this coverage.

Dal Gemmell: And so, these hotspot owners, they actually will become rewarded in a couple of ways. One is, not just for providing the coverage itself, but also any time a device connects to the network through their hotspot, they'll also earn rewards as well. We feel this is a very different approach, where people own this network, it can be deployed in a lot more rapid fashion, and a lot more inexpensive than a traditional, say, telco could do it.

Peter Dalmaris: So, Dal, I'll sort of jump in here. What I take from this slide is that what you are doing for networking is what Airbnb did in the hospitality industry in a way. And that is a way for you to, basically, create this network without having to build hugely expensive infrastructure that would turn you into a telco then. That's a good analogy.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. That's exactly right, Peter. So, this is the hotspot. This is a device that we have for sale, so anybody can buy one. Currently, they're being sold in the U.S. We are looking at international sales early next year. And this is a small hardware device, a little bit larger than Apple TV, and it's doing two main functions. One is, it's creating this wireless access point for devices to connect to it. And it's also a blockchain node that is mining cryptocurrency or Helium tokens. And these Helium tokens, as we said, they're rewards that people are earning for hosting this network.

Peter Dalmaris: So, is this part of the technology that Helium has developed open source as well? So, do we need that box or can we build our own Helium network node through third party hardware?

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. No, it's a great question, Peter. So, we currently have these boxes available from Helium. They are going to be open source and we're providing schematics and designs and all that stuff so people can go off and build their own hotspots as well.

Peter Dalmaris: Wow. So, it is open source, the whole thing, the whole stack, software, the drivers, or the libraries that go into your Arduino, the hardware itself, the blockchain.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. It's all open source. So, this is just reiterating, there's two ways that these hotspot owners can earn just for providing wireless coverage and also when devices actually connect to a hotspot and can transfer data.

Dal Gemmell: And what we feel is a very unique approach to building a network, so these hotspot hosts, they're rewarded for providing coverage to one side of the market. On the other side of the market, the people who want to use an IoT network and they realized there's not a lot of options available, they'll see, "Wow. There's a lot of coverage being provided, I'm going to start building applications to run on this network, because I got the range, I got the low battery and long battery life, and it's costing me a fraction of what it would if I was to use my cellular."

Dal Gemmell: And we think it's going to create this very positive loop. So, more users are going to attract more people trying to deploy hotspots and earn rewards, which is going to create more coverage and attract more users.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. It's a virtuous circle.

Dal Gemmell: That's right.

Peter Dalmaris: Just a quick question here, Dal. These devices, the hotspots, are those like an interface between the wireless connection with the local nodes, which are compatible with the network, of course, and then the internet. So, those hotspots can connect to a local ethernet network, perhaps, or cellular in order to pass those packets over to the regular internet?

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. So, the hotspots today are using either ethernet or Wi-Fi for backhaul.

Peter Dalmaris: Right. Right. So, as long as you have one of those options in your business or in your house, then you can have a Helium hotspot. And that then has a range of what, a few kilometres around it?

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. It really depends on the environment, Peter. Like, in an urban environment, you know, maybe up to a mile. And this is kind of what I wanted to demonstrate in this slide, because I know we get this question a lot. And then, in rural areas where we have line of sight, it's, like, ten miles or more.

Peter Dalmaris: All right. And that's the new protocol that you're using to reach that kind of distance, the LongFi it's called.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. So, we're using a protocol called LongFi. For folks who are familiar with LoRa and LoRaWAN, it would be like a LoRaWAN replacement. But if you were using devices that have lower radios on it, then they're compatible. So, you just flash the firmware with the LongFi protocol - which we're going to demonstrate, it's really straightforward - then you can start using this network.

Dal Gemmell: So, we were doing some early testing. This is obviously San Francisco. There's eight hotspots. We're working with a scooter company; they were concerned about tracking tracing. And so, this is just eight hotspots and the amount of coverage that these hotspots are providing in the City of San Francisco. And this is the type of fidelity and accuracy that we got by tracking scooters using those eight hotspots.

Dal Gemmell: So, it was a lot of fun. We did stuff like hide and seek, where they would go off trying to hide the scooter, and we would find them relatively easy.

Dal Gemmell: Now, this network, it's kind of hard sometimes for people to wrap their head around, because I think of it kind of like the internet in the early days. When people first learned about the internet, they were thinking, "Well, what do I use it for? Like, you're telling me about this network of networks, but what do I need this network of networks for? I'm doing just fine."

Dal Gemmell: And so, I think probably email was one of those killer applications where people could easily wrap their head around and understand the power of this network. For us, it seems like asset tracking. Appears to be like one of the killer applications that there is this really big need and the current solutions just don't work very well for it.

Peter Dalmaris: So, what kind of passage, though, would it be like a scooter? Or I can imagine like an Amazon delivery, things of that sort.

Dal Gemmell: So, micromobility, like electronic computers, electronic bikes. And then, also, supply chain and logistics, we also see a lot of interest as well. Ag tech is another big one. So, yeah, my point was that this network is like the internet. When the internet first came out, nobody thought of Uber or Airbnb. It was one of these applications that evolved when people realized the power of what this thing is capable of.

Dal Gemmell: And so, this is just kind of imagine, if you will, we have a real problem with wildfires in Northern California. What if you were able to set up a bunch of sensors, whether it was related to humidity, temperature, smoke, what have you, create a network of these to create an early wildfire detection system?

Dal Gemmell: This is some pictures of us doing some bike tracing in the outdoors. And just to show some of the flexibility of this network, it was running on solar. They were using backhaul in this case. So, the network is very flexible and can be deployed very, very rapidly.

Dal Gemmell: In terms of progress, so the actual network has been launched since August 2019. We started off with our launch city. Today, we have sales in over 495 cities across the U.S., and that's not just in what you'd expect the highly populated areas, but in actually 90 percent of U.S. states.

Peter Dalmaris: Wow. That's impressive.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. It's one of those things where you never really know what will happen until you actually roll it out. And we were very impressed with the reception.

Peter Dalmaris: It's actually been that long. It's been, like, a few months, really, and it was very good adoption.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah, that's right. And we think people are excited about being part of they're making history, they're being part of something that's in the very early stages. And they like the idea of being able to build these networks without the interference of telcos and they own this network coverage. And so, this is just progress that we've had in the U.S. today. But tomorrow, this diagram is going to be out of date, right?

Peter Dalmaris: Of course. Internet speed.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. That's right. And now, Peter, I'm going to jump to the demo.

Peter Dalmaris: All right. Awesome. While you restructure your desktop, I just want to comment, as you were talking, I am drawing parallels between the evolution of the internet and the web in particular. So, how Web 1.0 back in 1992, in the 90s, I'd say, came with a particular technology. It was good for, you know, a basic set of functions.

Peter Dalmaris: And then, ecommerce came on and it tried to do ecommerce based on that early technology. That didn't go too far. Dot com crash came. Then, we had Web 2.0, which was basically an evolution of the original web, but now for ecommerce, and that's why we put security in. And then, there's the videos and then also served the community that came along.

Peter Dalmaris: And I'm thinking something similar is happening with the Internet of Things. So, the Internet of Things started using the Web 2.0 technology, essentially, that was built for humans, again. And what you are doing now is perhaps instrumental in the evolution of IoT into IoT 2.0. We have got technology specifically designed for machines to talk to other machines. I'm not sure, because that's how I've got it in my mind.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. And I think that that's definitely correct, Peter. But if you think about it and you go, like, one level of abstraction higher, because this model, we are focusing on IoT and wireless networking because we feel there's a real need there. This is something that we feel is really preventing this big IoT explosion that we all know should happen.

Dal Gemmell: But if you take this model and you say, "Well, what if there is another industry that has been [inaudible]?" And you use the same people incentive-based model, whether it's power or maybe solar or something, and you say, "Look, what if people were able to provide this service, they get incented for it, and they're able to deploy it in a more rapid and a more dense way that actually companies now are purchasing these services from people rather than the other way around." And so, I think once we're proving this approach in this model, I think there's a lot of other industries that could potentially gain from this as well.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. And you are changing the telecommunications industry in that way, as you said, just like Airbnb did so with hospitality and with taxis and transportation.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. I mean, Airbnb is the largest accommodations provider in the world, but when was the last time you stayed in an Airbnb branded hotel?

Peter Dalmaris: Exactly. Exactly. And the other thing I like about what you're doing is that where there is more need for such services, like in cities, for example, high density populated areas, your model provides the incentive to build nodes for access. So, you are not going to have the problem to have under capacity, like it's very common to have with cellular telephony towers. Everybody is trying to access the same tower. You can't just build another one next week. But you can put another Helium device there to expand your capacity there just like that, easy.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. That's right. You just buy one, you plug it in, and away you go. And it's a very good point and there are certain areas where cellphone companies will be like, "You know what? It's just not a high priority for us, so you're just going to have to wait or you're not going to get service." And that's just an example of them being able to dominate coverage of wherever they want it.

Dal Gemmell: And so, somebody could say, "You know what? I want coverage here, and I'm just going to buy a hotspot and that's our coverage." So, yeah, it's a really different way of approaching, but it feels like it's a better path forward in terms of the way the world is moving. I think it was 20th century where you had a few big companies and they were dominating everything, and tough luck, that's all you get.

Peter Dalmaris: It's changing, yeah.

Dal Gemmell: Okay. So, I've got just a very simple Arduino discovery chipboard. It's got a lower radio on it.

Peter Dalmaris: Sorry. That was an Arduino Shield that you plugged onto an Arduino Uno?

Dal Gemmell: So, there's nothing proprietary Helium about this. This is just out of the box.

Peter Dalmaris: Okay. It's an Arduino Uno compatible board with the Helium wireless technology on it. It's got an antenna there.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. [Inaudible], but this is just off-the-shelf. An STMicroelectronics LR1 discovery kit. And so, that's what we're trying to do, we're trying to allow developers and builders to just take off-the-shelf components and equipment and be able to run their applications on the network.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. This is not made by Helium. What's happening in it, is that it's running your firmware. It's running your software.

Dal Gemmell: After I flash it, yeah. That's right. Okay. So, I'm going to run through a number of instructions, Peter, and people shouldn't worry about trying to follow along because all of this is documented. So, we've got an SDK. We've got documentation. We try to make it very simple step-by-step.

Peter Dalmaris: If you like, you can minimize my face from your screen, though, so you can make me go away.

Dal Gemmell: I'll do that, Peter.

Peter Dalmaris: That's good. That's good.

Dal Gemmell: All right. So, like I said, Peter, I'm just going through some instructions that we have included on the website to make it really simple for people to do this type of work. Now, you know, full transparency, I am not a developer. I don't write code. And I'm able to do this, so that's definitely something here.

Dal Gemmell: So, what we're going to do first is we're going to go to the Helium console and create an account. I've already created an account, so I'm just going to log in. So, I've created an account, and you see in the dashboard, All Organizations, All Teams in Helium. And this is just a way to structure your devices. So, Organization, you can think at the very top level. And then, All Team is a way for you to structure or create a hierarchy for devices. So, all the devices will belong to Teams, and you can create as many teams as you like.

Dal Gemmell: So, what I'm going to do, I'm going to create a couple devices. And the reason why I'm creating two, I will explain in a little bit. So, I created these two devices in my console. I go to Device 1 and I make sure that the device, OEY. So, that's OEY, that is the identifier for, say, my company or my organization. And then, Device ID is the actual ID of the device that I'm going to use to connect to the network. So, very important that we'll need to reference later.

Peter Dalmaris: Are these numbers that you can arbitrarily allocate to your devices or do you get them from Helium?

Dal Gemmell: They're system generated.

Peter Dalmaris: System, all right.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. Okay. So, I've already installed Arduino. So, just go and download and install Arduino. And what I've done is I've already added this board to the Arduino environment. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to just clone the LongFi libraries to these Arduino environments.

Peter Dalmaris: Right. You can into Git in getting those libraries.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. I'm going to then turn click Arduino and then reload it.

Peter Dalmaris: So, this is a regular Arduino library. It works like all other Arduino libraries. It comes with examples.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. And we're going to actually grab one of these examples. So, now there's LongFi and transmit packet. So, what we're going to do is we're going to transmit packets to no endpoint and an endpoint that we define. And that's why I actually set up those two devices. So, as we mentioned before, the OUI, I need to change this. I need to change the OUI to 1, and then the device ID, if you remember, was 18.

Dal Gemmell: After I've done that, I'm going to make sure that we are using the right board, so I'm going to go to Discovery, and then choosing the right board here. And, again, all these inspections are in our SDK. After that, there is an upload utility from STMicroelectronics, and I've already installed that. But what I'm going to do is I'm going to make sure that the upload method is the correct one.

Dal Gemmell: So, now that's all set up, I'm going to compile and make sure that everything's correct here. You compile the sketch. We try this again.

Peter Dalmaris: Is that the correct board that you've selected?

Dal Gemmell: Oh, let me just double check.

Peter Dalmaris: Maybe double check that.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. Good one, Peter. I thought I checked. Huh? Nice. Thank you.

Peter Dalmaris: I've seen plenty of those.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. Great. All right. So, thank you for that, Peter.

Peter Dalmaris: There you go. Sure.

Dal Gemmell: Compiling sketch, fingers crossed this time it's okay. And now I'm going to upload it. So, I'm uploading a sketch to the board. So, now I go back to the dashboard, so this is our console. So, this was Device 1, remember IDE 18. And what I want to see is, I want to be able to start seeing some packets flowing. So, it seems like I need to refresh this before when I was - there you see it.

Peter Dalmaris: Oh, there's one. Yeah. So, what's coming from the board now? What kind of data? Is it just random numbers? Oh. No, that's the connection.

Dal Gemmell: So, these are packets that are flowing from that Arduino board to a hotspot that's in range. So, you can see there's actually multiple hotspots in my area. And so, all of them, whatever hotspot the same here, they're transferring this packet. Now, you can see the dots are red because there is no endpoint. So, I haven't defined an endpoint, so that's why [inaudible].

Peter Dalmaris: What that means, though, is that the microcontrollers now are sending data to the network, but nobody's receiving the data because you haven't specified who's the data for.

Dal Gemmell: That's right.

Peter Dalmaris: But at least you acknowledge that the node is connected. It didn't need to specify a key or an SSID or a password. Nothing. Just turn it on and done.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. Because this is a trusted device. It was onboarded as part of the blockchain. So, there's no authentication that further needed from these other hotspots. And as you can see, there's multiple hotspots.

Peter Dalmaris: Okay. So, quick recap here, by going into the Helium dashboard, in which you are now, and creating the two IDs, that was, I think, the device ID and the Team. So, these two numbers then tell the blockchain about this device that will carry those same IDs. And that's how the blockchain knows that this is a trusted device. Is that correct?

Dal Gemmell: That's correct.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. Correct. Okay. It makes sense.

Dal Gemmell: OUI and your base ID. Okay. So, now what I want to do is I'm going to create a channel, Peter, or an endpoint. So, I go back to devices, and so I'm going to create a channel. So, just HTTP. We're going to have channels to other public class in the future.

Dal Gemmell: I'm just going to set for this example, do an HTTP one. I'm using Requested. And I copy of this, very straightforward. I'm just going to name it Request Bin Test, and now I created [inaudible]. Just like that. I'll go back to my Device 2, and I'm going to specify that this is a channel that it needs to use. Okay. Now, what I need to do is I need to go back to my original sketch and update the device ID from 18 to 19 because I only have one device.

Dal Gemmell: And so, I'm going to compile. And you're going to plug the board back in and upload. And then, what we should see in our Request Bin is starting to post, so it's already starting to send.

Peter Dalmaris: So, now Device 19 is doing this post requests because that's what you configured it to do, our HTTP post request.

Dal Gemmell: That's right. Yeah. And so, this is a hotspot that sent the data, the OUI, and some network signal stats as well. So, now it's just sending this data via these hotspots to Request Bin.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. What you've got here, the Request Bin that we are looking at is just showing us the contents of this post request. But you could be developing a simple web application that receives this data and does something with it, puts it in a database, plots it, stores it, whatever you want it to do.

Dal Gemmell: As I said before, we're looking at creating these - we call them - channels directly for AWS, Google Cloud, Azure because we know that a lot of folks will want to send that data. And so, if you look on the console, so this is the - yeah.

Peter Dalmaris: There you go. It's coming through.

Dal Gemmell: So, here is the packets, here's your event log, and they're blue because they're successfully hitting that channel endpoint. And if you go to the channel, you'll see which device is now sending that data.

Peter Dalmaris: Great. And if you want, you can have two nodes speaking to each other, like one node can be transmitting the data and another one can be the target to receive it. You can have communications between nodes?

Dal Gemmell: No, you can't. Not directly between two nodes, Peter.

Peter Dalmaris: Okay. So, you need an intermediary, like, software in the middle to hold the data and then the node to pick it up there?

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. I mean, the nodes are sending data via hotspots to wherever you want. And so, just for this example, I chose Request Bin, but it could be any public cloud or any private cloud or wherever you want to send it.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. It was so easy.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. Again, non-developer here, right? And be able to send data from a just off-the-shelf piece of hardware and start using the network

Peter Dalmaris: And all the security issues, like the payload, the encryption, authentication, all that is done at the blockchain level, is that right?

Dal Gemmell: So, there's some done in the blockchain level, but all the data is being encrypted. And so, the packets are encrypted at the hardware level. And for the Helium, this network in general, nobody can see what that data is or the packets are because all the data is encrypted from the device to the cloud or wherever you're sending it.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. Yeah. So, you've got the security embedded into the infrastructure, into the networking protocol. Amazing. Like, I can see the appeal and I can see how easy it is to deploy nodes like that, not having to worry about the network layer, where the passwords and name of the network and then the charges as well, I guess, is a different issue as to how all that is paid.

Peter Dalmaris: But I guess I wanted to ask you this, from Helium as a company, what is the business model there? How do you make a profit because you're a not-for-profit organization?

Dal Gemmell: Yeah, that's right. We get this question a lot because we are putting so much of the technology out as open source. We are trying to make it easy for developers just to use commodity off-the-shelf hardware. So, you can think of us as kind of like Red Hat. So, you know, Linux is open source. Red Hat worked with organizations and then [inaudible] to roll it out, to deploy it, to support it in the organization.

Peter Dalmaris: It's a services organization.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. So, similar type of model.

Peter Dalmaris: Right. So, through consultancy. The idea there of earning Helium tokens for providing access to other people's nodes to the network, how does that work? And, like, if my node connects to somebody else's hotspot, they get access to the network, how do I pay them? Is that happening somehow through Helium and through my dashboard? Because, eventually, you need to use some real money there? How does it work?

Dal Gemmell: So, if you think about the network, there's two sides of it. There's the hotspot owners and the users of the network. The users of the network will purchase something called data credit. And data credits, you can think of like Amazon credits or X-Box credits. These credits are necessary for devices on the network to transfer data.

Dal Gemmell: Now, the only way that you can get these data credits is through converting Helium, the tokens. And so, an organization could purchase data credits from Helium or from other people, however they want to do it, but they get data credits, the use of data credits for transferring data.

Peter Dalmaris: Right. So, that's the currency, I guess, just like you buy bitcoin, and then you can use bitcoin to buy a sandwich - probably a bad example - or coffee. You'd buy Helium tokens at whatever the exchange rate might be. And then, that is stored in the blockchain. So, the blockchain knows about your balance of tokens. And then, as your nodes use other people's Helium hotspots in the background, there is an exchange of tokens for access.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. There's one more step, because the Helium tokens are converted into data credits, and the data credits are what it's actually used by the devices to transfer data.

Peter Dalmaris: The credit, right. Is this currency like a floating currency like the bitcoin, where the exchange rate with a dollar fluctuates or do you control them?

Dal Gemmell: So, the Helium token, from our perspective, is just for utility on the network. We don't control them. We're not focused on getting it onto the exchange. We're just focused on utility for the network.

Peter Dalmaris: So, I shouldn't really be thinking about it as currency. It's really just like an exchange medium to pay in a way for my access to this network.

Dal Gemmell: That's right.

Peter Dalmaris: Right. Great. Yeah. I'm not sure if there's anything else that you want to talk to us as part of your presentation, Dal. Otherwise, I've got a few more questions.

Dal Gemmell: No. I mean, we're really excited about building this network. And, again, we call it the People's Network, because it's people that are participating and helping build the network, provide coverage, earn Helium. And then, also, providing those wireless services for organizations who want to use an ubiquitous, secure, affordable network that provides very long range and really long battery life.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah, it's a great idea. I'm thinking I do have a bit of spare bandwidth, especially at nights. It makes sense to have one of those and improve the health of the network and of the whole IoT infrastructure. So, it's a good thing.

Peter Dalmaris: Okay, Dal, just a few questions before we complete this session. So, the first question is to perhaps you help us prioritize our thoughts based on the things that you've talked about and give us a three or four most important key takeaways or key learning points from your presentation.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the first ones is, you know, we feel that there is a better option for IoT wireless networks. One, there is a network that is ubiquitous, secure, and affordable, and it is owned and operated by the people who choose to participate. So, that's one.

Dal Gemmell: The second one is, if you do want to participate, as we mentioned, you can buy hotspots from Helium or you can build one yourself. Plug it in and start providing coverage and then start earning Helium as well. That's the second one.

Dal Gemmell: And third, if you're a developer and you want to build these applications, we've got a lot of tools, documentation, quick start guides available to make it really simple to start playing around with this. Again, non-developer, don't write code, and I'm able to take commodity off-the-shelf hardware, load a couple libraries, upload it to the board, and I can see in the conflict and I can see packets being transmitted to an endpoint. So, you know, if I can do it, then anybody who has any reasonable technical capabilities should be able to do it in their sleep.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. I wanted to add one more point, number four, I don't think I've seen a more plug and play wireless device since I've started playing around with Arduinos and working with IoT devices. It's always been like a sticky point. And I think what you just showed us, is, for the first time I don't see any sticky point there. So, I think that's a number for the key takeaway lesson here. I really appreciate that. I think it's going to change the life of people.

Dal Gemmell: I think, Peter, that's a really good point that you raise. You know, we're doing a lot of very difficult stuff in terms of blockchain and hardware and firmware and off work, and I haven't even had a chance to show the smartphone app that we have that you would use to actually set up your hotspot. It's very straightforward.

Dal Gemmell: And a lot of, like, blockchain companies or cryptocurrency companies, they're really focused on kind of the protocol layer and just focusing on the technology. And they're not really concerned about the end user experience, especially with somebody less technical. And we knew we didn't have that luxury. We knew that if we wanted to get people to participate, we had to make it like a consumer life experience.

Peter Dalmaris: So, even though you're taking something that is mining a new cryptocurrency from a physical blockchain, you're doing it through a few steps in your smartphone app. And then, after that, you're just seeing, "Oh, look. I'm earning more Helium."

Dal Gemmell: And then, also, on the developer side, look, we know that in order for us to get momentum, we have to make sure that companies are using the network. If we build this crazy and beautiful network and nobody is using it, then it's useless.

Dal Gemmell: So, in order to make that happen and to minimize any obstacles and crush any obstructions in the way, we have to make it very straightforward and streamlined for anybody who wants to build applications for this network.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You're absolutely right. I think you need to go that way, as we're talking earlier before we started the recording, there's billions of devices that will be part of the Internet of Things network. Even now, I think we are close to one billion.

Peter Dalmaris: But imagine that the next scale up, when you go to 50 billion or 100 billion, as a designer, you can't really be constantly concerned about the low-level networking issues that we are concerned with right now in IoT version 1. So, you are providing the tools to not have to worry about all that and concentrate on the application, which is becoming more and more complex. So, that's what I take away from your presentation.

Dal Gemmell: Yeah. I mean, you know, we're trying to create this global ubiquitous network. And from a user of the network perspective, they should really see it kind of like a cell experience where if you have a phone [inaudible] trying to connect to you. It's just ubiquitous. You've got coverage, but without the cost, without the power drain, and without being owned by a single company that can throttle your data and take your data and sell it and all that stuff.

Dal Gemmell: We're excited. We see a lot of momentum. Definitely, I'm not sure exactly when we get down to Australia, Peter, but we'll make sure that you're hooked up.

Peter Dalmaris: I'm in your newsletter, so I'll be checking my email daily. Okay. Key resources, I think you already showed us a couple of pages on the Helium website with documentation and the SDK. You know, what would you recommend for resources?

Dal Gemmell: So, it really depends, I mean, the website has got all the information, whether you want to participate and purchase a hotspot and start participating, or if you're a developer and you want to start building these cool applications on this network.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. So, you've got everything there, the website is the best place for the next step if you want to learn more about this network and devices.

Dal Gemmell: We have some developer communities that you can go to from the website as well. People are exchanging notes about antennas and stuff like that.

Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. People that are watching that are software developers or interested in software, check out GitHub, where you've got your libraries, and they're also very well documented with checking out the software before you actually have a look at the hardware. It's so incredible. All right.

Peter Dalmaris: My last question is contact details. How can people get in contact with you or somebody at Helium if they have questions to ask?

Dal Gemmell: So, again, it depends on what type of questions that people have. Again, the website is the best way to go to funnel. If you've got some more questions or if you have questions about your use cases and you think this type of network would work for you, or if you're a developer and you want to find out more, all that's on the website. It really depends on what kind of questions.

Peter Dalmaris: Easy. Just go to the website for everything. It's a really good, well-designed website as well. It's like a good mirror image of the technology that you're developing, it's really easy for the end user. The dashboard is easy. The website itself, documentation, communications, beautiful. Great. Thank you.

Peter Dalmaris: It was a pleasure, Dal. I've learned so much from your presentation, so, really, thank you for taking the time to do this for us.

Dal Gemmell: Well, no. Thank you, Peter, for inviting us. We really appreciate it. And I hope everybody enjoys the rest of the summit. And, yeah, please take a look at Helium if this sounds interesting to you.

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