Mycelium builds a new network for the IoT | Arkansas Business News
We were unable to send the item.
An 18-month-old Fayetteville company is building a blockchain-based network to power Internet of Things devices, and it’s paying people and companies to help.
Mycelium Networks sees this system, called the Helium Network, as a vehicle for innovation and a way to retain young talent in Northwest Arkansas – talent who wants access to the latest technology and the jobs that come with it.
Internet of Things devices — like smart pet collars, environmental sensors, and bike trackers — can operate on the network while moving around the area without fear of signal loss. Entrepreneurs can use it to create new IoT products and services, according to Mycelium spokesperson Jordan Lanning.
She said Mycelium builds the network by recruiting people and companies to host hotspot devices, which are roughly the size of a Wi-Fi router. With a team of 20, Mycelium provides, installs and activates devices — but does not manufacture them — and maintains them.
Hotspots send small amounts of data to other devices using a radio frequency band (known as 915 MHz) that until recently was not widely used by the general public. IoT sensors collect the data and hotspots receive the data which IoT users then analyze to make decisions. Hotspots don’t collect data from hosts because they don’t access host networks, Lanning said.
IoT manufacturers load into each of their products a lifetime of data credits, allowing devices to operate on the Helium network. It is through this data credit system that Mycelium receives its revenue, enabling it to expand, maintain and enrich the network, Lanning said, adding that the business is profitable.
Hosts receive monthly payments from Mycelium that vary by setup level: A simple, indoor setup costs $15, while a low-profile rooftop setup earns $25, Lanning said. “You kind of set it and forget it,” she said.
Individuals can purchase hotspots themselves, but they are expensive and require a level of technical sophistication to set up and stay connected to the network, she said. Lanning said Mycelium encourages people to run the network on their own and focuses on building the network where it wouldn’t otherwise exist.
“A lot of people who do this for us, they’re really interested in the technology and in building this network for their community and the things that it will eventually bring to the community,” she said.
The company aims to maximize necessary hotspots by the end of the year, Lanning said. It has already recruited hundreds of hosts and needs more in homes and businesses in specific locations in Benton and Washington counties, she said.
Lanning said one of the benefits of the Helium network is that it allows IoT devices to not be directly connected to the wider internet, which keeps the internet robust even as the number of connected devices grows. Also, IoT devices don’t require a large amount of data to operate, so there’s a financial benefit to running them on such a network, she said. For example, IoT devices wouldn’t need the expensive chip needed to connect them to the internet through a cell tower, and IoT device owners wouldn’t have to pay for more data than they have. need to use their IoT devices.
The network is also environmentally friendly because it can negate the need for a new cell tower, and it offers more security because of the blockchain technology it’s based on, Lanning said. Blockchain refers to a digital ledger of transactions that cannot be changed after they are recorded.
“At Mycelium, one of our core beliefs is that decentralization, especially through the proliferation of blockchain technology, will change nearly everything about how we design and build networks, systems, and our societies,” said co-founder Rishi Mittal via email.
“We believe the people of Northwest Arkansas are ready and deserve this push into the future. Our hope is that through the work Mycelium does for our community, Northwest Arkansas will become a world leader in blockchain, just like Silicon Valley did for the internet.
The technology is not without its skeptics, who call it speculative and overhyped, and say it has no resistance. Mittal said he would tell them, “Many new projects are short-lived and could be scams. Mycelium has an incredibly talented team of individuals who have spent years in this field, and we truly believe in and fully invest in every network we build and deploy.