State of The People’s Network : Light Hotspots (Part 1)

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UPDATE 5/9/2022:

Light hotspot code will be activated on May 11. 

In addition to reward fluctuations as described in the last announcement on the activation plan https://discord.com/channels/404106811252408320/730418759298318346/972220125329621024, we wanted to communicate a bit more on what to expect if your Hotspot is in poor health (out of sync, out of SD card space). Note that at this time, all Hotspots will still sync the blockchain and we do not expect bandwidth requirements to lower immediately post-activation. This is a safe guard to allow the core team to revert the chain variables if needed.

Out of Sync Hotspots

Out of sync Hotspots have no concept of Light Hotspot chain variables because they haven’t synced far enough to see these variables in a block. Until they see this block, they will not participate in PoC. The core team plans on fast-forwarding sync by manually generating a snapshot shortly after activation. We will make an announcement when a snapshot is available.

Out of SD Card space

Hotspots that are out of SD card space automatically restarts itself to delete space and make room. Once there is space, it will attempt to find a snapshot that contains the Light Hotspot chain variable activation. This happens automatically, no action required.

Healthy Hotspots

Congrats on keeping your Hotspot healthy and in tiptop shape. All synced Hotspots with the correct build from your Maker will know exactly what to do when the chain variables activate automatically, and owners will not need to do anything. 

If your healthy Hotspot falls out of sync after chain variable activation, it will participate in Proof-of-Coverage just fine so long as we do not revert the chain variables.

UPDATE 4/25/2022:

The Light Hotspot code has been merged to mainnet and is expected to be activated on May 3. After this, the core developers will monitor the transition. After a few weeks of network stability, core developers will begin letting manufacturers test new hardware on the network before approving any new Light Hardware.

UPDATE 4/6/2022:

Update on Light Hotspot Code Merge to Mainnet Community — as you have seen the core team communicate the past few weeks, the date that we were to merge all Light Hotspot code to mainnet was today. However, during code review, the team identified a selection fairness concern that affects how Hotspots are chosen for challenges. This is important with how Light Hotspot function in concert with Validators. The core team is working towards resolving the issue and we will provide an update on Monday April 11.

New Dates

Monday April 11 — End of Pacific Time workday: Update community on merge date

Sometime next week: merge to mainnet branch. *note that this is not the activation date. Activation of Light Hotspots will be 2 weeks after merging to mainnet branch.

If you haven’t already heard, Helium Inc. recently announced a name change to Nova Labs. The news came on the heels of a successful Series D raise and the Decentralized Wireless Alliance (DeWi) rebranding as The Helium Foundation. All this on the cusp of the arrival of 5G and “Light Hotspots”. What does this all mean, and how does it affect everyone? Let us unpack all of this in this three part blog post.

Part 1 – Light Hotspots

The timeline and milestones for these Light Hotspots have been misunderstood over the past few months, so we want to provide some clarity. Below you can see the progression of hotspots and validators to better understand this transition.

 

A Little Background

When Helium first started to scale, the community and team at Nova Labs, formerly Helium Inc., recognized that the gateways being deployed would soon hit their limitations if they continued to run the blockchain directly.

Light Hotspots are the evolution of how LoRaWAN gateways will interact with the Helium blockchain. Since the genesis block, the Helium blockchain has run entirely on the physical Hotspot itself. As the blockchain network grows, each Hotspot running a full node undergoes increasing load and is starting to fall out of sync due to the higher compute requirements.

To mitigate this, the Hotspot’s consensus work has been moved off of physical Hotspots and onto Validators. This simplifies the architecture and enables us to grow the Network exponentially.

Validators would handle the blockchain and provide blockchain status to the gateways, while gateways continue to do what they do best: transfer data and Proof of Coverage.

 

When does this all happen?

Currently “Light hotspots” are being tested on testnet with the community helping identify bugs and getting it ready to go live. Almost all HIP19 approved Manufacturers are testing light hotspot software on Full hotspots ensuring their existing fleets are compatible with the software stack and their apps. Light Only Hotspots (lighter hardware) are still pending testing from manufacturers and final approval from the MOC. We expect this to start at the end of April or early May, which would mean they would start shipping some time after that.

It’s important to note that the April 19th goal for Light Hotspots is a timeline based on testing. If tests show reason for delay, it will be taken in the interest of the network. We expect the same to happen for the launch of Light Hotspots, but the Nova Labs team is hard at work to launch this as quickly as possible since it solves many problems they deal with daily.

Nova Labs

When testing is complete Nova Labs and the Helium Foundation will flip a switch that will notify all current Full Hotspots on the network to update to the Light Hotspot firmware. This will happen automatically and there is no action needed on your part. Your hotspot will still be synced to the Helium app, you will still be able to earn rewards, and your hotspot name will not change. The only difference will be that your miner will no longer have to store a full copy of the blockchain, and your miner will no longer create challenges. You will still earn rewards from PoC (Beacon, Witnessing) and Network Data Forwarding (Packet Transfers).

Definitions: 

  • Helium Hotspots – Hotspots and gateways are used interchangeably
  • Transfer Data Packets – Hotspots earn tokens for transferring data packets from devices
  • PoC Challenger – Challengers randomly select hotspots in various regions to send a Beacon to enable Proof of Coverage. In Phase 1 and 2, the challengers were hotspots selecting other hotspots at random. In Phase 3 Validators will be selecting hotspots at random.
  • PoC Challenges (Beacon) – When a hotspot is challenged it will transmit a beacon, or PoC packet, through its radio. In Phase 1 and 2, this challenge comes from other hotspots, but in Phase 3 this challenge will come from Validators.
  • Witness Hotspots – Hotspots report back when they receive beacons, or PoC packets,  over the radio. In Phases 1 and 2, this was sent directly back to the Challengee over P2P. In Phase 3, hotspots will report back, via gRPC, to the Validator (Challenger) that sent the Challenge.
  • Consensus Group – The consensus group is a randomly selected group of miners that verify transactions on the Helium Blockchain. This includes data packet transfers, HNT transfers, token burns, etc… In Phase 1, Full Hotspots participated in consensus groups. In Phase 2, this was moved to Validators. In Phase 3, all aspects of the blockchain are removed from hotspots. 

 

FAQs:

What happens with my hotspot? Your hotspot continues to provide coverage for the fastest growing wireless network and continues to earn HNT tokens. The only difference is it will not run the blockchain and will get PoC challenges from Validators.
No more SSD Card issues
No more “wen sync”
No more RELAY

As a Hotspot owner, what do I need to do? As long as your Hotspot is plugged into the Internet, nothing!

How many manufacturers have tested on Testnet? Almost all approved makers have Hotspots on testnet and Nova Labs is continuing outreach to support the outstanding makers on Testnet. Seeed, RAK and Nebra have all been testing on testnet

Will my current hotspots or full hotspots on sale now become obsolete? No, see above.

What about buying Light Hotspots? This is a common misconception that you need to buy new hardware to take advantage of Light Hotspots. You do not need to buy new hardware. This is a free software update.

When will Light Hotspots (lighter hardware) come out? Based on our talks we don’t expect these to land any sooner than Q2-Q3 if no issues arise during testing.

I thought there would be cheaper Hotspots? The Light Hotspot software requires less compute power than ever before. In theory, this means future Hotspot manufacturers can take advantage of this lower requirement to produce less expensive Hotspots. It is up to each individual manufacturer to price their Hotspot when it’s available for sale.

Is it still worth mining? We do not give financial advice, but we always recommend doing your own research and comparing it to other types of investments including other mining hardware. Generally crypto mining ROI is 10+ months in a good market. Depending on your deployment, this can be much better or equivalent.

How much data will Light Miners use? We’re not exactly sure yet, but traditionally with all of the Peer to Peer and blockchain syncing, hotspots have been using upwards of 50GB/month. We expect this to drop significantly. 

You can purchase gateways here directly on our site or reach out to our business solutions team if you have additional deployment or IoT solutions needs. 

Timelines

  • March 31: Chain Variable Test
  • April 1: Testnet Reset
  • April 6: Merge HIP-55 code to mainnet, Update Hotspot Software in preparation for April 19
  • April 19: Activate Light Hotspots Activate set of chain variables to enable Light Hotspots on Mainnet
  • Several weeks later: Deactivate Miner on Light Hotspots on Mainnet such that they run gateway-rs only
  • All hotspots will become Light Hotspots
    • Meaning Validators will create challenges for hotspots and provide blockchain info. No more syncing to blockchain.
    • Full hotspots will have a software update converting them to “light hotspots” 

Resources:

https://docs.helium.com/mine-hnt/light-hotspots/

Manufacturer Approval Status

Discord Announcement


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