Friday, Mashable reported than Helium, a crypto project praised by The New York Times earlier this year and whose parent company is backed by investment firms like Andreessen Horowitz, had misled people about the companies he works with. Helium advertises on its homepage that Lime, the mobility company behind these e-scooters and e-bikes, uses its crypto-powered wireless mesh network. However, the company said Mashable that he hasn’t had a relationship with the company since 2019 and has only had initial testing with Helium’s technology.
Now Salesforce, whose logo appeared on Helium’s website right next to Lime’s, says it doesn’t use the technology either. “Helium is not a Salesforce partner,” said Salesforce spokesperson Ashley Eliasoph. The edge in an email. When I followed to ask about the chart below, which appeared on Helium’s website, Eliasoph said “that’s not accurate.”
Between 4:35 p.m. ET and 5:30 p.m. ET, the Lime and Salesforce logos were removed from the Helium homepage. The edge emailed Helium asking about its relationship with Salesforce at 4:48 p.m. ET, to which the company has not responded at the time of this writing.
Unlike many crypto projects, it’s actually relatively easy to understand Helium’s basic pitch (although there are absolutely ways to complicate it if you want to). The idea is that you put a helium hotspot – which can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars – in your home, and network users connect to it when they’re nearby and need data. The more data that passes through your access point, the more HNT (the cryptocurrency of Helium) you earn.
In short, it is a kind of decentralized mesh network, where the individuals who manage the nodes can profit from the provision of their data. (It should be noted, however, that using your home Internet like this violates the terms of service agreements of many Internet service providers.) The economy supposedly works because businesses or individuals pay to use Helium’s network instead of, say, cellular data.
Members of the r/helium subreddit have been increasingly vocal about weak helium returns.
On average, they spent 400 to 800 dollars to buy a hotspot. They expected $100/month, enough to recoup their expenses and enjoy passive income.
Then their income dropped to just $20/month. pic.twitter.com/0jx2zLUaiA
— Liron Shapira (@liron) July 26, 2022
Now, however, we have to ask ourselves: who wants to pay for this? Few people, it seems. As a Twitter thread points outa report of The generalist says that only about $6,500 in data credits (or DCs) were spent to access Helium’s network last month. It’s a stark contrast to the millions of dollars people have spent on equipment setting up hotspots for the network in hopes of profiting from it, and it would be surprisingly low if Lime actually connected its scooters to the network, or if Salesforce customers used to monitor warehouses, like Helium launched in 2017.
The New York Times article, which called Helium an example of “how crypto can be very useful in solving certain kinds of problems,” listed Lime as well as Victor, a rodent and reptile trap company, as Helium users. Lime obviously denied that’s the case (and says he’s sending a cease and desist to Helium), and Victor didn’t immediately respond to The edgewonders if he is using the network. However, the site advertised by Helium as the place to buy Helium-compatible Victor mousetraps in his ad of the partnership no longer seems to sell them. There also don’t seem to be any mentions of helium in Victor’s documentation.
Helium Documentation, however, alludes to Victor’s products, saying, “a Helium network user needs 50,000 DC per month to send data for his fleet of helium-connected mousetraps. (Yes, these actually exist, and they are glorious.)”
We also contacted Dish, who announced last year that it would use Helium’s 5G network. This announcement is also posted on Helium’s home page, at the very top under “Latest News”.
I would like to conclude with a parting thought. The author of Time The story says that Helium couldn’t really work without the encryption technology, citing the fact that the company launched without any kind of encryption integration, and only came up with the idea when it was at the edge of collapse. But for yearsunderserved communities had to build their own local networks after being ignored by the government and communications companies. It goes against what this shredder helium ad involves; that people would only be willing to do something for their community if they are paid for it. Again, it’s not necessarily surprising that Helium has twisted an essential piece of the puzzle.