Helium Light Hotspot Vs Full Hotspot
2022 will see many changes to the Helium network, ensuring its growth and robustness for the future stability of the network. One of those critical changes coming is the introduction of Light Hotspots. We have seen many manufacturers become approved resellers (HIP19) of what is known as Full Hotspots, where the majority of them consists of a LoRaWAN module and a computer processing device such as a Raspberry Pi, ROCK Pi or something similar.
Full hotspots challenge other hotspots to send out a beacon. They will transmit and validate the witnesses using their own computing power. In order to do this, the hotspot needs to have an up to date copy of the blockchain to validate the events. This takes up a significant amount of resources.
With validators taking over the consensus group in Q3 2021, and soon taking over challenges, there will be less requirement for intense information processing hotspots.
This allowed for a new design to the hotspots, which would simplify the hardware whilst still performing at a high standard, just like a Full Hotspot (1st generation).
Why the introduction of Light Hotspots?
The Helium network is expanding at an accelerated pace, with now more than 640,000 active hotspots (Mar 2022) thanks to the onboarding of new manufacturers. It should be no surprise that the load on each Hotspot is increasing, and the blockchain sync time is increasing for all of these new hotspots. There have been a few network hiccups, and new hotspot owners have been complaining about long sync periods, and this will only get longer in the future as the network grows.
The current generation of Full Helium hotspots is energy efficient. They use hardware that is low in power consumption when in use and when idle making them the ideal devices for use as hotspots. Currently, each hotspot stores and synchronises the entire Helium blockchain, creates challenges, provides Proof of Coverage (PoC) to earn HNT currency, and most importantly, offers data transfer.
This fact makes some other vital factors get overlooked, such as how much computer processing work each Hotspot is doing. This is a lot to consider for one device, hence why some hotspots do not perform as well as others. Thermal management is also a critical factor in their performance.
All the above has been taken into consideration. The case was put forward to create a new dynamic Light Hotspot, which will eradicate all of these challenges for the manufacturing of Hotspots and the end-users.
What is a Light Hotspot?
Light Hotspots are the progression 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 grows, each Hotspot running a full node experiences increasing load and falls out of sync due to the higher compute requirements of the miner.
To overcome this challenge, the Hotspot's consensus work has now been moved off physical Hotspots and onto Validators (HIP25) in Q3 2021. This simplifies the architecture and enables the network to grow exponentially while keeping block times and epochs stable.
As all approved Hotspots transition to a Light Hotspot architecture, it will satisfy the increase in demand and continue to expand the network coverage.
What are the key benefits of a Light Hotspot?
Light Hotspots will still allow Proof of Coverage HNT earning and transfer the all-important data to the Helium network; it will no longer store the blockchain on the device, issue challenges or even participate in consensus groups. For the end-users, average earnings will be slightly less since about 0.9% for challenges. However, the hotspot setup will be significantly quicker out of the box resulting in the network becoming more stable and distributed, thanks to the validator mainnet improving the overall experience for everyone.
The most significant advantage of the introduction of Light Hotpots is how quickly the Helium network will scale and grow. These light hotspots will be simpler to manufacture, requiring fewer components and modules, whilst becoming further energy efficient. The expectation is that the next generation of Hotspots will be more fit for purpose. They won't have to synchronise to the blockchain once you power them up; only register to the Helium network.
When the Light Hotspot software is fully developed and in production, it will satisfy the following properties:
- A Hotspot on the Helium network via Validators can participate in PoC beacons and witnesses and forward data packets.
- It does not store a copy of the blockchain, eliminating synchronisation.
- Does not create challenges (Validators will complete challenges on behalf of the Hotspot)
- Does not participate in Consensus Groups (relies on Validators for block production)
- Will no longer depend on libp2p or "gossip" and instead use gRPC, a new framework to communicate between distributed systems.
- Will be eligible to earn $HNT
In other words, the Light Hotspot software will allow the Hotspot to participate as a Full Hotspot with the help of validators, without the extra overhead of maintaining a local copy of the blockchain. All remaining Full Hotspots on the network will continue to work as Full Hotposts but eventually will become Light Hotspots.
Below is a comprehensive diagram of how the architecture of a Light Hotspot will work:
What Happens to Existing Hotspots?
The current first generation of hotspots will work just fine with no disadvantages over the Light Hotspots. As the Light Hotspot project moves from the beta stage to milestone 4 (Production), certain features will be disabled on the Full hotspots to ensure a level playing field. In milestone 2, all consensus activities will move to the validator mainnet.
Full Hotspots will not become less valuable against Light Hotposts, but based on the information available, there is no evidence that Full Hotspots will be considered inferior to future generations.
Light Hotspots Vs Full Hotspot
What does Nebra have to offer?
Nebra is currently developing a Light Hotspot that will include either a Raspberry Pi Zero or the ROCK Pi equivalent as the main embedded computer. The Light Hotspot will still consist of the Nebra LoRa concentrator module, ECC key, Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and all the interface functions you will find on the Full Hotspot, such as a Bluetooth pairing button and status LEDs.
The hardware design will be much more streamlined and includes all the same software features, including fleet management using the Nebra dashboard and remote access & diagnostics. Our customised software is where Nebra Light Hotspots will stand out from our competition.
The Light Hotspot price is yet to be revealed, but it is likely to be slightly less than the current Full Hotspot due to using a lower spec embedded computer.
As the Light Hotspot project moves forward in Q1 of 2022, we should see three types of solutions available for users:
- Light Hotspots (Including Full Hotspots which will become LightHotspots)
- Data-only Hotspots
It will be easier for newly approved manufacturers to produce Light Hotspots hardware, and prices should be slightly lower than Full Hotspots due to fewer hardware requirements. New users can provide PoC and data transfer more easily. Not only this, but validators will also be run by the people.