The Internet of Mobility Network Takes Inspiration from the Helium Network
The walled garden business models tied to legacy and web 2 enterprises have led to inefficient, anti-competitive and highly imperfect markets across most industries. While this has led to some oversized decacorns, the web 2 model leads to extractive value capture leading to demand for a new web 3 approach to network development.
The Helium Network is one of the first scaled web 3 solutions to create an alternative to the legacy walled garden model affecting real life. Helium has been a source of ongoing inspiration to the Internet of Mobility team as we seek to build a global decentralized, interoperable mobility network and this post seeks to highlight the areas of inspiration we have gained from the tremendous success of the Helium Network in recent years.
The Helium team recognized a decade ago that a centralized approach to building out a network for IoT devices would be hard to scale and instead, embracing a more decentralized network could achieve more cost effective and territorially inclusive access to what they anticipated would be growing demand from IoT device manufacturers and enterprise.
The Helium Network today has more than 1 million devices around the globe driven by a token incentivization model (proof of coverage) which has empowered any of us to become co-owners and contributors to a decentralized, interconnected IoT network. This approach drastically reduces the cost barriers to a centralized telecom operator approach to creating such a network. And the incentives further encourage coverage in rural areas that would normally not be of interest to a telecom operator.
While Helium is now expanding to other similar networks as they work to leverage the same model to generate a decentralized 5G network, I will focus mostly on their original IoT network as this is what has inspired a lot of our thinking as we build the Internet of Mobility Network.
Just as the telecom networks have sought walled garden business models and have underserved certain territories (e.g. lower density rural areas) or use cases (e.g. IoT network infrastructure), private transportation operators embracing web 2 business models have sought to create their own walled gardens and have similarly underserved territories and use cases/mobility needs. No one mobility operator or app can enable you to freely move between and within cities leveraging a range of mobility services from taxis and scooters to public transit or park and ride.
To tackle the fragmented walled garden business models persistent in mobility, the only solution (in our opinion) is a trustless global, interoperable mobility network that seamlessly connects public, private and shared mobility services. Such a network must allow a user to achieve “global mobility roaming” by accessing an agnostic open network of mobility services whereby the user can a) discover mobility services near them, b) combine the mobility services for door to door connectivity, c) unlock or book vehicles and services, and d) pay for those services through any interface connected to the network. That is the ambition of the IoM Network.
Here are some of the ways the IoM has been inspired by the Helium Network (the below table has more detail than the text summary):
Helium aims to create the “People’s Network” for wireless infrastructure to power the exploding IoT industry. IoM aims to create a decentralized, interoperable mobility network to support seamless mobility between and within cities around the globe.
Of course, IoM can only hope to reach the current and future trajectory of the Helium Network but I believe the IoM vision is equally ambitious.
2) Relationship between physical and digital
Both Helium and IoM leverage blockchain tech to seamlessly connect physical devices (nodes for Helium and vehicles/mobility services for IoM) for enterprise customers and end users.
3) Source of Hardware/Provider Network
In the case of Helium they are connecting decentralized nodes acquired by users who are token incentivized to grow the Helium Network. In the case of IoM we have started building the mobility network with established multinational suppliers of mobility services including taxis/ridehailing, scooter and bikesharing services, parking aggregators and services and more.
IoM expects to support decentralized vehicle and service connectivity similar to Helium in the future. For example, today there are more than 1.5bn privately owned vehicles. Car owners have been increasingly open to including their cars in P2P carsharing programs like Turo and Get Around (both unicorns) and carpooling services. IoM will enable private vehicle (or service owners like parking and EV charging) to post their vehicle or service to the IoM similarly to the way the Helium Network connects individually owned nodes.
4) Revenue Model
Helium currently monetizes the network from IoT companies seeking more ubiquitous and affordable access to the wireless infrastructure their devices need to remain connected. (Note: their 5G network will service both enterprise and end users of wireless services). In the case of IoM, the revenues come from transaction fees from bookings of mobility services. Like the current Helium IoT Network, the IoM network is compensated from enterprise seeking to offer seamless mobility for their users or employees.
Current commercial demand partners for the IoM include Brightline Trains (private high speed rail operator based in the US), London North Eastern Railway (LNER, UK public rail operator) and Vueling Airlines (a major low cost airline in Europe with 30mn+ annual passengers).
In this post I sought to illustrate how a successful protocol, the Helium Network, has been a continued source of inspiration for the Internet of Mobility team as we seek to build a global, interoperable mobility network. While we are early in our journey, we have set our sights on having the kind of impact the Helium Network has had, helping to tackle the problems inherent with the current state of the legacy and web 2 fragmented walled garden approaches prevalent today in the global transportation system.
About the Author
Boyd Cohen is the CEO and Co-founder of Iomob, a decentralized internet of mobility (IoM) network. Since obtaining his Ph.D. in strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado in 2001, he spent the past two decades focused on accelerating the path to a low-carbon sustainable economy. This included publishing 3 books, multiple peer reviewed articles, frequently contributing to Fast Company and starting a handful of ventures in the smart cities and sustainability arena.