HIP 70: Helium Core Team Proposes to Migrate to Solana
Announced today, HIP 70 is a proposal by the Helium core developer team to improve the operational efficiency of the Helium blockchain significantly. To achieve this goal, the core developer team proposes moving Proof-of-Coverage (“PoC”) and Data Transfer Accounting to Oracles, which simplifies the system architecture and allows for the selection of a more scalable Layer 1 (“L1”) — specifically, Solana. Such a move would bring significant economies of scale through the vast range of composable Solana developer tools, features, and applications.
This blog explains PoC and Data Transfer Accounting under the proposed architecture and — as a result of moving these two actions to Oracles — why the core developers propose Solana as the new Layer 1 to support the Helium Network.
For context, Oracles are entities that connect blockchains to external systems, thereby enabling smart contracts to execute based upon inputs and outputs from existing real-world servers or devices.
Furthermore, this blog explains how the change impacts the entire ecosystem — from users to builders to manufacturers. While this blog serves as an educational resource, we encourage the community to dive into HIP 70, have discussions with other Helium Community members in the dedicated HIP 70 Discord channel, and post questions in the questions form here and linked at the bottom of this blog. The Foundation will utilize submitted questions in upcoming communications.
It’s important to note that since the approval of HIPs 51, 52, and 53, the Helium Foundation and Nova Labs have been discussing the proposal of HIP 70 for months. We are confident HIP 70 will support the implementation of HIPs 51–53, and together with the core developers who authored it, the Helium Foundation fully supports HIP 70.
To help inform and educate the community, the Foundation will host a Town Hall with the core developers, followed by the monthly Community Call and a Community AMA on Twitter Spaces. A community-wide vote will follow on September 12th, closing on September 21st. (Extended from an original date of September 18th to allow for further discussion both at Helium House and with considered proposals.)
* HIP 70 Proposes three major changes:
1. Moving Proof-of Coverage to Oracles.
2. Moving Data Transfer Accounting to Oracles.
3. Migrating the Helium Network, including its tokens, governance, and economics around HNT, DC, IOT, and MOBILE, onto the Solana blockchain (see below).
* Without the need to perform PoC and Data Transfer Accounting on-chain, the blockchain requirements to support the Helium Network become much simpler. Given this, HIP 70 proposes moving to Solana.
* Solana is a Layer 1 blockchain that focuses on the importance of scalability and speed. Solana’s Proof-of-History consensus algorithm makes the time to confirm transactions on-chain blazing fast while not compromising on security or scalability. The proposed migration from Helium’s L1 chain to Solana’s highly-scalable and fast blockchain would allow the Helium ecosystem to achieve higher uptimes, greater composability (interactivity with other crypto projects), and a faster user experience while maintaining the security and low cost of using the Helium Network.
* HIP 70 describes an implementation of HIPs 51, 52, and 53 and will impact staked Validators who are operating block production and challenge creation as they do today.
* After the move to Solana L1, 6.85% of HNT emissions will return to the miner pool, benefitting Hotspot Owners in all subDAOs.
The Helium Network has achieved incredible growth with close to 1 million Hotspots deployed worldwide and increasing data transfer through an ever-expanding list of use cases. Whether monitoring the temperature of community food pantries or improving agricultural sustainability through drone technology, more people each day are using the Helium Network to connect devices and sensors to the Internet at an affordable cost.
To scale the Network, core developers and members of the community have spent countless hours keeping up unprecedented growth with a focus on two critical areas:
- Reliable Proof-of-Coverage (“PoC”) activity (with proportional and fair rewards distribution);
- Reliable Data Transfer activity (and consistent accounting)
In the last several months, these have proven to be a challenge for users: reduced PoC activity due to Network size and blockchain/Validator load and issues with data packet transfer due to complexities of unnecessarily managing the flow of data and subsequent accounting on the Helium blockchain.
With HIP 51 underway, and as a result, more protocols (e.g., IOT, MOBILE), more users, and use cases on the Helium Network, HIP 70 addresses the problems described above. Additionally, proposing Solana as the L1 to support the Network in transaction and settlement. In short, HIP 70 addresses network speed, reliability, and scalability.
In the current architecture, specific transactions, including Proof-of-Coverage and Data Transfer Accounting, are processed on-chain unnecessarily. This data bottleneck can cause efficiency issues such as device join delays and problems with data packet communications, which bloats the Network and causes slow processing times. HIP 70 proposes transferring these processes onto Oracles which will resolve these issues and further stabilize the Network.
Moving PoC to Oracles
Moving Proof-of-Coverage to Oracles will enable more beacon and witness activity, simplifying the transacting of receipts by using a more traditional large data pipeline to transfer receipts and associated rewards outside of chain block creation and processing. Instead of Hotspots being told when to Challenge, they will do it on their own, automatically. And, instead of Challengers and Hotspot witnesses sending their confirmations back to a Validator that may or may not be online or synced, it’s sent to a cloud server that’s always up and synced. The new design adds fault tolerance to the Proof-of-Coverage system more than ever before. It also unlocks more opportunities to use the historical receipt dataset to improve gaming detection systems and reduce development and deployment time.
This approach has the additional benefit of returning the PoC Challenger reward (0.85% of HNT emissions today) to the Hotspot Owner pool benefitting Hotspot Owners in all subDAOs, as Validators will no longer need to process this traffic.
Moving Data Transfer Accounting to Oracles
To support the enormous Network built by Hotspot Owners, HIP 70 also proposes moving Data Transfer Accounting to Oracles, similarly to the proposed PoC changes. Today, data delivery depends on the blockchain and chain-following entities such as Validators and Routers. This blockchain dependency can cause issues for data delivery and affect applications that use the LoRaWAN Network. Moving the accounting of Data Transfer to Oracles allows the scalability of data delivery and associated rewards as the Network grows.
The system improvements from moving PoC and Data Transfer Accounting to Oracles simplify the Helium architecture, allowing the blockchain to focus on payments, transactions and settlement, and identity management.
Blockchains Then and Now
When Helium embarked on its journey to become the world’s fastest-growing decentralized wireless Network, there weren’t nearly as many blockchains to build on as there are today. Without a blockchain that met the requirements needed to support the Network, Helium’s only option was to build one from the ground up.
The core developer team and the Helium Foundation are incredibly proud and excited about the decentralized wireless network the community has built. But over the last few years, the Helium community has managed chain halts, consensus rule updates, and a tremendous amount of firefighting.
With the massive maturity that Helium has seen, so too has the blockchain and crypto ecosystem matured with it. There is now a myriad of L1 options to build on. Rather than spend time and effort improving Helium’s L1, it became clear that the Helium community could benefit from the developments and shared resources from the larger industry.
A Simplified Blockchain Requirement
Moving PoC and Data Transfer to Oracles means the Helium blockchain only has to focus on payments (peer-to-peer and rewards) and identities (Accounts, Hotspots, Routers, etc.). In this streamlined form, the blockchain is open to moving to a more scalable architecture — one that handles payments and identities with the speed, cost, and governance primitives that support the scale the Helium Network requires.
On this simple criteria, alongside a large developer ecosystem and cross-project composability, the core developers believe it’s in the Helium Network’s best interest to migrate the chain to Solana with HIP 70.
What Helium Stands to Gain
The Helium community will gain a thriving developer ecosystem of thousands of developers worldwide who are working on applications that are only possible on Solana due to its fast and cheap transactions; real-world NFT applications, business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketplaces, lending and borrowing, the Solana Saga mobile phone (which will create a crypto-native mobile application stack) and more. This developer ecosystem would start to leverage Helium on-chain and in the real world, accelerating the adoption of Helium across many industry verticals.
Helium also benefits from the richly composable and open-source community that Solana has created. Open source code benefits Helium: solved problems, and their solutions are readily tested and available for the community to use.
Today, the Helium blockchain is developed in Erlang. Although this has supported the Network’s growth to date, it has a much smaller developer community. It limits the ability to attract new core developers and contributors (especially among blockchain communities). On the other hand, Rust is the language in which the Solana blockchain is developed and attracts a larger pool of full-time, talented, creative blockchain developers. In its 2020 Developer Survey, Stack Overflow saw Rust as the most beloved programming language. As developers create new applications that integrate Helium on Solana, builders will be able to benefit from the many open source libraries that will make deploying, scaling, and securing these new applications significantly more accessible.
According to Coindesk, the number of daily active users on Solana was 32 million as of June 2022. This growth is up 56% from last year. Unlike Ethereum or other EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatible chains, Solana is designed to scale to process hundreds of thousands of transactions per second, making it the blockchain of choice for high-volume activity at low costs. It was also recently announced that Jump Crypto would be developing a second validator client for Solana, making it the only blockchain other than Ethereum to boast such an element of decentralization and network stability.
Because the changes proposed in HIP 70 significantly impact the Helium ecosystem, we’ve outlined implications for each partner if the proposal passes. One of the most significant impacts will be on Validator owners and operators.
After significant consideration, discussion, and debate, the Helium Core Developers, with support from The Helium Foundation and other critical stakeholders, have proposed that the Helium Network transition to the Solana blockchain. Solana offers significant benefits to Helium that include, but are not limited to, scale, community, and composability. Proof-of-Coverage and Data Transfer Accounting will be moved to Oracles, allowing the Network to be supported by a new L1, Solana, to improve speed, reliability, and scalability.
This change will be momentous in scope, impact, and benefit to the Helium Network and its users. Technical, community, and blockchain implications were thoughtfully discussed and considered in this blockchain transition process. Ultimately, the consensus among the core developers and The Helium Foundation was that Solana was the best blockchain to accommodate the needs of the Helium Network as we continue to grow and expand globally.
The Helium Foundation will facilitate several discussions for the community to ask questions and share feedback. Submit questions ahead of time with the Google Form here and linked below. There will be plenty of time to answer questions in Discord, through Community Calls, or Twitter Spaces. If you desire a direct response from the Helium Foundation, leave your contact information in the form. Take a look at the timeline below for critical dates and communications:
Please submit your questions about HIP 70 here, and the Helium Foundation will do its best to get them answered.
Still have questions? Nova Labs’s COO, Frank Mong, wrote a great FAQ.
Couldn’t make it to the Helium Community’s HIP 70 events? Our community recorded them for you!
The Hotspot podcast covers the HIP 70 Twitter Space and the HIP 70 Community Town Hall.