Scaling IoT Growth with Helium’s Open LNS Initiative
When the Helium Network initially launched, one of the limiting factors to expanding coverage was relying on a single provider of Hotspots. HIP-19, upon its passage by the community, created a means for the Network to be served by a diverse range of providers, which rapidly scaled supply. HIP-70 opens the door to a similar scaling opportunity for devices through a large and diverse set of LNS providers.
Today, the Helium Foundation is very excited to share more details about the Open LNS project. In addition to decentralizing device onboarding and management, Open LNS will provide more optionality to Helium Network users and IoT solutions providers.
What is Open LNS?
Under this initiative, named ‘Open LNS,’ anyone looking to deploy devices on the Helium Network can use any LoRaWAN Network Server (LNS) that complies with the LoRaWAN specification to access the Helium Network.
Open LNS aims to alleviate the usage and accessibility bottlenecks that stem from Console as the primary LoRaWAN Network Server option and instead open up use to any LNS that complies with the LoRaWAN specification to access the Helium Network.
Open LNS will deliver the following network improvements:
- Increased accessibility
- Accelerated device joins and a focus on increased speed
- Increased reliability
- Enabling massive scalability
Users can onboard devices to the Helium Network using any compatible LoRaWAN Network Server. This new specification removes the bottlenecks created by the Helium Console as the sole LNS option and empowers network users to utilize the LNS that best suits their needs.
Accelerated Device Joins and A Focus on Increased Speed
Before Open LNS, device information was stored directly on the Helium blockchain. This caused device join delays and created unwanted frustration for IoT solution providers. Re-engineering the backend architecture will remove this need and dramatically reduce the device join time.
Open LNS enables Oracles to be located in the same regions that hotspots are deployed in, providing reduced latency.
Enable Massive Scalability
Other Oracles can be added in regions around the globe to support future demand or to increase redundancy. The upgraded architecture opens the door for new device classes and innovative use cases. While the standard LoRaWAN Class A devices are versatile, adding ABP activation and Class C device support is essential for the network infrastructure. New LoRaWAN infrastructure offers IoT providers the ability to utilize the end device for their needs.
Why are these changes necessary?
In the current architecture, Helium Console is a full blockchain-following node. This blockchain dependency adds cost and complexity and can cause speed and efficiency issues, including device joins delays and slow, delayed, or dropped packet communications. In addition, the current architecture limits the scalability to handle future network growth. IoT solution providers can only access part of the catalog of LoRaWAN-capable devices, and there are limited options regarding how these devices are onboarded to the Helium Network. Efforts must be made to ensure that partners can scale their deployments vertically and horizontally.
Moving data transfer to Oracles will eliminate the need for data transfer accounting dependent on the blockchain and other chain-following entities. This eliminates the issues noted above while enabling data transfer to massively scale and removes the fear of chain halts affecting the underlying Network.
What is an Oracle?
Oracles are servers that provide blockchains with off-chain data. For Helium, Oracles (“Packet Router” in the above diagram) will provide data transfer information to the Solana blockchain to accurately distribute token rewards.
How would Open LNS provide more access to the Network?
Open LNS allows partners in the ecosystem to use any LoRaWAN Network Server (LNS) that complies with the LoRaWAN specification to access the Helium Network.
This increases the accessibility to the Network and allows users the flexibility to use whichever LNS they prefer based on features and capabilities. As mentioned earlier, the Helium Console does not support standard LoRaWAN features such as ABP activation or Class C devices. This initiative allows users to choose a different LNS, such as Chirpstack, which would help the features mentioned above. Reimagining this landscape of LNS providers offers users a new level of freedom and flexibility.
Does this affect rewards?
These changes do not directly affect earnings. They move the accounting process to Oracles. However, increasing the speed, reliability, and scalability contributes to the growth of the Network, which benefits all users over time.
What progress has been made?
Alpha testing for the Open LNS initiative began in early October this year. After a successful initial alpha period, a larger group of partners in the ecosystem participated in the ongoing beta test. Over the past few months, we have been hard at work and are happy to report that we are seeing positive evidence that ABP and Class C devices will be fully functional on the Helium Network.
What is the timeline?
Testing will continue through the start of this year, and we are excited for the official launch of the Open LNS initiative come Q1-Q2 of 2023.
Which Open LNS providers can I work with to connect to the Helium Network?
The first batch of providers within the Open LNS initiative will utilize Chirpstack and offer multi-tenant and private instances to businesses and individuals. The initial providers include Ingenious Things and Parley Labs, with more to come.
- IngeniousThings provides LNS services, including public device hosting using a pay-per-message model and private LNS instances using a pay-per-month model. IngeniousThings has been involved in LoRaWAN since 2016 and was an early contributor to the Helium ecosystem as one of the first public Helium Console hosts. IngeniousThings currently supports over 7,000 devices on its Helium IoT console and will offer a variety of features and services to help Helium users.
- Parley Labs provides Helium products and services and supports growth. Parley Labs plans to offer both public and private LNS hosting services. Parley Labs was a pioneer in the Helium ecosystem, providing pre-provisioned products, demonstrating Class C device functionality, and assisting clients in bringing their solutions to market. Parley Labs’ services include sourcing, procurement, provisioning, logistics, integrations, and engineering.
Get in touch if you’re interested in becoming an LNS provider for the Helium Network!
More questions? Come chat with us.
There are more opportunities to discuss questions and concerns related to HIP-70 and the Open LNS initiative. Join the discussion in Discord at the #hip-70-scaling-the-network channel, and look for dedicated Open LNS channels in the future.