Helium Starts Selling IoT Hotspots in US

Startup Helium has started to sell its peer-to-peer IoT hotspot in the US -- at $495 a pop -- to track things such as smart dog leashes, scooters and more.

The hotspot uses the low-bandwidth, open source "LongFi" protocol to connect to IoT devices, reaching up to 200 times farther than WiFi. This means that only 50 to 100 hotspots are needed to provide coverage for an entire city, the company claims.

Helium is first launching its hotspots in Austin, Texas. It intends to start shipping nationwide in the US in the fourth quarter of 2019. "Hotspot quantity is limited, due to manufacturing lead times, so get in now to be among the first," the company says on its website.

Helium is selling its hotspot as the catalyst for "a people's network," for low-bandwidth IoT devices that don't need the high-bandwidth capabilities of cellular or WiFi.

"Everyday things that we use shouldn't need cellular plans," Amir Haleem, CEO and co-founder of Helium, said in a statement. "By creating the world's first peer-to-peer wireless network that's owned and operated by individuals, the Helium Hotspot opens the door to an ecosystem of possibilities that allow people to connect anything from pet collars and ride-share scooters to sensors that monitor air and water quality."

Haleem teamed up with Shawn Fanning, the peer-to-peer pioneer and founder of Napster, and Chris Bruce, who founded and sold his IoT smart-baby monitor company Sproutling to Mattel, after the three met through Fanning’s startup, Rupture, which was acquired by Electronic Arts.

Helium is backed by GV (formerly Google Ventures), Khosla Ventures, FirstMark, Marc Benioff, Shawn Fanning and other VCs. The company has just scored a $15 million round of funding, bringing their total funding to $51 million.

Helium has already sold 80% of its hotspots in its first US market and added thousands of people to its global waiting list.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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