On Friday, Mashable reported that Helium, a crypto project praised by the New York Times earlier this year and whose parent company is backed by investment firms like Andreessen Horowitz, has misled people about which companies it associates. Helium advertises on its homepage that Lime, the mobility company behind these electric scooters and bicycles, uses its cryptographic wireless mesh network. However, the company told Mashable that it hasn’t had a relationship with the company since 2019 and has only run initial tests using helium technology.
Now Salesforce, whose logo appeared right next to Limes on the Heliums website, says it doesn’t even use the technology. Helium is not a Salesforce partner, Salesforce spokesperson Ashley Eliasoph told The Verge in an email. When I asked about the graph below, which appeared on the Helium website, Eliasoph said it was incorrect.
The Helium website went on to list Lime and Salesforce as customers within hours of the Mashables report released.
Between 4:35 PM ET and 5:30 PM ET, the Lime and Salesforce logos were removed from the Helium home page. The Verge emailed Helium at 4:48 PM ET asking about its relationship with Salesforce, to which the company has not responded at the time of writing.
The Helium site no longer mentions Lime or Salesforce.
Unlike many crypto projects, Helium’s basic tone is actually relatively easy to understand (although there are certainly ways to complicate it if you wish). The idea is to install a helium hotspot in your home, which can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, and for network users to connect to it when they are nearby and need data. The more data passes through your hotspot, the more HNT (helium cryptocurrency) you earn.
In short, it is a kind of decentralized mesh network where the people who manage the nodes can take advantage of the availability of their data. (It should be noted, however, that using the home internet in this way violates the terms of service of many internet service providers.) The economy should work because businesses or individuals pay to use the Helium network instead of, for example, cellular data.
Members of the r / helium subreddit are increasingly talking about low helium yields.
On average, they spent $ 400 to $ 800 to buy a hotspot. They expected $ 100 a month, enough to recoup expenses and enjoy passive income.
So his income dropped to just $ 20 a month. pic.twitter.com/0jx2zLUaiA
Liron Shapira (@liron) July 26, 2022
But now we have to ask ourselves: who wants to pay for it? Not many people it seems. As a Twitter thread points out, a report from The Generalist indicates that only about $ 6,500 in data credits (or DCs) has been spent on accessing the Helium network in the past month. This is in stark contrast to the millions of dollars people have spent building hotspots for the network in hopes of cashing in, and it would be surprisingly low if Lime actually connected its scooters to the network or if Salesforce customers used it to monitor inventory, as Elio pointed out in 2017.
Yes, these exist and are glorious.
The New York Times article, which cited helium as an example of how cryptography can be very useful in solving certain types of problems, cited Lime and Victor, a rodent and reptile trap company, as helium users. Limes now apparently denies this (and says he sent a termination and desist letter to Helium), and Victor did not immediately respond to questions from The Verges about whether he is using the network. However, the website that advertised Helium in its partnership advertisement as a place to buy Helium-compatible Victor mousetraps no longer appears to be selling them. There also appears to be no mention of helium in Victor’s documentation.
However, Helium’s documentation points to Victors products, stating that a user on the Helium network needs 50,000 DC per month to send data for his fleet of Helium-connected mouse traps. (Yes, these exist and are wonderful.)
We also reached out to Dish, which announced last year that it would be using Helium’s 5G network. This announcement will also be posted on the Helium homepage, on top of the latest news.
I would like to conclude with a farewell thought. The Times story writer claims that without crypto technology attached, Helium couldn’t really work, citing the fact that the company started out without any kind of crypto integration and only got the idea when it was about to collapse. But for years, disadvantaged communities have had to build their own local networks after being ignored by the government and communications companies. This contradicts what this Chipper Helium advertisement implies; that people only want to do something for their community if they are paid for it. Then again, it’s no surprise that Helium skewed an important piece of the puzzle.