How do Helium Hotspots Work?

Blockchain is an exciting, emerging technology.

For food and beverage retailers, it can unlock all-new ways of managing inventory, ensuring product quality, and tracking the supply chain

Looking at the Helium blockchain, in particular, hotspots are central to the way the technology works. So if you’re a retail professional looking to utilize Helium blockchain for its numerous advantages, you’ll need to learn more about how these hotspots work.

An image of a lighthouse at night, emitting a bright light beacon

What are Helium blockchain hotspots? 

As mentioned above, hotspots are an integral part of the Helium network. 

Helium is a blockchain-based wireless system that controls a decentralized global network of hotspots — these hotspots enable data to be exchanged between IoT devices using wireless connectivity. 

Helium’s hotspots are plug-and-play wireless devices that provide connectivity 200 times the range of WiFi, using Helium LongFi, LoRaWAN wireless protocol, and the Helium blockchain. Only 50-100 Hotspots are necessary to supply coverage for a whole city.

There are benefits to using Helium hotspots versus other IoT (Internet of Things) communication. Helium is encrypted and therefore safe. It also provides global internet access at a lower cost than traditional cellular data (it can cost as little as ~$1 a year for each hotspot!) and users don’t need to buy expensive extra hardware such as eSIM cards for their IoT projects.

Helium hotspots can be produced by third-party manufacturers and approved by the Helium community.

How do Helium hotspots work?

Hotspots are crucial to the Helium network since they enable IoT devices to communicate.

From a practical perspective, Helium hotspots work similarly to other IoT networks — if you have a stable data connection, you can use them to build networks of inter-connected devices to track products along the supply chain, for example. Every time a device communicates with a hotspot, that device’s location is recorded on the blockchain, creating an irrefutable history of where devices have been and when.

Where other IoT projects fall short though, Helium rises to the top. And that’s when it comes to privacy. Thanks to its decentralized structure and consensus system, you can trust Helium’s network to be more secure while still offering greater range.

This consensus system is known as Proof of Coverage. The Proof of Coverage (PoC) technique ensures that each node delivers the network coverage they are supposed to.

How Helium and Helium hotspots can benefit the food and beverage industry 

Now let's look at how Helium hotspots and Helium blockchain might benefit the food and beverage industry specifically. 

We’ve seen no shortage of supply chain drama in recent years. With greater supply chain complexity comes weaker supply chain visibility. And it’s this that’s got food and beverage brands and retailers reaching for Helium hotspots. With the Helium network, businesses can streamline their supply chain operations, reduce processing errors, and experience other benefits delivered by the blockchain innovations below. 

How retailers and CPGs can use smart contracts 

CPGs and grocery retailers put a lot of trust in their suppliers. Word of mouth and recommendation are great ways to meet new suppliers, but you need to have reliable processes that keep the relationship working effectively.

Smart contracts can empower businesses to automate the manufacturing process — ensuring that raw-materials procurement, production, payment, paperwork, and more are all handled responsibly without any human intervention.

Helium hotspots play a crucial role in delivering all of the above!

An image of several bottles coming off the production line — Helium and Helium hotspots can help track items as they move through the supply chain

How retailers and CPGs can use hotspots to track damages 

Following on from the above, using blockchain with IoT in food handling makes it possible to identify specific sites and the area of the site where a particular product was damaged. 

That way, instead of recalling and destroying all the potentially damaged products, retailers and CPGs can simply check the lot numbers and eliminate just the damaged product(s) from the specific lot.

How retailers and CPGs can use hotspot-based finance 

Credit cards have limits and bank transfers charge a lot of fees. Enter blockchain payments as a secure way to manage financial transactions while minimizing costs and improving efficiency. 

Additionally, retailers can use blockchain hotspots for geo-location marketing promotions and other profit-boosting activities.

How retailers and CPGs can use Helium hotspots for consumer rewards 

Speaking of marketing and brand building, companies striving to evaluate, track, and boost customer loyalty could turn to Helium for these activities, too. Much like the loyalty programs you’ll be familiar with today, blockchains can be used to track loyalty points at a customer level — blockchain can also function as a rewards platform, where customers spend their accumulated points.

For brands and retailers operating within the ethical, ‘good for you’, organic, or other niche sectors, blockchain tracking can also help build customer trust (and therefore loyalty) by providing transparency over where a product has come from and which suppliers have been involved in its supply chain. 

How to get started with Helium hotspots and the Helium network 

With 900,000+ Helium hotspots in operation today, it’s never been easier to start benefiting from this blockchain technology.

It can get very technical, however, so unless you’ve got the in-house skills and capabilities to manage a blockchain project yourself, it’s worth finding a trustworthy blockchain development partner who can set the network up and help optimize it over time.

If you need some Helium-spiration, you can check out these articles also on our blog. 

At Buffalo Market, we’re proud to be at the forefront of blockchain innovation within the food distribution industry. We’re here to help our partners make the most of emerging technologies and to help deliver excellent, high-quality products from suppliers to grocery store shelves.

Get in touch to find out how else we help retailers when it comes to better distribution practices.

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How Buffalo Market uses Helium for food distribution

As a food distributor, Buffalo Market is keenly aware of the historical lack of transparency in the industry and how it leads to frustration and disappointment. That’s why one of the primary tenets of Buffalo Market’s business philosophy is to be as transparent as possible, both internally with our team members and externally with our retail and CPG partners.  

To that end, our fleet of delivery trucks is outfitted with Helium-enabled sensors. These sensors allow us to collect and openly share data with our customers. If a store receives a delivery of frozen food, they can trust that our delivery driver kept the product at temperature the entire time it was in transit. How? Because they’re able to freely access the data collected from onboard temperature and humidity sensors on the blockchain.

Using Helium sensors and blockchain technology, Buffalo Market helps foster trust between ourselves and our clients and provides better service based on reliability and accountability.

To learn more about the retail practices that work in 2022 and beyond, check out the rest of the Buffalo Market blog or contact us today!

See an interview between Buffalo Market co-founder Sean Howell and Helium's Jacob Swinn here.

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