SparkFun Announces Cryptocurrency Move, Opens Pre-Orders for Nebra HNT Hotspot Miner Hardware

New devices earn HNT cryptocurrency through "proof-of-coverage" in extending The People's Network LoRaWAN infrastructure.

SparkFun has announced a surprise move into the cryptocurrency game, opening pre-orders for a pair of Raspberry Pi-powered mining devices from Nebra — which, as part of their operation, help to expand coverage for the community-driven blockchain-powered The People's Network.

"You probably read the title and wondered, 'Is SparkFun really starting to offer cryptocurrency mining products,'" writes SparkFun's Xtopher of the launches. "And you're correct — two versions of these HNT Hotspot miners are both available for pre-order: One for indoor use, the other weatherproof so as to be safely used outdoors!"

Designed and built by Nebra, the HNT Hotspot miners are designed to mine the HNT cryptocurrency on the Helium blockchain. Where many cryptocurrencies rely on computationally-intensive proof-of-work or interest-like proof-of-stake, though, HNT relies on something else: Contributing coverage to The People's Network, built on Helium's LoRaWAN-based LongFi.

"The Nebra HNT Indoor Hotspot Miner earns the cryptocurrency HNT when devices connect, and for validating wireless coverage delivered by peers," the company's description explains. "Using a system called proof-of-coverage, Hotspot Miners earn more HNT when they're in range of other miners, but need to be at least 300 metres apart."

The two variants are functionally identical, providing roughly the same coverage on The People's Network on the same 915MHz frequency. The difference is purely in enclosure: The outdoor miner is housed in an IP67 weatherproof case, while the cheaper indoor variant is suitable only for use in sheltered areas. Both are controlled and monitored via a smartphone interface, and use a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ internally.

SparkFun has confirmed pricing of the miners at $349.95 for the indoor and $488.95 for the outdoor variants; stock is expected for the former in March and the latter in April. More information on the Helium blockchain, HNT cryptocurrency, and The People's Network, meanwhile, can be found on the Helium website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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