The Future of Hotspot Apps and Wallets in the Helium Ecosystem

Feb. 17th 2022

7 min read

The Future of Hotspot Apps and Wallets in the Helium Ecosystem

The meteoric growth of the Helium Network has been incredible, made possible by our Hotspot Makers and everyone in the Helium community. As we pass half a million and approach 1 million Hotspots and beyond, it’s time for the team to revisit the purpose and functionality of our mobile apps, namely the Helium App.

The open-source Helium App made by the core team has enabled the community to add Hotspots to the Network and manage and use HNT. The team allowed HIP-19 manufacturers to add the ability to do basic onboarding and diagnostic features but manufacturers have been limited to this base set of capabilities.

Over the past few months, the core team has been working with DeWi and Makers to develop the tools needed to create their own mobile and web apps. Through this work, we’ve released Software Development Kits (SDKs) that act as building blocks for Makers to build their own apps and an entire Maker Starter app that is open sourced and can be cloned to work out of the box; all using the same security that our users expect from the Helium App. Each Maker app will have the ability to onboard and manage the Maker’s Hotspots, with enhanced diagnostic features that were previously unavailable in the Helium App.

What This Means

  1. Makers will start introducing their own apps and web dashboards over the next few weeks. When Makers are ready, we will start removing onboarding ability for those Hotspots in the Helium App.
  2. Helium will release a brand new app, called the Helium Wallet to manage your HNT and identity on the Helium Network. We’re very excited to make this available to everyone. Read below for more details on the Beta launch date and features. All users will be encouraged to use the Helium Wallet app.
  3. The Original Helium App will reduce its scope to manage Helium Hotspots only. Wallet functionality will be disabled over time. This app will be rebranded to the Helium Hotspot app to manage Original Helium Hotspots.

These are very exciting changes and we’ve prepared an FAQ available below to answer common questions. But first..

Helium Wallet App

The Helium Wallet app will be your identity on the Helium Network. A place to manage your HNT and wallet accounts, this new app will be available for open Beta in Q2 2022 on iOS and Android.

All Maker apps will be able to deeplink to the Helium Wallet app to sign transactions, including adding a Hotspot, updating location, antenna, and elevation, and transferring a Hotspot. This means users only have to enter their seed phrase in one place and not individually, in each Maker app.

Remember, your seed phrase is the private key to your entire wallet, including HNT, Hotspots, and Validators, and should be kept safe.

Have more than 1 Helium wallet? Import and manage them all in a single app without signing out and signing back in. You’ll also be able to nickname each account to keep track of each account’s purpose.

The Helium Wallet app will support both 12 word and 24 word seed phrases. By default, all new accounts created with this app will be 24 words and 12 word seed phrases can be imported.

Are you a developer that needs access to testnet? This is the app for you. The Helium Network actively encourages community contributions and providing access to Testnet via the app is a step towards enabling that goal.

Send HNT to multiple recipients in one payment transaction. Advanced users have been using this feature in the Wallet CLI for over a year, and now we’re bringing it to the app.

Save commonly used addresses in a new address book.

And more features coming.. Nano X support anyone?

Under the Hood

On the surface, expanding the App ecosystem to include Makers may seem like a very small change, however, on a deeper level this means everything that comes along with onboarding a Hotspot to the Network will now be in complete control of approved Makers.

This is a database that DeWi controls. Each HIP-19 Maker has their own API key to add Hotspots to the server but has no insight to its maintenance. If the Onboarding Server malfunctions or experiences an outage (it seldom has), Makers have to reach out to DeWi.

By open sourcing the Onboarding Server, Makers are in full control of how they maintain this database, who has access to it, and how they can troubleshoot onboarding issues.

Helium Hotspot app tries to be agnostic in how users interact with their Hotspots. In its attempt to work with all types of Hotspots, the app wasn’t able to fully take advantage of the additional tooling that Makers have enabled on their Hotspot firmware.

By providing Makers full control, each can differentiate their ability to resolve issues, perform fast-sync, clear SD cards, and even provide networking tools to avoid that dreaded “relayed” peer-to-peer status.

With Light Hotspots coming around the corner, the team has realized that Bluetooth connectivity may not be the most effective way to add a Hotspot to the Network. Some Makers have started using QR codes generated from their web dashboards to onboard Hotspots and while it works fine in the Helium App, it’s not quite the ideal user experience.

By giving Makers complete control, they’re able to create a non-Bluetooth experience all within their app.

By allowing Makers the freedom to create and integrate community features, the community will now have more features than ever at their finger tips.

Makers and other partners like Hotspotty have got this on lock. Everyone should check out community apps in the ecosystem.

FAQ

Yes. All Makers, in-market and upcoming will be required to have their own App.

Short answer: yes. However, you should only need to enter your seed phrase into the Helium Wallet app and Maker apps will issue a signing request (via deeplinking) to your Wallet so your seed phrase remain safe.

Makers have until March to have their Apps available for the community to use.

We will keep Makers on the Hotspot app until Makers release their own app, but not much longer past March. We will work with Makers to make sure this is done as soon as possible.

Helium Hotspot support will not go away. You can continue to use the Helium Hotspot app to manage your Hotspot and run diagnostics.

Congratulations on the find! You can use the Helium Hotspot app to onboard your Hotspot.

Yes, this App will be used to sign transactions for any Maker app and will be your Wallet where you earn HNT mined from your Hotspot.

Once you import your 12 word seed phrase, all your HNT will appear in the Helium Wallet app. Your tokens and Hotspots are safe.

You can find our SDK tools here: https://helium.github.io/react-native-helium/index.html

Our Maker Starter app here: https://github.com/helium/maker-starter-app

Yes, you can use the same 12 words from the Helium Hotspot app on the Helium Wallet app. Your HNT, Hotspots, Validators, and Data Credits will remain associated with that seed phrase which represents your private key on the Helium Network.

The Helium Hotspot app uses 12 words to generate the private key of a wallet account and is based off the BIP-39 word list with 2048 English words. The odds of guessing a seed phrase is one in 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 and a 24 word seed phrase has even more combinations.

In short, yes 24 words is better than 12. But 12 is not terrible either.

You’ll first be asked to authenticate and “link” your Helium Wallet app with the Maker app like so:

Then you’ll continue the process on the Maker app. Here is an example of adding a Hotspot from the Maker app, and deeplinking to the Helium Wallet app to sign:

Once you confirm the transaction, the Helium Wallet app signs the transaction with your private key (derived from the seed phrase) and sends the signed transaction back to the Maker, who will submit it to the Helium Blockchain.

We recommend all Maker apps to use deeplinking to the Wallet app to sign transactions. Submitting your seed phrase anywhere is a risk, do so at your own discretion. Only use Maker apps advertised from their official channels.

We’re very excited as we enter the next phase of Hotspots, Apps, and Wallets on the Helium Network. Join us on the Helium Community Discord to continue the discussion.

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