You might be wondering what we mean by the “Decentralized Web” (or D-Web) and how its different than the modern web. The internet as we know it runs on what’s known as a “client-server” model, where internet users request information stored on centralized servers using their computers, smart phones, or other internet-connected device. These servers then store information about the requesting device, and the owner of these servers essentially “owns” that collected data. Companies like Google, Amazon, or Microsoft can use the data stored on their servers to provide optimized services to users, but they also package and sell this data to advertisers in order to generate income. How would the decentralized web treat your data differently?
Think of the modern shipping/transport system. Semi-trailer trucks take single containers of goods over a highway to and from large shipping and logistics centers. At their destinations, these goods are unloaded as smaller boxes, carried in stacks by forklifts, and then individually stacked or opened by employees. At its simplest, the logistics center is connected to a port, where ships carrying thousands of these individual containers are docked. Here we have three different scales: (1) the mega-ships carrying containers, (2) the trucks carrying one container, (3) and the people carrying single boxes at the final destination. And the transfer between scales is handled at different nodes in the system: the port/logistics center goes from scale (1) to (2), and a distribution center from scale (2) to (3). At no point on this chain are the goods unpacked, or claimed by one of the shipping or distribution companies. They are at all times the property of the end-user or the original shipper.
We can think of the helium hotspot as the distribution center, and the central router serving multiple hotspots as the port/logistics center. Each of these nodes serves to transmit a small amount of goods through relatively cheap means to a centralized location where batches of these goods can be shipped via more expensive means that are viable at scale. Without compromising the ownership or integrity of the goods. This is the type of system we are trying to replicate for IoT data.
Our current system would be the equivalent of the distribution center unpacking the boxes to view what is being shipped, recording the information of the shipper and end-user, and selling this to advertisers for a profit. Instead, their profits come from a fee charged for transmitting goods, or receiving them from a supplier. This is where Helium’s cryptocurency and blockchain systems come in. Each data transaction is recorded on the Helium blockchain ledger, and “tokens” of cryptocurrency are distributed to the owner of the hotspot (i.e. data distribution center). The Helium blockchain protocols provide means of verifying transaction, verifying that network service is in fact being provided by the hotspot owner claiming funds from a transaction, and verifying the location of the hotspot device. At no point are the contents of the data revealed directly to the ISP connected to the hotspot, or the personal data of the IoT device user submitting the data. All of the data is encrypted through the blockchain.
This blockchain forms the basis of a “peer-to-peer” network where each device on the network is an equal participant in both receiving and transmitting data, and is compensated for doing so. On this network, only the end users of the transaction may access the data; it is encrypted at every other node on the network. This vision of a network where everyone participates, everyone is compensated for their contribution, and no one’s personal information is compromised is what we call the decentralized web.