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Helium Architecture Overview

This document covers all major parts of the Helium architecture. Here is the easiest way to visualize a Helium deploymemt end to end:

Platform Components

Atom Module

The Helium Atom Module enables you to connect just about any sensor or device to the cloud. Built by Helium, the Atom is the best combination of drop-in wireless connectivity and device security available on the market. Developers can add the Helium Atom to their device or sensor by using the PCB mounted module version or with the Atom Prototyping Module form factor. Helium Atoms connect to any Helium Element Access Points in range using the Helium Wireless Protocol (detailed below).

The Helium Atom Module is FCC, ETSI and IC certified. As such, it's ready to be dropped into production sensors and devices with no further certifcation required.

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Helium Wireless Protocol

Helium's wireless protocol is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 physical standard. Our implementation is optimized for long-range, bi-directional, secure data transmission in two frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and sub GHz. The Helium Atom Modules are capable of using both of these frequency bands dynamically. The data throughput limitations of these bands are approximately 240kbits/second and 40Kbits/second, respectively.

Helium uses a star topology. All devices connect directly to an Element Access Point and do not mesh. We chose this approach for reasons related to security and device battery life.

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Element Access Point

Helium Element Access Points are small pieces of hardware that create local Helium wireless coverage for any number of devices in range equipped with Helium Atoms. By default, any Helium Element will route data for any Helium Atom, regardless of whether or not they are part of your Helium organization. This is possible because all data on the Helium network is encrypted so we can guarantee that only you have access to it regardless of which Element is responsible for it at the local level. (That said, Elements can be made to only route traffic from your devices.)

All data that is routed through a Helium Element Access Point is encrypted and never inspected by the Access Point itself. Access Points can backhaul data via either Cellular, Ethernet, or both. The coverage range of an Element depends entirely on the deployment topology. In an open-air setting (for example on a farm), the range be up to 10 miles. When deployed inside buildings you can expect to get several floors worth of coverage. In urban settings, several blocks of coverage from one Element is not uncommon.

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Channels form the basis for Helium's optimized device data routing infrastructure. They are prebuilt connections to popular cloud services like Azure IoT, AWS IoT, and Google Cloud IoT Core and are deployed from the Helium Dashboard. For cloud integrations, channels not only handle securely routing data but also registering Helium devices with the target cloud provider and authenticating devices end to end. Channels can also be used to route data over generic protocols like HTTP and MQTT. All data routed through a Helium Channel is never stored by Helium and is entirely encrypted.

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Helium Dashboard

The Helium Dashboard is the hosted management interface for all Helium deployments. Dashboard enables users to view their entire Helium deployment and administer all hardware, software, and organizational components.

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