The Mappers project is a crowd-sourced effort to build a true-signal coverage map of the Helium network across the globe.
The goal for this roadmap is to get the Helium coverage map to a state where it offers a full understanding of the ubiquitious LoRaWAN and 5G networks and can be adapted for future protocols. In pursuit of this goal, there are several high-level objectives that are broken out into their tactical subparts.
Since this project is an open source, community-driven effort; timelines have not been applied to the various goals listed. We encourage the community to adopt any of the goals in the effort of growing the project.
Make It Easier to Contribute
Mapping Device Tutorials
In the nearterm, the easiest way to enable more people to participate in mapping is simply to make it easier for them to get started.
Any community member with experience getting their own device set up can help the next wave of mappers get their start! If you have experience getting a device set up, consider contributing your experience in the form of an in-depth guide.
Develop BLE Mapper
We seek to build new firmware, initially targeting bluetooth-enabled, nRF52-based devices like the RAK WisBlock or TTGO T-Echo. Building on this platform allows us to address some of the shortcomings of LoRa-only mappers by leveraging the Bluetooth to pair with a phone.
This firmware will be open source and accompanied by a protocol that other developers can follow if they wish to build their own variations. Any party will be able to manufacture and sell their own mapping devices.
The current generation of mapping devices do a great job of showing coverage where it exists, but are unable to report where coverage does not exist. By pairing with a phone, we can utilize the cellular connection to report when an uplink has been attempted. With this information we have geographic record a packet that should exist that can be compared with received data.
The device can optionally include a GPS module which would allow reducing overall cost. When a GPS module is not available, a phone connection would be required to provide geographic information.
Existing devices will continue to be supported.
Native Mapping App
In association with the new BLE-based mapper, a purpose-built phone app must be developed to interface with these devices. This opens many opportunities to streamline the experience for community members joining the project.
The onboarding of devices will no longer require the creation of a console account, EUI onboarding, or device flashing. Devices will be onboarded throught the app, and data credit costs may either be paid by a party like the Helium Foundation, or covered through a small in-app fee. Just pair the device with the app and it's ready to map.
To make sure all mappers are up to date, software has been developed that will allow the mapping device to be updated directly through the app as the BLE mapper firmware evolves.
Better Understand Mappers Data
Continued Mappers v2 Improvements
Mappers v2 was structured to be the 'Minimum Lovable Release' of the longterm vision, a Helium Coverage Explorer. In pursuit of the next major release, we have used v2 to teach us the value of the data, how it is used, and how community members most enjoy contributing. The v2 platform has already done a lot to help us in this respect. In the effort of continuing our user research, we will continue to add additional features and enhancements. These additions will continue to be tracked as issues on the Mappers Github project.
Mappers v3 (Coverage Explorer)
In pursuit of supporting more in-depth analysis of the data, more tools, layers, and metrics can be surfaced in the app. A rework of the UI will allow these features to be added ad-hoc to the application. It is also possible that the mappers data finds itself in the Helium Explorer, augmenting the data already offered there.
As example, a few features that may land in a v3 release:
- Showing the coverage for a single hotspot.
- New map layers showing redundancy or recency.
- Filters for altitude or spreading factor.
- Clearing of data from old assertions of hotspots.
Enable Community Participation
Mappers v1 and v2 have offered a glimpse of what is possible with the data collected by the Mappers community. Outside of the Mappers project, we have seen explosive growth of community-developed apps like Hotspotty and Helium Vision - to name a few.
In the interest of enabling the community to build on top of the Mappers dataset, a cohesive API can be built to support developers in crafting their own reprentation of Helium coverage.
All source of this project will continue to be freely available to the community. In purusit of further enabling community involvement, documentation of code, issues, and roadmap will continue to be a high priority. Open source also means nothing is set in stone, and community input continues to shape the future of this project.
Further Engage Mappers
Should mapper growth be lower than desired, there are opportunities to further grow. Other roadmap items likely take priority.
- Capture the Hex game
Explore Secure Mappers
Many have recognized the value of real-world coverage data as a valuable resource for proof of coverage and hotspot verification. However, the current system of submitting mapper data is inadequate for protecting the incentive-based models that reward hotspot owners. This is due only to the fact that submitting false data to Mappers would be a trivial task. (As such, no data from this system would ever be used in this manner.)
In order to leverage Mappers data for network verification; new ingest protocols will need to be built and new classes of hardware will need to be developed that are hardened against attack by those who might submit false coverage information.
Additional Community Input
As with all parts of the Helium project, we look to the community to develop use cases, provide feedback, and define new features. Get involved in the Mappers project: