July 12, 2022
by Sarah Wray
A project using a crypto-mining Internet of Things (IoT) network to raise funds for digital inclusion in San Jose will not continue beyond the pilot phase, the city has confirmed.
The pilot with Helium was announced in September and ran from January.
Volunteer residents and small businesses hosted a total of about 20 hotspot nodes on a decentralized IoT network. These mine Helium (HNT) cryptocurrency tokens are based on providing wireless coverage and transferring data from nearby devices.
The San Jose program was designed to cover the cost of low-cost Internet plans for more than 1,300 low-income households in a year.
As the pilot phase draws to a close, said Clay Garner, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Jose and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI), cities today“We are moving our digital inclusion efforts to accelerate the renovation of devices that have already generated over $ 130,000 to the San Jose Digital Inclusion Fund with just two partnerships.
“We believe this is a more scalable, reliable and green fundraising model for cities to bridge the digital divide.”
Through its Digital Inclusion Fund, launched during the pandemic, San Jose aims to raise and distribute US $ 18 million in grants for Internet connectivity, digital training and devices over the next ten years. The Device Renovation Program restores devices donated by technology companies and sells them to fund new devices for San Jose students in need.
About the Helium pilot, Garner added: “We are in the process of converting HNT tokens to fiat currency with Helium. The final amount of dollars generated will be subject to changes in the price of HNT on the day HNT is converted to USD – and thus determining the number of residents who will receive the grant.We will exit the Helium pilot when the funds are fully paid out.
A Helium spokesman said: “The Helium ecosystem is currently working with other companies focused on smart city applications, and right now we are focusing on building the network with cases of key applications.”
Cryptocurrencies had begun to arouse interest in a handful of U.S. cities, but San Jose’s move comes under what has been described as a “cryptocurrency winter,” as the value of Bitcoin and others plunged in recent months.
Miami was the first to agree to accept funds from CityCoins, which aims to create a new revenue stream for local governments along with miners through city-specific crypto-tokens. Miami received a payout of $ 5.25 million from the project in February, but the coin has lost more than 80% of its value since its launch in August 2021.
After MiamiCoin, CityCoins also launched NYCCoin, but Mayor Adams’ administration has apparently not engaged since taking office in January. Philadelphia briefly explored the idea of its own CityCoin, but soon left it again.
In a separate initiative, San Jose recently announced a $ 750,000 Knight Foundation-funded program to increase transparency about technologies such as automatic license plate readers and to use data to create fair results. This builds on work led by Harvard Business School Leadership Fellow Christine Keung to create a data justice team and develop a justice framework.