On last weeks community call, FOAM was joined by Jehan Tremback from Althea Network. Althea works with communities to set up decentralized internet service providers with the mission to provide a faster and cheaper internet through decentralization. You can find the full recording of the community call here.
In this post I want to dig deeper into a specific subject that was touched upon at the end of the call; the idea of combined hardware bundles and following symbiotic qualities of certain blockchain protocols.
But first, some context:
The Althea network consists of: individuals that load up their device or wifi router with cryptocurrency ($DAI) to pay for internet access, rooftop transmitters that form meshes and forward packets & uplinks that act as gateways to the internet. Althea is already working with local communities to set up networks, with its first two communities in Medellín and Oregon.
FOAM Location (Proof of Location) aims to provide unspoofable location verification through a similar decentralized mesh network, but made up of radio beacons. Users that want their location proven pay a small fee to a nearby “zone”, formed by at least 4 radio beacons and in turn receive a digital receipt of their location. This receipt can then be used in a variety of applications for proving your location.
Both projects aim to provide the necessary incentives and resources for communities, entities and individuals to set up mesh networks and provide services to their surrounding local areas. Because of this shared aim, there are clear overlaps and synergies.
“Any Althea node is also a great place to put a FOAM zone anchor.”
Jehan Tremback , Founder, Althea
In terms of physical setup of the needed hardware for the protocols both social coordination and increased return on investment on infrastructure seem apparent.
For the social aspect, it is safe to presume that the person that hears about Althea, is convinced by the value proposal and proceeds to become part of the Althea network by installing and maintaining a rooftop transmitter also is a great candidate for becoming a zone anchor (and vice versa). Organizations like Redmellin, the organization behind Altheas deployment in Medellín is a good example of an entity that also would be a great fit for setting up initial FOAM zones as we launch our first FOAM testnets. Shared tools for finding suitable rooftops, overlapping technical documentation and the co-organization of local events are other ways to further strengthen these synergies.
Furthermore, since required infrastructure can be shared across the two hardware setups, installing both protocols simultaneously would enable a larger return on investment where hardware costs and initial work required now generates two income sources instead of one. As a result of this, one could already envision combined hardware bundles which would enable the direct simultaneous deployment of both an Althea rooftop transmitter and FOAM zone anchor.
Time synchronization enabling asymmetric routing
But the two projects are not only symbiotic in their community and setup efforts. The shared synchronous time across radio beacons needed for accurate location triangulation within FOAM could have unexpected advantages for the Althea network, enabling something called asymmetric routing .
As Jehan explained during the community call, internet routing protocols like the Babel routing protocol used by Althea currently use round time to calculate latency. Therefore they can only calculate the total time needed to get a packet to a point and back, using the average between both to chose an optimal route that is used both ways. This logic is called symmetric routing. With shared synchronous time between points, like enabled by FOAM, one could isolate and track the latency in both directions. This would allow the routing protocol to then chose the optimal route for each direction, potentially radically reducing total travel times. This is called asymmetric routing.
Symbiotic protocols and hardware
As the different services are not limited in synergies by hardware setup, but as we are seeing in the concept of asymmetric routing , sometimes symbiotic in even more complex and unexpected ways, what are other protocols that require physical hardware that could be combined and be part of this? What are other combinations that would make sense with FOAM? What are other protocols that perform different services that can be run on LoRa chips?
As an example, the need for rooftop access with potential solar providers that could be part of the same setup and community efforts. How would this impact potential return on investment for the participants in the network? And potentially more importantly, what are the implications of time-stamps, location verification and internet access for the solar panels?
These are exciting questions to discuss and further look at as FOAM starts moving into the real world. Fundamentally, I think of these protocols as a modular system that allows unique cross-pollination, while continuously increasing revenue and use for the communities, entities and individuals that maintain them. Looking forward to your comments and feedback.