DePIN on Solana: Powering Decentralized Physical Infrastructures

Ubik Capital
10 min readJan 26, 2024

The world of blockchain technology is rapidly evolving and expanding into new, exciting realms. Developers and builders are now trying to bring the benefits of the blockchain to the physical world through decentralized physical infrastructure networks (DePIN), and Solana is at the forefront of these efforts.

Solana is gaining recognition for its unparalleled speed, cost-effectiveness, and commitment to sustainability, making it a top contender to host DePIN projects seeking to revolutionize how we build, maintain, and manage physical-world infrastructures using blockchain protocols. In this blog post, we will explore the unique features of Solana and delve into the promising realm of DePIN, uncovering how these innovations intersect to shape the landscape of blockchain and physical infrastructure.

What Is Solana?

Solana is an open-source, high-performance blockchain created in 2017 that seeks to achieve scalability, security, and decentralization. Like many other blockchains, Solana simplifies the development of smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps) for various purposes, including finance, NFTs, payments, and gaming.

However, what makes Solana unique is its ambition to surpass popular blockchains like Ethereum in performance while maintaining security, decentralization, and minimizing costs. In a crowded field of blockchain projects making bold claims, Solana stands out for effectively addressing scalability issues with a single-layer architecture.

On top of that, Solana’s speed is unmatched, outperforming Ethereum and Bitcoin with a hybrid model that ensures smooth operation even during peak demand. These optimization efforts also lead to lower transaction fees, making it one of the most cost-effective blockchains for both developers and users.

Decentralization and security are a key focus, too. The network uses a hybrid model that combines a Proof-of-History mechanism for event tracking and a Proof-of-Stake mechanism for consensus, where distributed validators earn rewards by staking SOL tokens. This hybrid model ensures a decentralized and secure validation process.

In addition to its performance, Solana takes an environmentally conscious approach, claiming to be a carbon-neutral blockchain with minimal energy consumption. The Solana Foundation transparently addresses the blockchain’s environmental impact and collaborates with eco-friendly projects to address climate-related concerns.

Overall, Solana’s combination of scalability, speed, decentralization, security, cost-effectiveness, and environmental awareness positions it as a standout player in the competitive blockchain space, especially for emerging DePIN projects.

What Is DePIN?

Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePINs) are blockchain protocols designed to build, maintain, and manage physical-world infrastructures in an open and decentralized way. These networks use cryptocurrency tokens as incentives for developing tangible infrastructure in the real world, including wireless networks, cloud services, mobility networks, and power grids.

DePIN project can be broadly classified into six main categories: computing, wireless, energy, artificial intelligence (AI), services, and sensors. In addition, real-world assets (RWAs) and blockchain infra networks, such as oracles and remote procedure call (RPC) nodes, can be considered DePIN-adjacent sectors.

Historically, these sectors have been dominated by well-capitalized large companies. The near-monopoly of these centralized entities over pricing and services has resulted in limited competition and innovation for end users. The DePIN initiative aims to address these challenges by leveraging blockchain technology, token incentives, and the capabilities of the internet.

DePIN’s shift from this conventional centralized model to a decentralized paradigm encourages global user participation, breaking the reliance on large entities and embracing a ‘sharing economy’ model. This approach also introduces a novel design space for physical infrastructure, with each network involving real-world devices that generate and share their data, further enhancing decentralization.

How Does DePIN Work?

DePIN networks incorporate tangible real-world devices that generate and share data, often through user participation. This abundance of data holds can potentially boost innovation and the effective utilization of information in developing decentralized applications (dApps) to foster the expansion of the DePIN network.

DePIN comprises four key elements:

  1. Physical infrastructure. DePIN requires tangible infrastructure like vehicles for mobility networks, solar panels for energy networks, hotspots for wireless networks, and servers for cloud networks.
  2. Off-chain computing infrastructure. DePIN relies on intermediaries, such as oracles, to establish connections between real-world data and the blockchain.
  3. Blockchain architecture. Each DePIN network interfaces with a blockchain architecture housing smart contract logic. This blockchain serves as a ledger and the core of the token economy.
  4. Token incentives. DePIN employs the token economy concept, where service providers receive tokens as rewards or incentives for their participation in the network.

What Are The Benefits of DePIN?

As it stands, DePIN holds considerable promise. With the rapid proliferation of interconnected smart devices and decentralized applications (dApps), DePIN is poised to offer a wide range of advantages over traditional physical infrastructure:

Decentralized model. DePIN’s pivotal strength lies in its transition from a centralized to a decentralized model. This shift eliminates the reliance on a singular entity or large corporation for the establishment and maintenance of physical infrastructure, promoting competition and innovation.

‘Sharing economy’ approach. DePIN embraces the sharing economy principle, distributing the costs and responsibilities of infrastructure establishment and maintenance among supply-side participants, specifically service providers. This results in a more cost-effective and equitable model.

Lower costs. DePIN users benefit from lower expenses compared to the traditional model. In fact, most DePIN not only reduce costs but also provide an opportunity to earn tokens in return.

Promoting innovation. By eliminating the barriers to entry associated with traditional infrastructure, DePIN encourages new players to enter markets that were previously dominated by a handful of established entities. This fosters increased competition and innovation in these sectors.

Why Are DePIN Projects Choosing Solana?

Addressing scalability concerns and enhancing security is a primary focus for DePIN projects. Apart from guaranteeing stable and secure network operations, there is a necessity to solve hardware scalability issues to accommodate the increasing demands on the network. Simultaneously maintaining security against potential threats is also a challenging task, particularly in decentralized networks where control and responsibility are distributed.

Solana is recognized for its quick transaction speed and cost-effectiveness, which positions it as an ideal platform for DePIN projects at any stage. Also, the state compression technology employed by Solana plays a crucial role in substantially lowering the expenses associated with creating non-fungible tokens representing real-world hardware, a pivotal element of the DePIN initiative.

These technological benefits, combined with Solana’s expanding ecosystem, position the platform at the forefront of DePIN’s efforts to drive the seamless integration of blockchain technology into everyday physical infrastructure.

DePIN Projects On Solana

Solana’s quick transaction throughput and cost-effectiveness, as well as its outstanding scalability, position it as one of the preferred blockchains to deploy and maintain DePIN projects. Over the last couple of years, many DePIN have either built on this chain or migrated to it to leverage its unique capabilities. Let’s explore some of them:

Render Network

The Render Network offers virtually limitless decentralized GPU computing power to fuel the creation of cutting-edge 3D content. Pioneering as the first decentralized GPU rendering platform, it grants artists the ability to scale GPU rendering tasks efficiently by tapping into high-performance GPU nodes across the globe.

Introduced in 2017, the Render Network is designed to serve as a versatile platform for a broad spectrum of computational tasks, spanning from fundamental rendering to advanced artificial intelligence applications. These tasks are seamlessly and swiftly executed within a blockchain-driven peer-to-peer network, ensuring error-free and prompt processing, all while safeguarding secure property rights.

By establishing a blockchain marketplace for idle GPU compute resources, the network empowers artists to expand their rendering capabilities at significantly reduced costs and with substantial increases in speed compared to centralized GPU cloud solutions.

The Render Network was originally built on Ethereum, one of the leading blockchains in the market. However, the project has recently migrated to Solana to unlock major new capabilities and ensure scalability. Solana’s outstanding transaction speeds, low costs, and commitment to scalability make it a perfect fit for DePIN projects such as the Render Network as it continues building a scalable and decentralized infrastructure.

Helium

Helium is a decentralized LoRaWAN network with global coverage and a significant presence in over 170 countries. It’s a DePIN project that focuses on wireless networks, using user-owned hotspots to enhance internet and cell coverage without traditional centralized telecommunication companies. Its unique approach involves user-owned hotspots, creating a peer-to-peer wireless network for connecting small, low-power devices over long distances.

Founded in 2013, Helium initially operated on its own blockchain, but in April 2023, it successfully migrated to the Solana blockchain. The community-driven decision involved minting (creating) nearly one million hotspots as NFTs using Solana’s state compression technology, allowing for a cost-effective and seamless transition.

Helium’s migration to Solana was one of the most significant layer 1 blockchain migrations to date and was prompted by considerations such as the developer community, throughput, liquidity, transaction fees, programming languages, and smart contracts integration. Solana secured 54% community support, outperforming alternatives like Polygon and Ethereum.

Helium’s move to Solana has the potential to spur growth in the broader DePIN movement, showcasing the first DePIN business that other projects can build upon. The interoperable ecosystem of Solana, coupled with innovations like compressed NFTs, opens up new opportunities for decentralized, community-driven infrastructure. This collaboration between Helium and Solana signals a promising beginning for decentralized, community-run infrastructure, benefiting businesses and users alike.

Hivemapper

Hivemapper, founded by Ariel Seidman in 2015, has become a groundbreaking player in the realm of decentralized mapping by harnessing the capabilities of the Solana blockchain. Seidman’s vision is rooted in utilizing Web3 principles to build a utility-driven and cost-effective decentralized map with transparent incentives, leveraging the power of the blockchain.

In November 2022, the company introduced the Hivemapper Network, a global mapping network built on Solana’s blockchain. The network encourages users equipped with Hivemapper’s custom dash cams to capture street-level imagery, earning HONEY tokens as incentives for data collection. This user-generated data is then transformed into a dynamic and continually evolving world map.

The Hivemapper marketplace operates on Solana’s blockchain, where contributors are rewarded for data collection and quality assurance checks. This marketplace offers a viable alternative to the Google Maps API, with Hivemapper’s first target clients being large entities capable of integrating multiple sources of road data.

Solana’s state compression capabilities are key in managing the extensive user base of Hivemapper. With millions of users contributing to the platform, state compression, which uses Merkle trees to streamline the verification of data trees, plays a pivotal role in cost reduction and maintaining an efficient rewards cycle.

As part of the larger Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN) movement, Hivemapper exemplifies the potential of blockchain in replacing monopolies and centralized institutions with community-driven solutions. Solana’s low-cost transactions and scalability, combined with state compression, position it as a catalyst for Hivemapper’s goal of building a powerful and decentralized map product. The platform’s commitment to utility, transparency, and aligned incentives underscores its mission to revolutionize mapping in a decentralized and community-centric manner.

Final Thoughts

The rise and expansion of DePIN projects represent a significant evolution in the blockchain landscape. As a user-oriented application layer comparable to DeFi, gaming, and social platforms, DePIN showcases the prospect of broad adoption, impacting the need for foundational blockchain technologies. As the momentum behind the DePIN trend intensifies, it not only molds the technological framework but also steers the course of decentralized governance.

Solana’s exceptional attributes in scalability, speed, decentralization, security, cost-effectiveness, and environmental consciousness make it a standout contender in the blockchain ecosystem for DePIN. Its efficacy in addressing scalability issues, coupled with innovative approaches such as the hybrid model and state compression technology, positions Solana at the forefront of these efforts.

As the blockchain landscape continues to evolve, Solana’s impact on the seamless integration of blockchain technology into everyday physical infrastructure is likely to continue to grow. The future holds exciting possibilities for both Solana and DePIN projects, promising advancements that could reshape the way we perceive and interact with decentralized networks and physical infrastructure.

How Ubik Capital Facilitates Staking and Delegation

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About Ubik Capital

Capital is a Proof-of-Stake service provider, validator, and investor. Ubik Capital provides staking-as-a-service as well as investments to various blockchain projects. Ubik Capital secures major networks and is a trusted staking provider with years of industry experience.

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Disclaimer: Not financial advice. Cryptocurrency and blockchain investments are high risk, can incur substantial losses, and are not suitable for everyone. Please consult a professional before considering investment in any cryptocurrency. This article does not encourage or support any specific investments, use of applications or technology, or financial direction. This article is for informational purposes only and should be verified and validated externally for 100% accuracy.

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Ubik Capital

Ubik Capital is a Proof-of-Stake service provider, validator, and investor.