Mysterious Antennas Found In Utah's Hills; Some Speculate 'Decentralized' Blockchain Network

Salt Lake City officials are finding mysterious antennas across the foothills of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. The first ones were discovered nearly a year ago, but more have been popping up in recent months. These devices appear to be relaying data across a wide area. 

As first reported by KSLTV 5 in Utah, the mysterious devices consist of a battery box, a solar panel, and an antenna.

"These towers have been bolted into different peaks and summits and ridges around the foothills," Tyler Fonarow, the city's recreational trails manager, explained, "and it started with one or two, and now it might be as much as a dozen."

Fonarow said whoever is installing these small fiberglass antennas doesn't have a permit for authorization on public land. His department has been seizing the devices. They found one last week and plan to remove another later this month. 

More antennas have been found on property managed by the Forest Service and the University of Utah. 

A university spokesperson just released a statement about the mysterious antennas: 

"Since Salt Lake City leaders alerted the University of Utah to the unauthorized solar panel towers in the foothills northeast of the Avenues neighborhood, University of Utah representatives have been actively coordinating with City Public Lands officials to determine whether any member of our campus community is connected to the towers. As far as we know, the tower located on university property is not owned or operated by the university. We appreciate Salt Lake City's collaboration and dedicated efforts to identify the owners."

Fonarow speculated the devices could be part of a decentralized wireless connectivity platform:

"It might be related to cryptocurrency and relaying networks and being able to make money off that," he said, "so that's another reason we want to stop it now before it becomes a dumping ground for dozens and dozens of more antennas."

Last week, a Salt Lake City Public Lands Facebook posted pictures of "unauthorized solar panel towers" found in the Foothills. 

Mysterious Antennas Found In Utah's Hills; Some Speculate 'Decentralized' Blockchain Network

Some people who replied to the Facebook post speculated the devices could be part of the Helium network. 

"Probably helium network like several have posted. Or some kind of mesh network repeaters? I don't understand why they are being torn down and huge effort to take them off public lands, when if it is a mesh network repeater, can be used by the public, and is very important in emergency/communication failure situations," one person said. 

"Those are very clearly off-grid Helium miners," another person said. 

Someone asked: "Ham radio repeater?" 

If the speculation is correct, these mysterious antennas could be hotspots connecting to a wireless blockchain-based network for Helium. This entirely new incentive model allows people to set up hotspots that act as Helium miners and serve data to devices. People can earn money by simply buying a hotspot and plugging it in. 

Here's what the Helium coverage looks like around Salt Lake City. 

Mysterious Antennas Found In Utah's Hills; Some Speculate 'Decentralized' Blockchain Network

There are nearly a million hotspots nationwide.

Mysterious Antennas Found In Utah's Hills; Some Speculate 'Decentralized' Blockchain Network

"Mining HNT is done by installing a simple device on your home or office window," Helium wrote on their website, adding these "hotspots provide miles of wireless network coverage for millions of devices around you using Helium LongFi, and you are rewarded in HNT for doing this. And because of an innovative proof-of-work model (we call it "Proof-of-Coverage"), your Hotspot only uses 5W of energy."

There's no confirmation Helium hotspots are the devices being found by officials, but speculation indeed points to that. 

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