What is DePIN? The Landscape Of Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks

7 min read
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Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN) is the name for blockchain networks that use tokens to incentivize communities to build physical infrastructure networks (think mobility, electric vehicle charging, telecoms etc.) from the ground up.

In an era where digital transformation is not just a buzzword but a necessity, the emergence of Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN) marks a significant milestone. This innovative concept bridges the gap between the digital and physical realms, offering a more integrated, secure, and efficient infrastructure. The sector has been around for years, but the consensus around a name has ignited a unified understanding that this is Web3’s time to shine — in the real world.

This blog explores all you need to know to make sense of crypto’s most exciting sector.

  1. What does DePIN stand for?
  2. The Idea Behind DePINs
  3. Why DePINs are the future?
  4. The New Landscape of DePIN in 2024
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1. What does DePIN stand for?

DePIN stands for Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks. At its core, DePIN represents an innovative approach to developing physical infrastructure networks. This concept leverages blockchain technology and other distributed technologies to revolutionize the traditional, centralized models of physical infrastructure. The goal is to use blockchain and tokens to foster a decentralized environment. In this setup, various stakeholders can collaboratively engage in the construction, operation, and management of physical infrastructure, breaking away from conventional centralized methods.

The concept of DePIN is not entirely new; it has evolved from the foundational principles of decentralized digital networks. The initial focus was primarily on digital assets and transactions, as seen in the early stages of blockchain technology. However, with advancements in IoT (Internet of Things) and edge computing, the scope has expanded to encompass physical infrastructure, leading to the birth of DePIN.

DePIN consists of several key components:

  1. Blockchain Technology: At the heart of DePIN lies blockchain, providing a secure, immutable ledger for transactions and interactions.
  2. IoT Devices: These are the physical components connected to the network, ranging from sensors to smart devices, all communicating and operating autonomously.
  3. Edge Computing: This technology processes data closer to where it is generated, reducing latency and enhancing real-time decision-making.
  4. Smart Contracts: These self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code automate and enforce agreements within the network.

2. The Idea Behind DePIN

The idea behind the emergence of DePIN originated from Web3 developers’ belief that people around the world can collaboratively build an infrastructure network without the need for third-party provision and without requiring mutual trust.

Once this decentralized physical infrastructure network is established, it will attract users to participate and contribute to its development. Those involved in building and operating the network will be rewarded with user fees in the form of tokens. In the best-case scenario, this will create a “Flywheel” effect, where the demand for usage continues to increase, further driving the network’s development.

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DePIN Network Flywheel.

Helium Network is a prime example of this phenomenon. By leveraging the flywheel effect, Helium motivated individuals globally to create the world’s largest IoT network, boasting over 400,000 hotspots, in just three years. This success not only demonstrated the flywheel’s potency but also established a model for other DePIN projects. This success has not only proven the effectiveness of the flywheel effect but also set a standard for other DePIN projects.

This growth attracts more investors and funding, especially in open-source projects where developers can build dapps, further enriching the ecosystem. This cycle of development and investment is now being replicated across various sectors in the DePIN industry, demonstrating its wide-ranging impact.

3. Why DePIN is the future?

DePIN stands out from traditional physical infrastructure networks in several ways, offering unique benefits:

  1. Decentralization for Enhanced Security and Resilience: Unlike centralized infrastructure networks, DePIN’s decentralized nature makes it more secure and resilient. This decentralized structure significantly reduces the risks of corruption, hijacking, hacks, and other issues commonly associated with centralized control.
  2. Collective Ownership and Incentivization: DePIN operates on a bottom-up approach, where the network is collectively owned by its participants, not just a handful of shareholders. This is achieved through token rewards, which motivate contributors to deploy and maintain the infrastructure.
  3. Distributed Infrastructure Costs: By leveraging the collective resources of its participants, DePIN can significantly lower overhead and expenses compared to traditional networks.
  4. Fostering Open Competition and Innovation: DePIN removes barriers to entry found in traditional networks, encouraging new players to enter markets previously dominated by a few. This openness sparks innovation across various sectors.
  5. Real-World Applications and Daily Impact: Imagine having a DIMO device in your car to collect and monetize data, or a Hivemapper device on your dashboard contributing to a decentralized map akin to Google Maps. These are practical DePIN use cases. Similarly, installing a smart meter, solar panel, or battery at home to participate in projects like Daylight Energy’s DePIN, earning tokens, and contributing energy to the grid during high demand are all ways DePIN integrates into daily life.
  6. DePIN in the Broader Crypto Landscape: To understand DePIN’s role in the larger crypto world, it’s essential to recognize these everyday applications. From driving your car to managing home energy, DePIN’s influence is far-reaching, demonstrating its potential in our routine activities and its place in the evolving crypto ecosystem.

4. The New Landscape of DePIN in 2024

Messari recently reported that the total addressable market of the DePIN sector is approximately $2.2 trillion, with projections to reach around $3.5 trillion by 2028. This figure is nearly three times the current market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies. The fully diluted value (FDV) of all decentralized physical infrastructure projects is currently about $5 billion. DePIN projects aim to address some of the world’s most critical challenges by utilizing blockchain technology, token incentives, and the power of the Internet.

To provide a clearer understanding, here’s an infographic that showcases most of the DePIN projects available today. These projects have been broadly categorized into three main groups, reflecting the diverse applications and solutions offered within the DePIN sector and highlighting its potential impact on the global economy.

  • Blockchain Layers
  • Physical Resource Networks
  • Digital Resource Networks
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The New Landscape of DePIN in 2024

Blockchain

In DePIN, the blockchain layer fulfills critical roles, including token settlement, service exchange, reward distribution, and facilitating composability between DePIN data and networks. The classification of DePIN blockchain layers falls into three distinct types: DePIN-specific blockchains, General Purpose, and App-chain.

  • DePIN-specific blockchains: DePIN-specific blockchains are customized for the unique needs of DePIN networks. IoTeX, for instance, specializes in the Internet of Things (IoT) and can be specifically designed to cater to the hardware, connectivity, middleware, blockchain, and tokenomics of DePIN projects.
  • General-purpose blockchains: Ethereum, Solana, and Polygon, as general-purpose blockchains, provide the necessary flexibility and security for the foundational infrastructure of DePIN. Their capability to manage a diverse array of decentralized applications and smart contracts makes them ideal for overseeing tokens, rewards, and governance functions within DePIN.
  • App chains: As integral components of multi-chain ecosystems like Polkadot and Cosmos, app-chain blockchains enable DePIN to develop specialized blockchains or parachains for specific purposes. These dedicated chains can be customized to manage distinct services or data types, facilitating efficient functioning within the DePIN ecosystem and seamless integration with various other blockchain networks.

Physical Resource Networks

Within DePINs, a distinct category known as Physical Resource Networks emphasizes the implementation of devices, sensors, and hotspots. These components are crucial for providing infrastructure capabilities and transmitting essential data. Based on the specific requirements of the devices, these networks can be categorized into two primary approaches: specific devices designed for a single use case, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) allows any sensor to connect.

The deployment of location-dependent devices in these networks is incentivized, offering unique, geography-linked, non-fungible services. These services range from wireless coverage to environmental data, imagery, and beyond. The hardware employed is typically retail or consumer-grade, ensuring accessibility for a broad group of participants.

Digital Resource Networks

In Digital Resource Networks, a wide array of digital services and applications are enabled through efficient data processing, storage, and delivery, underpinned by a diverse set of components. These components include compute resources for both general and specific purposes, storage resources for databases and file storage, bandwidth resources like CDNs and VPNs, and AI capabilities for machine learning and data models. Together, they form the backbone of a robust digital infrastructure.

Bandwidth and Network Optimization

  • CDN (Content Delivery Network): optimizes content delivery, enhancing website speed and streaming quality. Examples: Saturn, Meson, Fleek.
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network): Ensures secure communication. Examples: Orchid, Mysterium.
  • Web Proxy: Manages network traffic and enhances security. Example: Wynd.
  • Browser and Search: Essential for internet navigation. Examples: Presearch, Brave, Verasity.

Compute Resources

  • General Purpose: Versatile computing tasks. Examples: Render, Akash.
  • Specific Purpose: Includes transcoding (Livepeer), indexing (The Graph), RPC resources (ANKR), and DePIN-specific proof logic compute (IoTeX w3bstream).
  • Transcoding Resources: Convert media files into various formats.
  • Indexer Resources: Organize and index data efficiently.
  • RPC (Remote Procedure Call) Resources: Facilitate network communication.

AI (Artificial Intelligence)

  • Machine Learning Models: For tasks like natural language processing and image recognition. Examples include Gensyn and Together.
  • AI Frameworks: Software libraries for AI application development, such as Fetch AI and Paal AI.
  • GPU Marketplace: Specialized hardware for AI workloads, like Exabits and GPU.net.

Storage Solutions

  • Database: Critical for structured data management. Examples: Aleph, Space and Time.
  • File Storage: For storing documents, images, and multimedia files. Big players include Filecoin and Arweave.

Conclusions

Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks represent a significant leap forward in how we manage and interact with physical systems. By harnessing the power of decentralization, DePIN promises to bring about a more secure, efficient, and interconnected world. As we continue to explore its potential, DePIN stands as a testament to human ingenuity and the endless possibilities of technological advancement.

On the other hand, the future of DePIN is as promising as it is challenging. As the technology matures, we can expect broader adoption and more innovative applications. However, this will also require addressing challenges such as interoperability, scalability, and security. The continuous evolution of DePIN will likely play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our digital and physical worlds.

Together with other trending crypto narratives, such as LSDFi, Real-world Assets, the landscape of DePIN is growing fast and ever-evolving. Whether you’re a tech enthusiast, a blockchain professional, or simply a crypto degens, it is neccessary to gain more insights and pay your attention to this new trend in the next cycle of crypto bull run.

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Disclaimer: This article serves informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Conduct your own research before making investment decisions.