Understanding dePIN: Comprehensive Insights into Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks in 2024 cover

Understanding dePIN: Comprehensive Insights into Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks in 2024

Published Jan 17, 2024 by CryptoDiary

Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN) hold the potential to significantly transform our interconnected world, serving as an alternative to conventional centralized systems. DePIN envisions a future where physical infrastructure, spanning communication networks to energy grids, operates on decentralized principles. This shift has the promise of enhancing robustness, security, and introducing new possibilities in artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and the wider cryptocurrency landscape. The momentum behind DePIN is notable. A 2024 report by Messari reveals substantial growth in the DePIN ecosystem throughout 2023, with over 650 projects emerging across six key subsectors: compute (250), AI (200), wireless (100), sensors (50), energy (50), and services (25). The report indicates that DePINs with liquid tokens collectively reached a market capitalization exceeding $20 billion. Additionally, an estimated $15 million in annualized on-chain revenue was generated. Beyond its market size, DePIN signifies a shift towards technological decentralization, empowerment, and the principles of Web3. This guide delves into the fundamental aspects of DePIN, providing insights into its definition, functionality, and its role within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

What is dePIN?

DePIN encompasses projects utilizing blockchain tokens to incentivize the establishment and operation of physical networks and infrastructure. This distinctive approach deviates from traditional centralized entities, introducing a system that prioritizes community-driven ownership, public verifiability, incentivized structures, and a permissionless model — all fundamental principles of blockchain technology. Beyond being a technical framework, DePIN represents a transformative shift in how we oversee and engage with physical infrastructure. Community members are not merely users but essential stakeholders actively participating through incentive mechanisms embedded in blockchain tokens. From WiFi hotspots and security cameras to ride-sharing and food delivery, DePIN transforms commonplace physical objects into entities owned by the community. This decentralized model ensures that decision-making processes are distributed across the community, promoting transparency through public verifiability. A notable concept within DePIN is the flywheel, illustrating how progress in one component can trigger advancements in other elements within the system. According to Messari's projections, the DePIN flywheel holds the potential to contribute over $10 trillion to global GDP in the next decade and $100 trillion in the subsequent decade.

How does dePIN work?

DePIN functions through a sophisticated integration of blockchain technology and community-driven incentives, with the goal of revolutionizing the deployment and operation of physical infrastructure. Its core mechanism involves motivating participants through blockchain token rewards, establishing a community-driven ecosystem with diverse applications. This transformation extends beyond traditional business models, moving away from hierarchical structures and embracing a grassroots, community-driven approach. Through the utilization of crowdsourcing for growth, DePIN networks have the potential to scale efficiently and operate at lower costs compared to conventional infrastructure providers.

The five foundational components of DePIN are:

Physical hardware: This encompasses essential physical infrastructure that connects DePIN networks with the physical world, including hotspots, wireless networks, routers, servers, power generators, solar panels, batteries for energy networks, and telecommunication equipment.

Hardware operators: Individuals, communities, or businesses are responsible for deploying and maintaining hardware. While tokens can incentivize hardware operators, their involvement also depends on factors such as technical expertise and hardware costs.

Decentralized ledger technology: Blockchain, supported by smart contract logic, serves as the central hub for the token economy, ensuring transparency, traceability, and robust security within the network.

Decentralized token incentives: A decentralized token incentive system motivates active participation, rewarding individuals contributing to deploying and operating physical infrastructure, such as hosting hotspots. This creates a self-sustaining ecosystem where network growth thrives on the participation and incentives of its members.

End users: Operational networks enable end users to utilize crypto assets for real-world payment of services offered by DePIN.

Through the integration of blockchain networks, smart contracts, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, DePIN establishes a resilient and efficient system, reshaping the management, maintenance, and monitoring of infrastructure assets.

Central Figures in the dePIN Network

While Ethereum is widely recognized as the main platform for DePIN projects, Solana is quickly gaining traction. One factor contributing to this shift is Solana's integrated infrastructure and its developer community's emphasis on performance, attracting DePINs across various stages of development. Messari reports that the high-performance blockchain has the capacity to broaden user reach and liquidity due to its impressive transaction throughput.

Helium (HNT)

In April 2023, the Helium Network strategically transitioned from its standalone layer-1 blockchain to Solana, leveraging the latter's scalability, reduced transaction costs, and high-performance capabilities. Today, Helium stands out as a prominent DePIN project, effectively applying blockchain technology to practical, real-world scenarios. Operating as a decentralized LoRaWAN network, often referred to as "The People's Network," Helium plays a vital role in advancing IoT connectivity. By empowering communities through user-owned hotspots, this decentralized wireless network facilitates the autonomous expansion of internet and cellular coverage, freeing users from reliance on traditional telecom providers. Individuals who purchase and host these hotspots receive tokens as rewards for contributing nodes to the network. Helium currently operates individual hotspots in over 170 countries, providing 5G services to specific U.S. cities. In 2023, the Helium Mobile wireless phone service, built on the Helium network, was introduced. This service enables users to manage mobile networks through token incentivization. In December 2023, Helium Mobile unveiled a cost-effective phone plan priced at $20 per month, offering unlimited data, talk, and text, powered by community-owned 5G hotspots. In contrast to the average monthly spending of approximately $144 on cellular plans in the United States, Helium Mobile aims to enhance accessibility for all users. Subscribers who share hotspot nodes receive rewards in the form of Solana-based MOBILE tokens, which can be used to offset their phone plan expenses. Amir Haleem, CEO of Nova Labs, the parent company of Helium Mobile, expressed dissatisfaction with carriers concealing high subscription rates and additional fees behind seemingly free phone upgrades, aiming to provide a more transparent and affordable alternative.

Filecoin (FIL)

As of January 2024, Filecoin stands as the largest DePIN in terms of market capitalization. This crypto-incentivized peer-to-peer (P2P) storage network revolutionizes conventional data storage models, enabling individuals and businesses to lease their unused storage space securely and in a decentralized manner. Functioning as a decentralized marketplace for data storage services, Filecoin compensates storage providers with FIL tokens, while users pay for the storage they require. Since its inception in 2020, Filecoin has operated similarly to established cloud storage giants in Web2, such as Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. However, it distinguishes itself by providing a distributed storage solution secured by crypto-economic incentives. By connecting those in need of storage with individuals possessing spare space on their hard drives, Filecoin establishes a decentralized market for storage space. This approach offers a compelling alternative in terms of both pricing and decentralization compared to traditional providers. Filecoin's goal is to create an inclusive marketplace for data storage, competing with established providers based on competitive pricing and a strong commitment to decentralization.

Render (RNDR)

Render operates as a peer-to-peer (P2P) graphics processing unit (GPU) provider, connecting individuals or entities in need of image and animation rendering services with those who have unused GPUs. In this unique ecosystem, providers receive compensation through RNDR tokens, creating a decentralized model for rendering services. Users, on the other hand, benefit from decentralized rendering services, ensuring efficient utilization of GPU resources and establishing a community-centric marketplace driven by rewards. This decentralized approach enhances resource efficiency and establishes a distributed network for efficient and high-performance rendering. Render's strategy challenges traditional centralized rendering solutions, embodying the fundamental principles of DePIN by creating an open and community-driven marketplace for computational resources. In November 2023, Render underwent a core infrastructure upgrade, transitioning from Ethereum to Solana. This move aimed to expand the project's capabilities with potential features like real-time streaming, dynamic non-fungible tokens (NFTs), compressed NFTs, real-time oracles, and machine learning — all key features of Solana. Additionally, in December 2023, Render implemented a burn and mint equilibrium (BME) model, allowing the network to consistently price services based on a supply and demand equilibrium. This model contributes to the overall efficiency and sustainability of the Render network.

Moving Forward: Embracing the Future of Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN)

The potential of Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN) is captivating, indicating a revolutionary change in how physical infrastructure is deployed, operated, and utilized. In this era of innovation, the shift toward decentralized systems brings numerous benefits, including cost-effective crowdsourcing, community empowerment, and the advancement of decentralization. These factors pave the way for a future where individuals and communities actively contribute to shaping the technological landscape. Other noteworthy DePIN networks influencing this transformative environment include IoTeX (IOTX), Livepeer (LPT), Theta Network (THETA), and Akash (AKT). Looking ahead to 2024, DePINs are positioned for further development, exploring innovations like ZK technology, meme coin integrations, on-chain AI, and on-chain gaming, as projected by Messari. The forecast suggests significant growth for DePIN in Asia, anticipating the emergence of multiple top 10 DePINs from 2024 to 2025. Nevertheless, the journey toward decentralization comes with challenges. Potential obstacles include regulatory uncertainties, scalability issues, and the imperative for widespread adoption. Successfully navigating these challenges will be pivotal for the sustained growth and acceptance of DePIN technologies. Amidst ongoing innovation and transformation, the positive impact already observed from DePIN points towards a future where physical infrastructure operates on decentralized principles, fostering resilience, security, and empowerment in our interconnected world. With the potential to revolutionize industries and empower individuals, DePIN is poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of infrastructure and the broader crypto space in 2024 and beyond.

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