Collecting people's data — and their family's — is a massive industry with major social impact, yet few viable alternatives. Two startup veterans are changing that with Helm — a personal home server allows people to take back ownership of their data beginning with email. The server takes key internet services — email, contacts, calendars — out of the cloud, from where people commonly access the likes of Google's Gmail etc. and stores the data in encrypted form within the device. The personal server sits within the home, but its email and other services like calendars and contacts are still accessible from anywhere in the world.
Helm makes data security virtually plug-and-play. In three minutes, set up out of the box using a mobile app: pick a domain, pair over Bluetooth, create your account, save recovery keys and set up your devices and any other users.
Working in stealth with Helm in late 2017, NewDealDesign's industrial design and engineering team created the hardware from the ground up in six weeks for Helm to go into the next phase of production before launch.
Creating an object containing sensitive personal data reliably for years, required both symbolic and technical design of a high order. Helm is a high-performance server with capabilities normally found in larger, business-class hardware. The 'house' design was selected as it created a solid-state cooling solution for the electronics —essential for longevity —combined with great expandability and a gentle cue for an icon of dwelling. Easy to use, efficient to scale without compromising computing power or durability, Helm is a viable option — a computer to be proud of — to protect some of your most precious data.
An architectural form inspired by the metaphor of home, Helm stands out in a crowded market of blinking server boxes while also addressing essential technical challenges. Clean lines, robust materials, and a manageable size, Helm can disappear into a server closet or stand out elegantly on a kitchen counter or coffee table.
Helm's design language reflects the dualities of security — tough and trustworthy, kind and human. Helm needed a distinct look and feel for their debut hardware product embodying the strength, passion, and security of their mission, ethos, and offering while also solving technical challenges. We created options referencing cacti, porcupines, and many more — all protective, organic, and strong without being menacing, bland or aggressive.
The 'house' design was selected as it created a solid-state cooling solution for the electronics —essential for longevity —combined with great expandability and a gentle cue for an icon of dwelling. Challenging the traditional rectangle design of most servers, the split computer board design creates better airflow while the aluminum base acts as both an anchor and heat sink to keep things cool.
Helm's enclosure strategy factors in the challenges stealth tech startups face producing their debut hardware product. It utilizes a one-shot plastic top and an extruded aluminum heat sink as its main enclosure. With minimal fasteners, and excellent heat dissipation, Helm accomplishes high performance in a smaller (and quieter) form factor.
The form also eliminates the tendency for people to use the server like a shelf, stacking devices and objects on top of one another. In people's home theater cabinets or server closets filled with tangled wires or rectangular units on top of one another, each device is adding more heat on the one below. All together, it hurts the longevity of the devices. It also can cause some products to overheat and stop working until they cool. Having a sloping roof prevented harmful overheating opportunity.
However, we did design a stackable "pagoda" like structure to allow for upgrade units to increase memory and computing power. A pocket of aluminum between each layer keeps it cool. A USB-C port hidden where you'd imaging the "chimney" to be connects the roofs. 120 GB of solid- state drive (SSD) storage can be expanded by up to five terabytes using the expansion slot located in the "roof."
Helm anticipated early on that customers will want to make this kind of upgrade over time. With the initial launch targeting early tech savvy adopters, the design factors in families expanding and ultimately reaching a broader customer base as they continue to roll out services (like media storage and the like).
Helm launched in October 2018 garnering attention not only for it's mission but also the cleverness of its design. Investors were quick to note it's distinct aesthetic appeal. Product reviews from outlets like Ars Technica gave it high praise with a particular nod to the strength and security of the enclosure top. Despite the best hacking efforts they couldn't get it to break open. Helm truly keeps all your data under one roof.