Amazon has been eyeing the Smart Home market since the time the company launched Alexa, but little did any of us know that the company was just getting started. Jeff Bezos is not simply content with making our homes smarter, he wants to help create smart neighborhoods and he plans to achieve this goal with Amazon Sidewalk.
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk was announced in 2019 and the purpose behind its launch was to enable networking within a community.
The idea is that if the Wi-Fi connection in your drops for some reason, the outdoor smart device automatically connects to Sidewalk, which basically acts as a backup network. The advantage of Amazon Sidewalk is that Amazon does not plan to charge for the service.
Sidewalk signals originate in our homes and require devices such as Sidewalk Bridges. The devices use small fragments of your home network as Sidewalk transmitters.
How Sidewalk Works
To better understand the role of Sidewalk transmitters consider the following example: suppose you have Windstream internet service in your home, Sidewalk Bridges will connect to your internet and broadcast signals over a series of low frequencies. And you don’t have to worry about Sidewalk slowing down your internet speed since it only requires 80Kbps. Moreover, the maximum data that Sidewalk can consume within a month is 500 MB.
The strength of your Sidewalk network is directly proportional to the number of networks that are broadcasting the signal.
At this point, you might wonder why there was even the need to have a separate network when your Wi-Fi can meet all of your needs. In response, we would say that Amazon Sidewalk covers a wider area than Wi-Fi and enables access to any device that is compatible with Sidewalk. According to Amazon, the signal sidewalk can go travel as far as half a mile.
If you feel that Amazon Sidewalk is not a useful feature, then you have the option of disabling it as well.
Using Amazon Sidewalk, residents can ensure that their automated garage doors and outdoor smart lights are always working. It also ensures that features such as tile trackers always stay active so that you know that something is wrong in case you drop your wallet while walking or if your dog hops the fence in the middle of the night.
It is also worth noting that Amazon Sidewalk does not need any additional devices to function. The features come as a part of the latest software update for Echo speakers and Ring Spotlight.
Security and Privacy
It is only natural that people would have concerns regarding security and privacy with any device that connects to the internet. Like any other IoT device, users who opt for Sidewalk will need to provide data with the company’s servers.
Since Sidewalk’s services extend beyond your home to your neighborhood, it is only natural that you will be sharing more data with the company.
Just think of it this way, suppose you have placed a tracker on your dog in case it runs away. In addition to sending an alert in case such a scenario occurs, the device will also send Amazon additional data such as the frequency, duration, the distance your dog ran, and the path your dog took.
It is totally understandable that not everyone would be comfortable with sharing so much data with Amazon but then again that is the drawback of modern technology.
To their credit, Amazon has does everything it could to address these concerns. The company did release a detailed white paper in which it outlined all the steps it was going to take to ensure data security and privacy.
In its own words, Amazon Sidewalk is only as powerful as the trust that customers place in Amazon to safeguard customer data.
Amazon has further compared Sidewalk with the services provided by a postal office. Just like a post office, the Amazon sidewalk is responsible for processing your data and transferring it back and forth through its application server, and ensuring everything reaches the right place.
However, throughout the process, the company, just like a post office, does not get access to any of the customers’ data. When it comes to devising data, the company uses three layers of encryption along with meta-data limitations to create a digital envelope.
Any kind of information that customers feel is sensitive would not be accessible to Amazon Sidewalk. In simple terms, Amazon would authenticate your data and route it to its destination without reading it or collecting it.
It also claims that all the routing information is deleted within 24 hours and no customer is assigned a specific number or ID thus ensuring anonymity for the customers.
The company seems to be saying all the right things with regards to data security but there is always a possibility of unexpected circumstances arising in situations where such a large quantity of data is involved.
Devices That Can Function As Sidewalk Bridges
Apart from the first Amazon Echo and the discontinued Echo look selfie camera, all other Echo devices can function as Sidewalk. To be even more precise, all Echo devices that have the ability to send out a 900 MHZ signal has the ability to function as Sidewalk.
In addition to that, the Ring Floodlight Cam and the Ring Spotlight Cam too will serve as Sidewalk bridges. All in all there are a large number of devices that support this feature.
A large number of the devices were launched by Amazon a couple of years back; an indication that the company had been planning to offer Sidewalk for quite some time.
The Final Word
Amazon Sidewalk is just another example of what companies can achieve using technology. How technology is seeping through the fabric of our community and allowing us to connect with each other. The long-term ramifications of Amazon’s latest service remain to be seen but if the success of Alexa is anything to go by, Sidewalk too will eventually become a feature that the people just wouldn’t be able to live without.