What is Amazon Sidewalk and how does it work?

Amazon Sidewalk
Amazon Sidewalk will connect compatible devices. Pic credit: Amazon

Amazon has begun sending out emails to owners of Echo, Ring, and other company-branded and network-dependent devices about Amazon Sidewalk.

The eCommerce giant has indicated that devices with compatible hardware will automatically switch on the feature.

Amazon Sidewalk is a unique, bridged and closed-loop wireless network. Compatible Amazon-branded devices such as Echo, Ring, and others will have access.

The shared network remains invisible to general users, but Amazon promises the new technology will unlock certain unique benefits and features.

Amazon Sidewalk is a special, separate, and invisible wireless network co-hosted by Sidewalk Bridge devices

The eCommerce giant began sending out emails to customers with Echo devices. The mail informed them that their devices will receive an update for Sidewalk.

These emails were sent to customers as far afield as the US, UK and Germany. It is quite possible Amazon might extend the availability of the feature in other countries. However, the company later indicated that the Sidewalk technology will remain in the US for now — and apologized that the email was sent to customers in other countries.

Amazon Sidewalk is essentially a shared network between compatible Amazon-branded wireless devices. The network helps extend the communication range of such devices far beyond the reach of owners’ own Wi-Fi routers.

The technology creates a special, separate network, which will be hosted by the Sidewalk Bridge devices. Amazon has apparently placed the new Echo/Echo Dot and latest Ring Floodlight and Spotlight cameras at the center of Amazon Sidewalk network.

Once activated in the shared network, these devices will be able to wirelessly and autonomously communicate with other Sidewalk compatible devices. These potentially include pet trackers, Ring smart lights and the new Ring Car Alarm. The key aspect is that proximate Sidewalk devices will be able to collaborate even when they are not on the owner’s Wi-Fi network.

What is Amazon trying to achieve with the Sidewalk technology?

With Amazon Sidewalk, compatible and synced devices will have a wide-area shared network that will help any devices within range to talk with each other. Simply put, Amazon is hoping to deploy a wide range mesh Wi-Fi network for its own devices. Doing so will allow Amazon to create new use-case scenarios, and allow the company to offer new functionalities that were hereto not possible due to the restricted range of Wi-Fi.

In terms of security, Amazon Sidewalk reportedly withholds information about connected devices. However, users will not know what network their own devices are linked with. The network will transmit encrypted information, and the only information users will have is about the connection status of their devices with Sidewalk.

Despite the advantages, some are concerned that the eCommerce giant will switch on the Sidewalk feature by default on compatible devices, which means they are not requiring consent from customers. Moreover, the Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server bandwidth consumption is about 80 Kbps or roughly about 500 MB per month.

Those who are concerned, and do not want to be a part of Amazon Sidewalk, can turn it off in the Alexa app. That switch is located at More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk.

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