Sidewalk is a new kind of network that Amazon is creating just for smart home devices. Learn how the technology works, why it could be so useful, and more.
Amazon Sidewalk is officially launched in the United States on June 8, 2021. It is a new technology that aims to improve the experience of certain smart home devices using a combination of radio frequencies and Bluetooth. Understanding how Sidewalk works is a bit tricky at first, but in the end, it should result in devices that are more responsive and reliable.
Smart home technology has become immensely popular in recent years, and for the most part, the experience it offers today is pretty good. People can buy everything from smart bulbs, thermostats, security cameras, wall sockets, and more. However, the problem with all these smart home gadgets is that they completely rely on people’s home Wi-Fi networks. If someone has a slow internet connection, weak router range, or a multi-story house with a lot of walls to get through, it’s easy for these devices to lose their connection and provide a bad user experience.
This is exactly what Amazon Sidewalk aims to fix. Simply put, Sidewalk is a localized network explicitly created for smart home devices in a certain area (such as a neighborhood or an apartment complex). The best part is that it was created using smart home devices that many people already own, such as Ring cameras and Amazon Echo devices. Any Sidewalk-enabled device can access this network to use in conjunction with someone’s home Wi-Fi, while Sidewalk Bridge devices are used to power the Sidewalk feature. Sidewalk bridges currently include things like select Ring Floodlight Cams and Ring Spotlight Cams. For Amazon’s own explanation, “Customers with a Sidewalk Bridge can contribute a small portion of their Internet bandwidth, which is pooled together to create a shared network that benefits all Sidewalk-enabled devices in a community.” As of now, curb bridges include Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), Amazon Echo (4th Gen), Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen), Ring Spotlight Cam Wired, Ring Spotlight Cam Mount, and Ring Floodlight Camera. Amazon also built Sidewalk Bridge functionality into older Echo devices dating back to 2018, which means the service should have a fairly wide reach from day one.
Why Amazon Sidewalk is so Important
When all of this comes together and works as Amazon envisions, the idea is to allow compatible smart home items to function beyond the limitations of a person’s Wi-Fi network. For example, let’s say someone has smart bulbs in their garage. Could technically Connect to that person’s Wi-Fi router, but the connection is very weak and often does not work. With Sidewalk, those bulbs could connect to that network and provide a reliable experience for the person using them. Amazon also says that Sidewalk can be used to simplify the process of setting up smart home devices, more easily find lost items / pets with Tile trackers that connect to the Sidewalk network, and all kinds of other future applications where it doesn’t even it had been thought. . In short, Amazon Sidewalk should eliminate most of the lingering pain points for smart home devices and allow them to perform better than ever.
The only real cost of Amazon Sidewalk is the internet data used to power the service, but even that is so minimal that most users probably won’t mind. Amazon says that the maximum bandwidth for a sidewalk bridge is 80 Kbps, with a maximum monthly data usage of 500 Mb. As Amazon points out, that’s about the same amount of data someone would use to stream 10 minutes of an HD video online. Outside of that, Amazon Sidewalk is completely free. Some people have raised concerns about the privacy aspect of Sidewalk, but for what it’s worth, Amazon has reiterated that the service is “designed to protect your privacy” and it’s backed by multiple layers of encryption.
Everything about Amazon Sidewalk should be a welcome addition to any smart home user, but ultimately the utility of the service comes down to each person’s individual neighborhood. The sidewalk is most effective when there are wide sidewalk bridges in an area to drive service. Some people may have many neighbors who have compatible devices, while others may find themselves in something of a dead zone. For areas where Sidewalk works, it could be a game changer for those folks. Amazon Sidewalk might not be the most exciting thing on paper, but when people can use their devices more easily and reliably without having to do any extra work on their part, that’s a huge win.
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