Amazon Sidewalk is finally operational this week, after years of development. Amazon Sidewalk, the company’s first big foray into wider community networking, will do a few things for smart home device owners.
Sidewalk seeks to fill in the bandwidth gaps for a number of web-connected devices in our homes by enabling faster setups for many smart home devices (like smart lights, locks, and cameras) and improving overall internet connectivity for this same suite of gear using low-power broadcast methods such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and parts of the 900MHz radio spectrum.
Sidewalk-enabled devices will automatically go online on June 8. Sidewalk-ready hardware includes nearly every Amazon Echo product released since 2018, as well as various Ring hardware. While most of these devices can only operate on Sidewalk’s BLE bands for speedier installs and expanded Wi-Fi coverage on your property, many customers are concerned about Sidewalk-enabled Bridges.
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The Echo Show 10, Amazon’s spherical fourth-generation Echo speakers, and Ring’s Spotlight and Floodlight Cam all play a different part in Amazon’s Sidewalk plans. These are the only four types of devices that will be able to transmit signals across the 900MHz spectrum at launch. While most Echo and Ring gadgets will be able to transmit and distribute BLE signals (much like a router-based mesh network), the 900MHz-capable gadgets will test Sidewalk to its limits.
Benefits include Wi-Fi-adjacent coverage for places with patchy Internet, as Sidewalk Bridges are expected to cast signals as far as half a mile away. Furthermore, tracking devices that rely on Bluetooth, such as Tile and CareBand, will have a considerably larger coverage area than what can be done with the A-to-B of your phone’s Bluetooth receiving to the tracking device’s transmission. Let’s pretend your dog goes missing. You can track your dog from miles away with Fetch (Tile’s latest — a Bluetooth-trackable dog collar) and Sidewalk community networking, as opposed to only a few hundred feet in a non-Sidewalk neighborhood.
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The simple fact is that not every owner of a Sidewalk Bridge device will want their gear to be live and broadcasting to the public. Sidewalk Bridges can broadcast by borrowing a sliver of your home’s ISP-provided Wi-Fi and re-classifying that iota of bandwidth as a 900MHz low-power signal. While Amazon has gone out of its way to be transparent about all of the security measures taken to operate Sidewalk Sidewalk Bridges can broadcast by borrowing a sliver of your home’s ISP-provided Wi-Fi and then re-classifying that iot
Amazon states that all Sidewalk Bridge devices would have monthly data caps of 500MB (not enough capacity to stream 10 minutes of HD video) and data transmitted from Bridge devices to Amazon servers will be limited to 80Kbps. Users should also expect a slew of sophisticated encryptions to be applied to all data flowing in and out of their homes and communities. However, some people will still be hesitant to share a fragment of their Wi-Fi with their ZIP code.
After all, Amazon Sidewalk is a completely different game for the company. Sidewalk will undoubtedly be in its infant (and bug-ridden) stage for some time after introduction, as any brand-new tech tool should be. There’s also the fact that the Internet you pay for on a monthly basis is being mined for data transmission. While enabled Sidewalk Bridges are limited to 500MB per month, that’s still 500MB that could have been put to better use in your own home to support web-connected devices.
Opting out of Amazon Sidewalk is an option available to all Sidewalk device owners, whether you’re unwilling to give up any of your monthly Wi-Fi bandwidth or you’re not ready to trust mega-tech businesses with your user data. Here’s how you can turn off the service.
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The Alexa app makes it simple to turn Amazon Sidewalk on or off. Take out your phone or tablet, and then open the app. More can be found on the home screen (bottom right-hand corner). After that, go to Settings, then Account Settings.
You’ll find an option for Amazon Sidewalk on the Account Settings page. Allow yourself to tap. On the next screen, you’ll see a quick explanation of the Sidewalk service with an enable/disable choice at the bottom. That’s it! Simply drag the toggle to the off position.
When Sidewalk networking is disabled, your Amazon, Ring, and other compatible gear will continue to work and respond normally, but you won’t be able to send or receive Sidewalk networking signals.
The future of Amazon Sidewalk
As mentioned, Amazon Sidewalk is an entirely new service that’ll take time to work all the kinks out of.
However, in a perfect scenario, there’s a lot to like about a fully functional Sidewalk community. We’re talking about increased connectivity for some of our favorite smart home devices, easier setups for the same devices improved tracking for Tile, CareBand, and other brands, as well as new products joining the Sidewalk family.
Sidewalk has a bright future ahead of it, but if you’re afraid that a day of flawless perfection is far off (or impossible), you have complete control over whether or not to use the service.