Whatever Happened With Amazon Sidewalk?

Let’s discuss what Amazon Sidewalk is, how it works and what’s happened in the last year since it launched.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing exponentially. Spanning a $212 billion market, the IoT is predicted to see an increase in the number of connected devices to 38.6 billion by 2025, according to Statista. As these devices become more prevalent, our networks will have to change and evolve to support them.

Smart technologies have made our lives more convenient in many ways. Tile helps us find our lost keys, Alexa makes our homes smarter and Ring cameras monitor our homes and keep us safe. One year ago, the tech giant Amazon launched a program called Sidewalk, which is a shared network aimed at helping connected devices work better outside of the home. Amazon Sidewalk wasn’t without its criticisms when it began rolling out to Echo and Ring devices in the U.S. last year, but there hasn’t been much news about the shared network since then.

What happened to the shared network, and what does its future look like?

What is Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon describes Sidewalk as “a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door.” Users can share a small portion of their internet bandwidth to create a shared network that supports other Amazon Sidewalk devices (called Sidewalk Bridges). With Sidewalk, compatible devices — including speakers, light bulbs, door locks and sensors — will be able to anonymously connect to other Sidewalk devices to borrow internet connectivity, which should enable some intriguing features down the road.

These communitywide networks can have many benefits, according to Amazon. They cite examples like a Tile tracker attached to a lost pet’s collar being tracked across the network to bring them home or hopping on your neighbor’s network to have seamless access to your Ring security cameras when your internet connection goes down. Other benefits include helping devices that have wireless-range issues remain connected to the internet and enabling faster and less complex setup of new devices.

How Does Amazon Sidewalk Work?

Using Bluetooth, the 900 MHz spectrum and other frequencies, customers can share a small part of their bandwidth to the low-bandwidth network so that other Sidewalk-compatible devices in range can connect to the internet. Consequently, every device that is connected to the network makes it stronger. Amazon Sidewalk settings state the speed of an Amazon Sidewalk device will be limited to 80 kbps, which is a small portion of the average internet user’s bandwidth.

Consider a Tile tracker on your child’s backpack as an example of how the innovative network technology works. With Amazon Sidewalk, in theory, you could “follow” your kiddo as they walk to school, with the tracking device seamlessly connecting to and disconnecting from the various Sidewalk devices in your neighborhood, town or city along the route.

amazon sidewalk

(Source: AWS)

Today, Sidewalk Bridges, devices that provide connections to the shared network, include the following comprehensive list of devices:

  • Ring Video Doorbell Pro
  • Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
  • Echo (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
  • Echo Plus (all generations)
  • Echo Show (2nd gen)
  • Echo Show 5, 8, 10 (all generations)
  • Echo Spot
  • Echo Studio
  • Echo Input
  • Echo Flex

Mobile networks require a lot of power, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi often don’t have enough range to connect to devices outside of the home. This is where services like Amazon Sidewalk come into play. By providing a communitywide network connection, Amazon can continue to make every aspect of our lives smarter and more convenient. Rather than just smart homes, Amazon Sidewalk creates smart neighborhoods.

Where Did Sidewalk Go?

Although there was a fair amount of news coverage about Sidewalk when it was launched last year, news about the product has been fairly scarce since. However, this does not mean that Sidewalk was a failure or that it has gone away. In fact, many people might have a Sidewalk Bridge that’s already connected without even knowing it. Amazon Sidewalk settings are such that users must proactively opt out, meaning that Sidewalk devices like Ring security cameras and Tile trackers are automatically connected. Despite the potential for security and privacy concerns, there have been no formal complaints about the shared network.

At Cardinal Peak, we believe the greatest threat to Sidewalk is the potential privacy and bandwidth concerns. While these concerns are fairly unfounded given the very low data use and the layers of encryption that protect from gateways accessing the contents of the packets, the growth in the number of devices using Sidewalk will help to increase the reliability of connected home devices, thereby driving continued uptake of Sidewalk devices.

If Amazon can stay on top of privacy concerns, Sidewalk is on a trajectory to become ubiquitous because it meets the growing need for greater and more reliable coverage for connected devices.

The Future of Amazon Sidewalk and Other Shared Networks

Shared networks like Amazon Sidewalk could be the way of the future. As our broadband networks become more advanced and our connections more secure, an increasing amount of technological innovation will become possible. This presents a new opportunity for innovators and product development companies to create technologies that leverage Amazon Sidewalk as well as other shared networks to deliver connected convenience.

Amazon offers the Sidewalk Developer Service, which is a suite of silicon chipsets, purchasable development boards, device software development kits (SDKs), device provisioning tools, technical documentation and a cloud integration, to help manufacturers launch Amazon Sidewalk devices.

It’s expected that Amazon will open up the Sidewalk network to more developers and vendors in 2023. With that and the initial privacy concerns addressed, we will likely see a lot more Sidewalk-based devices in the near future, including expansion beyond residential and consumer to industrial and commercial applications.

If you’re looking to bring a new device to the Amazon Sidewalk network, reach out to us! We already have extensive Amazon Alexa, Amazon Web Services and embedded engineering experience, making us a perfect fit for your Amazon Sidewalk device development project.

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