Back in 2019, Amazon announced a new smart home play in the form of a low-bandwidth network called Amazon Sidewalk with the intent of extending the range of smart devices and overcoming the current range limitations of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Now that the network is ready to roll out, Amazon will automatically enroll all Sidewalk-eligible devices. Customers are required to manually opt out — or agree to let Amazon share their Wi-Fi with their neighbors.
The system works by broadcasting on 900MHz radio bands, as well as using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals to bridge gaps in wireless coverage and extend the working range of devices beyond what our home Wi-Fi routers are capable of alone. Sidewalk-compatible devices like Tile trackers, smart lights, and smart garage door openers will be able to take advantage of this low-bandwidth, long-range network.
While Amazon’s grand idea is to create a large-scale, public mesh network that can blanket entire neighborhoods, the company is using your internet connection to do it, bringing up a number of social, technical, and security questions.
A network of networks
Sidewalk will largely be made up of what Amazon calls Endpoints and Gateways. Sidewalk Gateways (and Bridges, according to the whitepaper) are devices that forward packets between Sidewalk Endpoints and across the Sidewalk network. Endpoints, on the other hand, are devices that exist or roam on the Sidewalk network. Stitching this all together is Amazon’s…