What is Amazon Sidewalk?
At their Seattle hardware event back in September, Amazon announced the Amazon Sidewalk: your friendly neighbourhood IoT network.
Setting their sights beyond their e-commerce empire, Amazon has set out to build its own IoT network in order to fill a connectivity niche, plugging the gap between the 5G coverage of tomorrow and the Wi-Fi and cellular of today.
How does it work?
Sidewalk uses the 900 MHz spectrum–a mainstay for comms systems like emergency radios and doctors’ pagers. Reliable and accessible, it’s the perfect blend of bandwidth capability for low data IoT, distance coverage, and penetration.
The other big trump card is wireless mesh technology. This allows devices to mesh together and extend the Sidewalk network. Amazon tested this with 700 Ring lighting products shared among employees, friends, and family. By simply installing the devices in their homes, the users created a wide-ranged mesh network; one almost big enough to span the entire Los Angeles basin—4,000 square miles!
Where does it fit into the connectivity story?
Amazon may be a sprawling behemoth of a company; but Sidewalk is a very targeted protocol, designed to fill a niche spot in the connectivity sphere. It sits comfortably as a middle ground between the simplicity of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the capability of LTE and 5G. Not to mention the added versatility that comes with the open software development kit—developers will have a ton of fun using the kit to develop their own apps and devices for Sidewalk.
But like with a public Wi-Fi service, vulnerabilities in Sidewalk’s protocol could allow hackers to intercept communications or tamper with devices; especially since some of those devices could be at the centre of smart home security, like the “Ring” doorbell and “Echo” assistants. So for Amazon to see their dream of interconnected smart homes come true, they need to implement the Sidewalk network with the utmost care—security needs to be airtight, and users need to have clear instructions on how to keep it that way.
An IoT network for the smart building and beyond
It’s looking like Sidewalk will muscle in on devices that don’t need Bluetooth and Wi-Fi’s multi-Mbps capabilities, but do need extra reach. Think proximity sensors on doorbells; temperature sensors on HVAC systems; or geo-locators on beloved household pets.
But the possibilities don’t stop at smart homes and buildings. As we saw with the 700-Ring test in Los Angeles basin, neighborhood or city-wide networks could bring people and their devices together on a metropolitan scale.
The connected family
For instance, take a local family spread across a city. A mesh network opens up plenty of IoT security options.
Each family member could be granted emergency access to each other’s smart home security systems, using devices on that network. They could also receive alerts if someone attempts to enter the household when, say, the occupants are on holiday.
It would be especially useful when it comes to home healthcare for the elderly. Say the grandparents have IoT-powered home healthcare, like fall detectors or medication reminders; the rest of the local family can easily connect to these devices, monitor their status, and receive alerts if there are drastic blood pressure changes or missed appointments.
But it doesn’t stop at the connected family. Sidewalk could be handy for any location-based group—student bodies, volunteers, local authorities; the list goes on.
Though it’s too early to call it a connectivity standard, if Amazon play their cards right Sidewalk has the potential to bridge home and global IoT. They’re starting strong, not just because of their enormous presence and market share; but also through their open-spec approach, placing Sidewalk straight into the hands of developers and manufacturers.
Will Sidewalk become a new de-facto technology and edge out its Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular siblings? It’s too early to tell—but as lovers of all things connectivity, we’re excited to see where it goes!
In the meantime though, if you’re looking to connect your smart home or building, check out our connectivity options—we’ve got you covered.