What's This New Amazon Sidewalk Network? Should I Opt-Out?
Voice speaker assistants and doorbell cameras are two smart devices that have become very popular in recent years. Currently, the average American household has a total of 10 internet-connected devices.
What is needed to power all those devices? A Wi-Fi network.
But most home Wi-Fis can only reach so far outdoors. You may get a signal as far as your patio or in part of your garage, but home wireless networks don’t typically reach to the perimeter of a property.
Amazon is trying to change this with a new “neighborhood” Wi-Fi network that it calls Amazon Sidewalk. Just like sidewalks run outside and around neighborhoods, this new network is designed to do the same thing with an internet connection.
However, it’s not a connection like cable or satellite, the owners of certain Amazon devices would be sharing their bandwidth to create the network. And if you have an Echo or Ring device, you may already be doing this!
Set up of Alexa devices, Ring cameras, and many other devices has become just a little more complicated because owners have another decision to make about whether or not to participate in this new network.
I’ll go over all the details below.
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is a low-bandwidth wireless network that uses a portion of each participating device owner’s Wi-Fi to make the network possible. The more devices in a neighborhood that participate, the stronger the network is. The fewer that participate, the weaker it is.
So, instead of borrowing a cup of sugar, Amazon is borrowing about 80 kilobytes per second (Kbps) of your bandwidth and a maximum of 500 megabytes (MB) of data per month.
What does that mean? Amazon describes 80 Kbps as approximately 1/40th of the bandwidth needed to stream a high-definition video, and 500 MB as the equivalent of streaming that video for roughly 10 minutes.
If you have an Echo or Ring device that is opted into the Amazon Sidewalk network, this means it’s tapping into your Wi-Fi bandwidth and using that for Amazon’s outdoor network that anyone can use.
What Are the Benefits of Amazon Sidewalk?
The reason Amazon created this neighborhood wireless network is to extend the reach of Wi-Fi for outdoor devices.
For example, if you use a wireless security camera system at your house, you can only place cameras so far away from your home. Go too far, and they don’t have a Wi-Fi connection to operate properly.
If they’re connected to Amazon Sidewalk, you can potentially place those devices anywhere on your property in Milburn, Short Hills, or anywhere else and they could still have a Wi-Fi connection. This gives you more flexibility for the placement of security cameras, smart floodlights, and similar devices.
One more handy feature that Amazon is planning for the future is a partnership with a company like Tile, that makes smart tracking devices. If you have a Tile attached to a dog collar, for example, it could be much easier to pinpoint the location of a lost pet if that collar stayed connected to Wi-Fi as Rover roamed around the neighborhood.
This Isn’t a Normal Wi-Fi That Any Device Can Use
Before you get excited about lounging by your pool and connecting your tablet to Amazon’s Wi-Fi, you need to know what devices can and can’t use the network.
CAN Use the Amazon Sidewalk Network:
Echo Devices (typically, 2nd Gen and higher)
Select Ring Devices (floodlight & spotlight cams)
Other Echo Devices (Show, Plus, etc.)
Amazon & 3rd party devices Amazon designates in the future
CAN’T Use the Amazon Sidewalk Network:
Everything Else (your tablet, laptop, smartphone, etc.)
What About Security?
There are some pros and cons about the security of this network that you should be aware of.
On the plus side, Amazon’s very aware of the need to keep this network secure and has three different levels of encryption to help keep hackers out.
On the con side, hackers always seem to find a way into public networks. This means that using a network like this could leave your own network’s security at risk, leading to the possibility of your data being stolen and sold on the Dark Web.
One other concerning feature is that even though Amazon protects the privacy of those using the network, not allowing users to see each other, they could see the general vicinity of your device.
The Most Concerning Thing About Amazon Sidewalk
The thing you should be the most concerned about with Amazon Sidewalk is that your Echo or Ring devices may already be connected and sharing your bandwidth.
In a controversial move, Amazon didn’t want to wait for people to opt-in to the network, it opted in compatible devices automatically, without any user permission needed.
So, to turn off the Sidewalk connection you have to go into your Alexa settings to do it manually.
This involves the following steps:
Open Alexa app
Open More and choose Settings
Select Account Settings
Select Amazon Sidewalk
Click to turn Amazon Sidewalk Off for your account
This will not impact the use of your device; it will only keep your device from connecting to the Sidewalk network and stop it from sharing your bandwidth with neighbors (and potentially strangers).
Need Help With Safe & Secure Alexa Device Setup?
CompuTara can help you with safe and secure Alexa and smart device setup to ensure you’re not putting your data at risk. This includes, checking your device for participation in Amazon Sidewalk.
Schedule your Alexa session today! Call me at: 862-368-4893 or Email me here.
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