Amazon Sidewalk network rolled out (Dec 2020)

Image: Amazon Sidewalk

What’s Amazon Sidewalk?

On broad terms, Amazon sidewalk is a three-layer encrypted wifi-network extender that improves wi-fi range and connectivity beyond your front door. It uses the same 900 MHz spectrum, used on Long-range devices like radios and digital pagers (emergency services) for decades. The Sidewalk creates a long-range, low energy network in places where the wi-fi and Bluetooth cannot otherwise reach.

What’s the confusion surrounding Amazon Sidewalk?

Image: Author

How safe is the Amazon Sidewalk?

“You’d be sharing a portion of your network bandwidth, but as a crowdsourced community benefit, the entire neighborhood can benefit from this feature,”

is Amazon’s point.
Amazon promises that your shared sidewalk network’s bandwidth would be limited to 80 kbps and capped at 500 MB per month. That bandwidth is about 10 minutes of high definition video streaming. You can turn it on or off as required. But what if you use up your data limit of 500 MB? Amazon has yet to clarify.
- Third-party applications and devices that share the sidewalk network must adhere to the three-layer encryption standards and strict contingency checks in place or drop off.
- A session ID gets generated when a sidewalk connection happens, and those IDs refresh every 15 minutes. The session IDs flush out from the database after 30 minutes of disconnection. Other routing information the sidewalk network server uses to move packets to and from the devices are cleared every 24 hours.
- The network has different levels to deal with unauthorized or rogue devices. One is the Sidewalk Gateway (GW) packet inspection: a received packet by the GW has to pass CRC and Sidewalk format checks, re-authenticating a Sidewalk endpoint(device) and blocklisting an endpoint(a sidewalk enabled device) if lost or stolen.

Can law enforcement agencies use any data Amazon picks?

Due to the least data retention and triple encryption policies on Amazon Sidewalk, the scope and the use of collected data collected is almost useless it assures.

Stay or opt-out of the Amazon echo sidewalk feature?

Amazon’s Sidewalk network is similar to the widely popular Xfinity wi-fi network. Xfinity uses the forced opt-in feature enabling its customers to get seamless connectivity across an entire city or wherever there is the Xfinity network. However, Amazon is clear and transparent about it, providing an open option to turn it off. No one except Amazon is recommending you to try it. You are the better judge, you know.

To enable or disable Amazon Sidewalk, use the Alexa app.

Devices that are also Sidewalk bridges

Sidewalk Bridges are devices that provide connections to Amazon Sidewalk. Today, Sidewalk Bridges include many Echo devices and select Ring Floodlight and Spotlight Cams. A comprehensive list of Sidewalk devices includes Ring Floodlight Cam (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019), Echo (2nd Gen), Echo (3rd Gen), Echo (4th Gen), Echo Dot (2nd Gen), Echo Dot (3rd Gen), Echo Dot (4th Gen), Echo Dot (2nd Gen) for Kids, Echo Dot (3rd Gen) for Kids, Echo Dot (4th Gen) for Kids, Echo Dot with Clock (3rd Gen), Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen), Echo Plus (1st Gen), Echo Plus (2nd Gen), Echo Show (1st Gen), Echo Show (2nd Gen), Echo Show 5, Echo Show 8, Echo Show 10, Echo Spot, Echo Studio.

Conclusion

Developers and third-party smart device manufacturers are working on extending the benefits of the Sidewalk in more ways. But only time will tell if those benefits are worth it, considering sharing the network with your neighborhood.

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