So far so tempting, but the more controversial part of Amazon Sidewalk is the way it shares some of your internet bandwidth with your neighbors (and gets some back in return), creating a much wider network of devices that can operate independently. If your internet goes down, your Ring camera can connect to the internet next door to keep sending you alerts, assuming both of you are set up with Sidewalk.
Likewise, if your neighbor’s internet goes down, their smart devices can temporarily connect to your router and the Sidewalk network you’ve created. If Amazon has its way, entire blocks will become Sidewalk networks, improving reliability and stability for all the smart devices contained inside them, and meaning that you’ll be able to unlock your smart door more easily from the other end of the street.
Tile trackers are also going to be Sidewalk-compatible starting June 14, which means they can report their location when they’re in range of any of these bespoke networks, not just your own—potentially very useful if your dog or your laptop goes missing outside of your own Wi-Fi network, but has a Tile tracker attached and can be located by one of the Sidewalk networks you’re connected to. A command like “Alexa, find my keys” will get the Tile tracker on your keychain to start ringing, for example.
If that sounds familiar, it should. Apple’s AirTags, which launched at the end of April, do a similar thing. AirTags use a combination of low-power Bluetooth and augmented reality to help you find your devices (or anything else you’ve attached an AirTag to, like your keys or your luggage,) and leverages Apple’s “Find My” network, which already helps people find lost phones and laptops. AirTags and Tile trackers work in similar ways, but the addition of augmented reality sets the AirTags apart, and getting on board with a network like Amazon Sidewalk gives Tile an opportunity to move in the same direction and stay competitive with Apple’s new offering.
But will all of these suddenly-online devices eat up ambient bandwidth? Amazon says that bandwidth usage by each Sidewalk network is capped at 80 Kbps, or around 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a high definition video—the network won’t take up any more of your internet connection than that. What’s more, Amazon promises never to use more than 500 MB of data in a month, which is the same as streaming about 10 minutes of high definition data.
“Customer privacy and security is foundational to Amazon Sidewalk,” writes Amazon in a blog post about the service. “The Sidewalk network uses three layers of encryption to keep data shared over the network safe, and the same strong encryption standards are required for all applications and devices that use the network.”