What is Amazon Sidewalk?
If you have an Amazon Echo smart speaker or Ring home security device, a new feature called Sidewalk will be introduced on June 8th. According to Amazon, Sidewalk is “a neighborhood network designed to make your devices work better—both inside your home and beyond the front door. Operated by Amazon at no charge to customers… to simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices, and help devices stay online and up-to-date even if they are outside the range of home Wi-Fi”.
Amazon lists the following benefits of Sidewalk:
- You can continue to receive alerts from your Ring security cameras even if your Wi-Fi is out
- Sidewalk can keep your smart lights connected, even if they’re out of your Wi-Fi network’s range
- Sidewalk will also eventually support Tile devices to help find lost belongings or pets
If that still sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone. We asked our President, Jared Humiston, to break things down for us, “Sidewalk essentially uses Bluetooth to connect to neighboring devices. So if the internet goes down in your house, your Amazon Echo or Ring device will use your neighbor’s connection to keep you connected. Your information is supposedly protected while traveling on your neighbor’s network through encryption. The intention is to help keep you connected, in a limited fashion, and to keep your IoT devices up and running in minor/localized outages”.
What devices will use Amazon Sidewalk?
According to Tech Aeris, the following devices will utilize Amazon Sidewalk:
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Echo (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Plus (all generations), Echo Show (all models and generations)
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Echo Input
- Echo Flex
Is it safe?
Despite past privacy concerns, Amazon insists that Sidewalk is secure. According to the company, “Customer privacy and security is foundational to Amazon Sidewalk. 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. For customers who choose to pool their bandwidth with neighbors, we ensure owners of other devices cannot view data sent from your devices.” Amazon has even released a 13-page document, Amazon Sidewalk Privacy and Security Whitepaper, that specifically addresses Amazon Sidewalk security fears, which you can read here.
There’s always a level of risk when using internet-enabled devices. Whether or not you want to take these security claims at face value is completely up to you. If you’d prefer to opt-out, keep reading.
How do I opt-out?
Sidewalk will be automatically enabled on your Echo or Ring devices on June 8th. If that makes you feel a bit squeamish, follow these steps below to opt-out:
- Open the Amazon Alexa app on your mobile device
- Go to More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk
- Tap to toggle it off (disable)