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Home / Tips and Tricks / Amazon Sidewalk is officially here. Here’s What You Need To Know Before Sharing Your Home’s Bandwidth

Amazon Sidewalk is officially here. Here’s What You Need To Know Before Sharing Your Home’s Bandwidth



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The Echo Dot with Clock, one of several Amazon and Ring gadgets that will double as sidewalk bridges from June 8.

Chris Monroe/CNET

June 8 marked the launch of Amazon sidewalk, a new feature that promises to keep your devices in the home better connected, especially at the edges of your property. The gist is that select Amazon Echo smart speakers and Ring gadgets will serve as bridges capable of connecting to other Sidewalk devices over long distances via wireless. Bluetooth LE or 900MHz LoRa signals — plus a small portion of your home network’s bandwidth. By doing so, these products become part of a sort of mesh network, with your Echo or Ring device acting as an intermediary between your router and, say, those backyard smart lights that are on the edge of its Wi-Fi range.

But Sidewalk isn’t just for your outdoor lighting and other smart home devices: it’s for everyone’s gadgets. If your neighbor uses a Sidewalk-enabled letterbox sensor that is within range of the Sidewalk bridges in your home, that sensor may well your network to connect to the cloud.

Is it as scary as it sounds?

At launch I don’t think so. I have a separate message that takes a closer look at what Amazon says it does to keep Sidewalk private and secure – the short version is that the company uses three layers of encryption for all Sidewalk transmissions, and the network is designed so that even Amazon can’t see any of those data. Amazon adds that it removes the data used to route Sidewalk transmissions every 24 hours, and uses rolling IDs to prevent those transmissions from being associated with a specific user.

It’s also important to understand that other people’s Sidewalk devices can’t access, access, or even see your home’s Wi-Fi network, nor can you access information about those devices. or their users. Such remote devices anonymously connect to your Echo or Ring device via Bluetooth LE or LoRa, and your Echo or Ring device relays their signal to the cloud using a very small amount of your home network’s bandwidth.

In particular, those transmissions are limited to 80 Kbps each, with a maximum data usage of 500 MB per month. That may sound like a lot, but according to Statista, internet usage peaked to a peak of about 400 GB per month in 2020. That’s 400,000 MB. 500 MB is about 0.125% of that figure.

Sidewalk data usage can still be a concern if your internet plan comes with a data cap and you will be charged extra for overage, but excluding outliers like Viasat’s satellite internetat, most plans like that come with limits of at least 1 TB. That’s 1,000 GB or 1 million MB. In that case, Sidewalk’s monthly data usage would amount to a maximum of 0.05% of your data limit.

Personally, I’m willing to give Sidewalk a shot, but I can understand why many are wary — especially if you’re starting to wonder how Amazon could end up using this anonymous, low-bandwidth network that works wherever people Echo or Ring. using devices .

“Our focus right now is to make our customers’ devices work better,” Amazon’s general manager for Sidewalk, Manolo Arana, recently told the Washington Post. “I can’t comment on future roadmap plans.”

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Amazon Sidewalk is enabled by default, but the Community Search feature, which shares the approximate location of your home with other people, is disabled by default.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The bigger problem: it’s enabled by default

Aside from Amazon’s warranties, the Sidewalk idea is still frown a lot. Most worrisome for some: Sidewalk is enabled by default, so you’ll need to navigate to the account settings section of the Alexa app to disable it if you don’t want to participate.

When you do this, you’ll notice that Sidewalk actually comes with two separate privacy rights: a main switch to turn Sidewalk on and off, and a second switch that controls something called “Community Finding.” Unlike the main Sidewalk permission, the Search Community permission is disabled by default.

Amazon explains that this second permission is all about tile trackers and other Sidewalk-enabled devices designed to help people find things.

“If you also enable Community Finding, you have the opportunity to help your neighbors by sharing your Bridge’s approximate location to provide benefits, such as helping them locate their pet,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “Neighbors using Community Finding will not be able to see the exact address of your Sidewalk Bridge. They will only see an approximate location. This setting applies to all of your Sidewalk Bridges.”

It’s important to note that Amazon anonymizes that location data. If I enabled Community Finding and someone dropped a wallet with a Sidewalk-enabled Tile tracker in it outside my house, they would receive an alert with the approximate region where the wallet is located or the closest nearby intersection. That warning wouldn’t identify me or my home, and it wouldn’t allow that person to contact me or access my home network.

To summarize, here’s what is and isn’t enabled by default with Amazon Sidewalk:

Default on

  • Localized Bluetooth LE connections between the Sidewalk bridges and Sidewalk-enabled devices in your home
  • Long-range, Bluetooth LE and 900MHz connections between your Sidewalk bridges and Sidewalk-compatible devices outside your home, including other people’s devices
  • Long-range, Bluetooth LE and 900MHz connections between your Sidewalk-compatible devices and outdoor Sidewalk bridges, including other people’s bridges
  • Share bandwidth to send these signals over your home network to Amazon’s servers (no more than 80 Kbps per transmission and 500 MB of data per month)

Disabled by default, requires login for Community Finding

  • Location notifications that share the approximate and anonymized location of your home with other users when they lose a Sidewalk-enabled device, such as a Tile Tracker, within range of your Sidewalk Bridge, or vice versa

Which Echo and Ring devices work as curb bridges?

For reference, here’s the full list of the devices that double as Sidewalk bridges, along with the protocols they support. So far only the spherical, fourth generation Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Show 10, the Ring Floodlight Camera and the wired Ring Spotlight Camera include 900MHz radios, which can connect to devices up to half a mile away. (BLE transmissions are maximum at about 100 meters.) At launch, the only Sidewalk-compatible devices that can connect to those 900MHz radios will be CareBand wearable sensors designed to track people with dementia, but in the coming months more will follow.

  • Amazon Echo (second generation, 2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo (third generation, 2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo (fourth generation, 2020, BLE and 900MHz)
  • Amazon Echo Dot with clock (first generation, 2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot with clock (second generation, 2020, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (first generation, 2016, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (second generation, 2016, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (third generation, 2018, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (fourth generation, 2020, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (third generation, 2020, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Plus (first generation, 2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Plus (second generation, 2018, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show (first generation, 2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show (second generation, 2018, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show 5 (2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show 8 (2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show 10 (2020, BLE and 900MHz)
  • Amazon Echo Spot (2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Studio (2018, BLE only)
  • Ring Floodlight Camera (2019, BLE and 900MHz)
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019, BLE and 900MHz)

How to disable Amazon Sidewalk

We have full instructions for you here, but here’s the summary:

To disable Sidewalk (or enable Community Finding), open the Alexa app and tap the More icon bottom right.

Crane Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk to find the main switch for Amazon Sidewalk.

Crane Search Community to find the second location sharing switch.


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