The market for Internet of Things (IoT) devices like voice assistants, cloud security cameras, and other smart gadgets continues to skyrocket.
The number of IoT connected devices just about doubled between 2015 and 2020 to 30.73 billion worldwide. And in four more years, that number is expected to double again.
Increasingly, computer support calls in Tipton, Indiana, and the surrounding areas involve connecting new smart gadgets to a home or business network.
Amazon is a leader in the IoT market with its Echo voice assistant devices and the purchase of Ring (maker of those famous Ring Doorbell cameras). One of the ways that Amazon is expanding its empire in this area is through a brand-new shared community network called Amazon Sidewalk.
Why do you need to know about it? Because you may already be opted in without realizing it!
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is an extended network that allows certain devices to remain connected to the internet outside of the normal reach of their home Wi-Fi. If enough devices in a neighborhood participate, then you may have internet capabilities throughout your entire community.
Amazon created this shared network to allow people to use more IoT devices in more ways. For example, maybe you’d like to add smart floodlights or a security camera at the perimeter of your property, but your home Wi-Fi can’t reach that far.
Or you might use a Tile smart tracker on your dog’s collar in case they get out of the backyard, but if they’ve roamed somewhere without an internet connection, pinpointing them can be difficult. Having neighborhood Wi-Fi, in this case, could make it easier for you to locate a lost pet, lost keys, or other items.
How Does Amazon Power Its Network?
Amazon isn’t creating this network like your internet service provider does, instead it’s using a portion of bandwidth from all participating devices to power it. So, if you have an Echo voice speaker that’s opted in to the network, up to 500MB of data can be used per month from that device for the shared network.
Devices that can use the network are called a “Sidewalk Bridge” and for each one you have Amazon uses up to 80Kbps of bandwidth for the Sidewalk network.
This community-powered network means that how well it works depends upon how many devices are participating.
What Do I Need to Know About Amazon Sidewalk?
You Might Already Be Sharing Your Network
In a controversial move, Amazon didn’t wait until people wanted to join this network, it opted in all compatible devices automatically. People that want to opt-out, have to specifically go to their device settings to disable the Sidewalk connection.
You can find a list of compatible Sidewalk Bridge devices here to see if you might have one that’s sharing your bandwidth already.
At the time of this writing, the network hadn’t yet begun, however, devices were already being opted in and prepared for the rollout. Amazon’s last announcement was that it was supposed to be working by the end of 2020.
Despite Security, Your Network Could Be at Risk
Amazon is putting security in place to help protect users from those who might try to hack into devices through the network or possibly track people connected to Sidewalk.
The company’s security includes three layers of encryption and the inability to see who is connected to your Sidewalk Bridge and using your bandwidth.
Despite that security, we all know that hackers tend to find a way around safeguards, which is why patch and update management is important. Giving strangers the ability to connect to your network and even see the general (if not exact) vicinity of your device is asking for trouble and potential data breaches.
It’s Not the Same as a Normal Wi-Fi
Amazon Sidewalk is described as a low-bandwidth shared network and it doesn’t accept just any wireless technology. You can’t connect your mobile device or computer to Sidewalk, at least not yet.
Only Amazon approved devices can be used for the network. Although Amazon is also inviting developers to create more devices that can be used on Sidewalk, which will both increase usability and security concerns in the future.
You’re Not Being Paid for Your Bandwidth
Amazon lets users know that they’re not being charged to use the Sidewalk network, and notes that “standard data rates from internet providers may apply.” However, it makes no mention of users being paid for use of their bandwidth.
The company is counting on the fact that many users will think it’s so helpful that they don’t consider the fact that their own internet bandwidth is being used by Amazon without any compensation.
How Secure Are Your Smart Gadgets?
Voice assistants and other IoT devices can mean vulnerabilities in your network security that allow other devices to be breached. Magnify247.com can do a thorough review of your network to ensure it’s not at risk.