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Amazon released its Sidewalk network to anyone building connected devices.

Amazon released its Sidewalk network to anyone building connected devices.

My smart devices can join a low-power, low-bandwidth, long-range IoT network surrounding me. Amazon revealed today how far their Sidewalk IoT network reaches the average American neighborhood. Deep too.

The company’s initial Sidewalk coverage map claims that over 90% of US residents may access the now-public network (US only). With an Amazon Sidewalk developer test kit, I drove about my town for three days, covering more than 40 miles, and found that connectivity was unexpectedly robust in my region of South Carolina, even in a national park.

Amazon provided this data with the Sidewalk developer launch. Amazon Sidewalk, a low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) launched in 2019, would enable the next generation of connected devices. It’s meant to replace pricey LTE or 5G connectivity on low-bandwidth devices where $10 or more a month for data is too much.

Sidewalk helps Ring cameras broadcast motion notifications offline, and Level smart locks connect to the internet without Wi-Fi antennas. Amazon partnered with CareBand, a wearable health tracker maker, early on. Amazon wants others to manufacture free network gadgets.

Request a test kit—a little gray wireless device with Ring branding—to check the connection in the area you intend to deploy your product, and you may start constructing. Nordic, Silicon Labs, and other silicon makers offer SDKs and HDKs, while Amazon IoT Core for Sidewalk makes device connectivity easy. (Limp states AWS cloud services are unnecessary to access the network.

Sidewalk benefits which consumer IoT devices? Dog trackers, package trackers, soil moisture sensors, weather stations, leak sensors, mailbox sensors, pill bottles, solar panel controllers, garage door controllers, and anything else that doesn’t necessarily live where Wi-Fi is available.

Amazon SVP of devices and services Dave Limp tells me he wants a long-range linked meat thermometer. “Many things have failed. You’re in South Carolina—overcooked pig butt isn’t good.”

As someone who has tried to smoke pork on a connected smoker in my backyard, I understand the hassles of maintaining one Wi-Fi bar while enjoying the outdoors. This network is useful in many smart home scenarios. Sidewalk’s dynamic coverage may be the largest benefit.

My map shows that Sidewalk can monitor movement devices like dogs and package trackers, helping bridge the smart home and city. Amazon says the Ring Fetch dog tracker released with Sidewalk has not been updated.

The sidewalk was created to fix Ring video doorbell connectivity issues. Amazon found that even with a robust antenna, its smart doorbells outside residences, frequently with masonry or plaster between them and a Wi-Fi router, would miss alerts. Limp explains, “We devised internally a protocol [to tackle this] and then a few years ago declared our aim to externalize that and call it Sidewalk.

Limp claims Sidewalk delivered over a billion notifications to Ring customers last year when it was switched on. “We sent those alerts via this low bandwidth backhaul network, and the client was still aware that something happened, so they could check it out when things were back online,” he explains. Sidewalk’s privacy and security assurances are here. Amazon insists Sidewalk won’t snoop on your device data (pdf).

Some companies have developed Sidewalk-enabled products with Amazon. New Cosmos launched Denova Detect, a battery-powered natural gas detector; Primax launched Woody, a smart door lock; and Netvox launched a multi-sensor that monitors air conditioning, water leaks, and state. These devices could use Sidewalk connectivity from any adjacent bridge.

Sidewalk is welcome in the new smart home landscape, but it’s not the only option. With enough devices, Z-long-range Wave’s chip can extend connectivity beyond 300 feet, while Thread’s low-power mesh network can reach your garden or garage. Sidewalk is mobile. Sidewalk and Matter coexist in Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, according to Limp. He says Sidewalk competes more with Wi-Fi than Matter as a data network and transport layer. You could theoretically port some Matter Standard to Sidewalk. It’s becoming exciting.

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