Amazon’s ambitions to expand your smart home outside are starting to pick up speed. While the company announced the Sidewalk initiative last year, we have not heard much more until now. Now Amazon says it is approaching release and will extend the standard to Echo devices and Tiles. The latter is the first third-party partnership for Sidewalk.
The sidewalk is another smart home standard, much like the ZigBee and Z-Wave, but works a little differently than the standards that came before it. Whether you use ZigBee or WiFi-connected devices, your smart home usually does not extend beyond your home. Even the few outdoor gadgets available right now, such as smart cameras, usually do not go much further than your four walls.
But the sidewalk wants to do exactly that. It depends on the 900 MHz spectrum to extend WiFi far beyond what is usually possible. It enables concepts such as smart lighting for the entire length of the driveway. But you still need bridging devices to connect to the extended network.
Amazon announced today that Echo devices would act as just that bridge through a Bluetooth connection. But that doesn̵7;t just mean your Echo devices; your neighbor’s Echo point can also act as a bridge.
Obviously, there are some security implications with that, and to address these concerns, Amazon released a white paper today for detailed steps it would take to keep your data out of your neighbor’s hands. It includes using a three-layer encryption protocol.
Your Echo and Call devices can extend your smart home network to a longer range outside your home. And Tile will soon take advantage of the larger network. Currently, if you lose a tiled device, its limited range may prevent you from finding the tracker. But Sidewalk-enabled tiles can connect to any sidewalk so you can find your lost keys or camera.
Amazon has not yet said when Sidewalk will make its full debut. Still, it says that ring owners with compatible products will receive an email later this month with more information about upcoming features. When we find out more, we will let you know. But for now, it may be time to start thinking about smart homes as smart neighborhoods.