At its annual hardware event in Seattle on September 25, Amazon announced Sidewalk, a new effort to significantly extend the working range of low-bandwidth, low-cost smart home devices. The goal of Sidewalk is to allow consumers to place smart home devices in all areas of their property, even those that don’t have a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal.
This announcement comes in response to a major barrier frequently experienced by consumers who want to create a fully-integrated smart home that extends beyond the four corners of their house.
According to Amazon, many outdoor devices like sensors and smart lights currently lose functionality past the front door where their Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals end. 5G is one alternative, but it’s too complex and uses too much power for everyday use.
Amazon Sidewalk aims to use the 900 MHz spectrum to increase the connection range of smart home devices by more than half a mile. According to Amazon, Sidewalk will allow users to confidently place their devices anywhere on their property without having to worry about whether their signal will reach.
Chances are that you’ve already used devices that rely on the 900 MHz spectrum. Walkie talkies, for example, use this frequency, benefiting from its long range, limited battery usage and the ability to penetrate buildings.
One of the first upcoming devices to use this protocol is Fetch, a lightweight device that attaches to your pet’s collar to keep track of their location and notify you if they wander outside of a specified safe area. The Ring Smart Lighting Bridge also uses connections in the 900 MHz spectrum to extend the range of smart lighting devices, and additional devices will soon begin to use it as well, including the latest generation Ring Floodlight Camera and Ring Spotlight Camera.
Amazon suggests that devices using Amazon Sidewalk will form a mesh network. Prior to Sidewalk’s announcement, Amazon sent 700 test devices to households in the Los Angeles area. With only 700 access points, the network covered most of the city. Amazon believes that as more access points are created, the coverage of this network will continue to grow.
Further details have not yet been announced, as Amazon describes Sidewalk as a “long-term effort”, but one thing is clear: the growing popularity of outdoor smart home devices could make it a valuable addition to smart home setups.
We’re looking forward to seeing how Sidewalk can be applied to future products to make smart home tech more accessible for all. To stay updated on Sidewalk’s release, Amazon has setup a sign-up page for those wanting to be notified of updates.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.