Amazon has been a leader for a while in the smart home gadget market. It bought Ring, the company famous for its doorbell security cam, in 2018 and its Alexa-enabled devices own about 53% of the smart speaker market share.
Smart home gadgets are becoming a growing portion of the devices connected to home networks, and they’re about to take an interesting turn, which could soon impact everyone that owns an Echo or Ring device.
By the end of 2020, Amazon expected to launch a low-bandwidth neighborhood Wi-Fi network called Amazon Sidewalk. The goal is to extend the reach of smart gadgets outside the home.
Some of the benefits of this extended wireless reach would include:
- Ability to move smart security cameras to the outer edges of property
- Coverage in places like garages and backyards
- Easier tracking of pets or lost items that use a Tile smart tracking device
- Ability to use a smart speaker in more outside areas
We’ll go through how this network works and security concerns you need to be aware of, including the fact that your Amazon devices might already be opted into it.
How Does Amazon Sidewalk Work?
First, it’s important to know that this isn’t just any type of Wi-Fi network that you can connect any device to. Only approved Amazon devices will be able to connect. Devices that can connect to the network are called “Sidewalk Bridges.”
Amazon says, “Today, Sidewalk Bridges include many Echo devices and select Ring Floodlight and Spotlight Cams.” There is talk about them including Tile tracking products in the future, as well as other devices.
What Amazon Sidewalk does is use a portion of the bandwidth from the network of participating Sidewalk Bridge devices to create a shared network. So, if your Echo smart speaker was opted in, this means that part of your router’s bandwidth can be used by others in near proximity to your home – even if the router has a password.
How Much Bandwidth Does Sidewalk Use?
If you already have a crowded network, you may be worried about how much bandwidth Amazon is going to use.
The maximum amount of bandwidth that a Sidewalk Bridge will use when connecting to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps. Amazon describes this as approximately 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a high-definition video.
But it’s important to note that a home can have more than one Sidewalk Bridge device (and many do). For example, a child might have an Echo lamp, there may be another voice speaker in the living room, and the family may have a Ring doorbell cam.
Total monthly data used per account is capped at 500MB.
What’s the Cost? Or Are We Being Paid for Our Bandwidth?
Amazon is quick to say that the service is free to users of compatible devices.
But… are you getting paid for the use of your bandwidth to power this neighborhood network? No.
Amazon is hoping that everyone will just give up bandwidth of their own free will (or not realize they’re already opted in) to power the network because of the benefit they’ll receive from a wider outdoor coverage range for certain devices.
What Should I Be Concerned About with Amazon Sidewalk?
You May Already Be Opted In
One part of the Sidewalk rollout that has a lot of security experts concerned is that Amazon is automatically opting in all compatible Sidewalk Bridge devices and the owners have to specifically change device settings to opt out.
You can find a list of the devices that Amazon notes as currently compatible Sidewalk Bridges here.
Amazon Does Have Security, But Public Networks Can Be Hacked
Amazon is using 3 layers of encryption and putting protections in place to prevent people seeing who is accessing their Sidewalk Bridge connection. However, hackers often find a way into public networks.
So, any public network, especially one that is connecting strangers to portions of your bandwidth, have a potential for leaving your data vulnerable.
3RD Party Developers Can Create Sidewalk-Compatible Devices
The more the merrier, right? Well, giving third-party developers the ability to make devices that connect to Sidewalk has its pros and cons.
A pro is that there will be more uses for the neighborhood network with more devices able to take advantage of it.
A con is that not all developers have the same level of security. So, one device with poor security protections could easily cause a breach of the network, and potentially your Sidewalk Bridge device.
How Secure Are Your Smart Home Gadgets?
Smart gadgets are well known for being one of the least protected endpoints on a network. Don’t leave yours misconfigured! Connect2Geek can help you with smart home security to ensure no one is able to tap into your doorbell cam, smart speaker, or other IoT device.
Schedule your free consultation to learn more today! Call 208-468-4323 or reach out online.