I heard about a couple of weeks ago on the radio on the way into work, and turned up the volume. From what I learned in the three or so minutes that I listened too, I took away this:
Amazon has released a new feature for its devices, called Sidewalk, that connects to your ring devices in your home and in your area. They then share a small slice of your wi-fi signal with other connected devices around your neighborhood, and is an anonymous signal.
The more people who are connected to Sidewalk, the better the strength of the entire community signal. A specific signal is what is transmitted to your connected devices, to the Tile trackers for keys or other small things, and can also be boosted into the signal that is in the streets and around the neighborhood.
Amazon Sidewalk can also strengthen the weak spots in the area where Sidewalk and all connected devices are present, boosting the signal to things like the garage door opener, and the video quality of doorbells that have cameras. Any Alexa's in your neighborhood act as a "node" or a way to extend the signal if it wouldn't originally reach that far. Now your local area is an invisible spider web of network activity, connecting everyone and everything that has Tile tech, Ring tech, and other services that Amazon provides.
Some concerns have already come up with Sidewalk, with people thinking that this new device will increase bandwidth charges, but Amazon has insured this is not the case. It caps out at 500 megabytes, and you can choose to opt out of Sidewalk at all times, at any time.
Another concern for Sidewalk has been raised in this question:
"How do I know if someone is tapping into my network to use my own signal to strengthen or extend their own?"
The answer? You don't.
Here's where the problems can come in. If you had your own wi-fi devices, your own security system, wouldn't you be a little perturbed if someone was feeding off of your camera feed to beef up the streaming quality of their TV, only to watch a boxing match in the living room? What if your signal got to weak while you were out of town, and your alarm system went down? Wouldn't you want to know about that?
You don't know if someone is using your wi-fi signal to help power their Sidewalk device, potentially putting other devices and services around you at risk. If your using your full allotted wi-fi and bandwidth services, what's to stop someone from piggybacking off of your wi-fi signal when theirs wouldn't normal reach far enough, and boosting their own wi-fi?
With Amazon Sidewalk, your devices automatically opt into this "Community Network" unless your choose to turn it off. However, if you want to use the communities network to boost your own signal strength, you have to have Amazon Sidewalk features enabled for your devices, or your own signal and your own wi-fi will be at its base level of running power.
Amazon has already come to speak about concerns with this new device, saying that:
"Your wi-fi signal isn't what Sidewalk will connect to. It uses devices like your Ring Doorbell and Tile devices to share slivers of your data with the neighborhood, creating a stronger overall network."
Already as well, many articles found on the web are of a "how do I opt out of Amazon Sidewalk?" nature, proving that there are legitimate concerns about this new service.
Amazon has assured people that their device is only supposed to help boost signals in neighborhoods and help the overall community, but you'd have to try it out for yourself to believe it.
Below is a news report that can help sum up some of what we've read so far.
So, what does all this new tech cost? Nothing.
You don't pay any fees to join the Amazon Sidewalk, and the only thing that applies in the form of money is your standard usage and data fees.
So that should give some peace of mind if your skeptical about this new service, and I hope this article answered some questions you didn't know you had.
No Wi-Fi sharing, no hidden fees, and no cyber criminals looking to steal your data and personal data. At it's base level, it seems like a win-win.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day. If you liked reading this, consider leaving me a tip, because every little bit helps.