A recent email from Amazon has sparked concern and paranoia both in and outside the tech community after the company announced that it will soon be activating the Sidewalk on Echo devices.
Amazon Sidewalk is a low-power, 900Mhz long-range mesh network which Amazon hopes will soon be blanketing cities around the world.
Amazon hopes the technology will allow implementations which previously would have required a SIM card and carrier network subscription, offering wide-area networking easily, cheaply and at low power.
Examples include a Ring camera for your car, which would be able to monitor your vehicle on your sidewalk while being outside the range of your home WIFI network.
Another example is tracking tags for pets, which would not need a carrier subscription but would work using the mesh network all over the city, without needing to be recharged every day, due to lower power consumption. Due to the long-range of the base stations (built into Echo devices), only a few hundred homes will be able to blanket a whole city with coverage.
Concerns have been raised do to the mesh nature of the network, meaning data generated by strangers would flow in part across your network. Fundamentally this is no different to other mesh location services such as Apple’s Find My Phone, but likely to be much more useful and accessible.
Amazon says all data which flows across your network will be encrypted, that only authorised devices will be able to connect, and that at maximum it will only use 80 kb/sec, which is a near unmeasurable amount when most of us are on at least tens of megabits/sec connections.
The existence of the network will likely create massive value for Amazon, but also for end-users, and free low-bandwidth mobile data from the control of carriers.
Read all about the technology at Amazon here.