Amazon has announced the rollout of a controversial new networking product called Sidewalk, which will use its Echo, Ring and other smart home devices to create neighbourhood-wide networks.
However, it won’t be coming to the UK. The company has apologised to Brits after emailing them to alert them the service is coming into effect. The service is going to be US only.
The purpose of Sidewalk is to help extend the range of their Wi-Fi-enabled smart home cameras and speakers. However, it’s also possible for a user’s devices to form part of a wider, separate network with other households up to 500m away.
So, the theory is, if your broadband goes down, your video doorbell or security camera could still be able to operate thanks to Sidewalk-enabled devices in neighbours’ homes. A number of newer Echo and Ring devices are already capable of being Sidewalk Bridge devices.
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Amazon says that it has considered the privacy implications of such a move and says that users won’t know which other devices are connected to a Sidewalk network.
The company says: “Information transferred over Sidewalk Bridges is encrypted and Bridge customers are not able to see that Sidewalk-enabled devices are connected to their Bridge,” Amazon explains. “Customers who own Sidewalk-enabled devices will know they are connected to Sidewalk but will not be able to identify which Bridge they are connected to.”
Users of those smart home products will now have to opt out manually if they don’t wish to be a part of the Sidewalk service. We can imagine there will be a raft of privacy and security fears here, so it may be advisable to opt out if that is a concern. This can be done here via the Amazon Alexa app. More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk.
There’s also the small matter of Amazon requiring a piggy back on users’ Wi-Fi bandwidth in order to make this happen. That data use will be capped at 500MB per month.
As for the UK, well despite Amazon’s email to Brits today, the platform won’t be arriving on these shores.
An Amazon spokesperson told the BBC: “We recently began emailing customers with Echo devices registered in the US to give them more information about Amazon Sidewalk. This service will only be available in the US when it launches. We apologise for any confusion.”