What Is Amazon Sidewalk? Here's What to Know About the Network You May Have Automatically Joined

NBC 7 Responds looked at the new program and how it can be used going forward.

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On Tuesday, Amazon rolled out its Sidewalk network to compatible Echo devices. The network is designed to connect Amazon devices so that they don't have to rely on your internet.

"The idea is: If one of your neighborhood networks goes down or needs more bandwidth, the idea is that it can be shared with nearby equipment that’s also Sidewalk compatible," said Scott Peterson, a cell phone and smart speaker analyst at GAP Intelligence. "It's a way to network your devices outside your residence."

Peterson said that two devices, each connected to the internet, could now talk to each other if they need help.

"If the power goes out, my security camera stays online and I can keep track of burglars," Peterson said.

Amazon Products like Tile already work with the Sidewalk network. Peterson said that can help track a pet that escaped, for example.

"It has those kind of benefits, like locate lost or stolen items or even pets with the system," Peterson said. "This is the connected city we saw in the future."

But even if you don't have neighbors, Peterson said, the network could still help.

"We've all had devices that are on the fringe of WiFi," Peterson said. "Like the Echo device upstairs or the Ring camera all the way on the far side of the house."

While there are some benefits immediately, Peterson said, the real benefit is the new network infrastructure that Amazon can use to develop new technologies.

"I think it's one of those solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist but is really going to be essential to a lot of the way we conduct ourselves across neighborhoods in the future," Peterson said.

Still, there are some people who are concerned with how Amazon is rolling out Sidewalk.

"The fear around this is the lack of transparency and understanding," Peterson said.

In a statement to NBC 7, Amazon laid out how it is protecting people's privacy:

Preserving customer privacy and security is foundational to how we’ve built Amazon Sidewalk. Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security to secure data traveling on the network and to keep customers safe and in control. For example, Sidewalk Bridge owners do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to Sidewalk and Amazon is not able to see the contents of messages sent over Sidewalk. Customers can disable or enable Sidewalk at any time using their Ring or Alexa app. Customers can learn more by visiting our privacy and security whitepaper.

Peterson said that Sidewalk is something consumers will have to be conscious of.

"This is a setting they should actively look for as current owners and all new owners are going to be opted in automatically," Peterson said.

As far as the idea of a mesh network like Sidewalk, Peterson said, other companies like Apple are already doing this with its products like Airtag, which pings off Apple devices you don't even own.

"So you and 10 friends walking around downtown with iPhones is the exact same thing as 10 friends staying in one place," Peterson said.

You can find out more about Amazon Sidewalk and read answers to frequently asked questions here.

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