There’s no denying that Amazon operates the most extensive network of smart home products in the world, although using the word “network” to describe it isn’t entirely accurate just yet. However, that’s about to change. All the Echo speakers and Ring security cameras out there will soon be linked in a massive mesh network beginning next Tuesday, June 8th, which is when the new Amazon Sidewalk service will be turned on. This new Amazon feature allows all your Amazon smart home devices to share your home WI-Fi with Amazon gadgets that belong to strangers. The feature is meant to improve coverage and increase security, offering devices an additional network connection to fall back to if the primary internet service becomes unavailable.
As secure as Sidewalk may be, Amazon has had some privacy mishaps in the past that were related to Echo devices. With that in mind, allowing strange devices to use your Wi-Fi network might sound worrisome to some people. But Amazon Sidewalk is an optional feature, meaning that any Echo and Ring product owners can opt out of it and ensure their devices will not share their Wi-Fi connection with other Amazon devices in the neighborhood. You’ll have to be proactive if you don’t want your devices to be a part of the Sidewalk service, however, because it will automatically be enabled by default.
Amazon Sidewalk launches in the US on June 8th, at which point Echo speakers and Ring cameras will become bridges into a mesh network operating over the 900Hz band. Every Amazon smart home device that has been released since 2018 will support the feature, reports Android Police.
When Sidewalk is enabled next week, all compatible devices will be enrolled in the service automatically. If you keep Sidewalk on, other Amazon devices in your area might take advantage of your internet connectivity. Don’t worry about data caps or any potential impact on data speeds, however — Sidewalk only uses up to a maximum bandwidth of 80kbps and it has a monthly data cap of 500MB to beam information. Your home Amazon devices can cast signals of up to a mile in range, and that’s how they’ll connect to other Amazon devices in nearby homes.
Sharing your home internet connection with strange devices might seem creepy, but the feature is actually supposed to increase your security. For example, Sidewalk will provide Ring cameras an active connection even when your home Wi-Fi connection is down. Also, Amazon’s mesh system will help you track Tile-devices, just like Apple’s Find My network of iPhones and other products that enable AirTag functionality. The difference here is that you will have to let Amazon access your home internet connection on behalf of different devices.
Opting out of the Amazon Sidewalk service couldn’t be easier. Just head to the More tab in the Alexa app on your phone and select Settings. Go to Account Settings, look for Amazon Sidewalk, and toggle the service off. You can turn it back on again whenever you feel comfortable doing so. The good news here is that you won’t have to perform the same steps for every Echo and Ring device you have installed in your home. Adjusting that setting in one spot will disable Sidewalk for all of your Amazon devices.
Turning off the feature will not affect Echo or Ring operation; that’s something Amazon makes clear in the Amazon Sidewalk FAQ at this link. Moreover, Amazon’s Sidewalk Privacy and Security Whitepaper provides more insight into how the service operates.