Retail giant Amazon recently announced that all users of its Echo and similar devices will automatically be enrolled in its new Sidewalk program on June 8. Enrolled devices that are Internet connected will be able to share that access with other Amazon devices in proximity via an ad-hoc mesh network.
What Is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon has put itself into millions of American homes by offering Internet-capable devices at a price that the average person can easily afford. One of its most popular brands is the Echo. Echo—available with and without touchscreens—is a range of smart devices that can provide information from the Web and even control your home, such as turning off the lights or adjusting the thermostat.
Echo devices do not need an internet connection but are most capable when such access is available. Even without an internet connection, Echo devices have Wi-Fi access and, in theory, can connect not just with other Echo devices but any device that also has a Wi-Fi adapter. When two or more devices are directly connected in such a manner, it is known as an ad-hoc mesh network.
This is where Sidewalk comes in. Sidewalk is software that manages these ad-hoc mesh networks on the fly, and the potential here is rather enormous. Imagine being able to track your pet anywhere in the neighborhood because Max or Lucy is wearing an Echo device that can communicate. Or picture a scenario in which you walk down to the local corner store but manage to stay connected via Wi-Fi.
Will Amazon Sidewalk Affect Your Internet Usage?
Maybe, but it depends. Even if your Echo devices are internet enabled and participating in the Sidewalk program, there is no guarantee your devices will be called on to play a role. It stands to reason that if you participate long enough that they will be called on as some point or another, and those chances are certainly higher if you live in a dense urban area as opposed to a sparse rural region.
That said, even if your devices are called upon, there is a limit to how much your particular internet plan or access will be consumed. Sidewalk only allows for 80 Kbps, which is just about 2.5 percent of the bandwidth required to stream an HD movie on Netflix on average. Sidewalk also caps the total bandwidth that it can use to 500 MB a month, which equates to about 10 minutes of HD video.
Should You Participate in Amazon Sidewalk?
Most people would feel better about this whole situation if Amazon required you to opt in rather than opt out, but Amazon realizes that the program has a much better chance for success if enrollment is automatic and it ruffles some feathers in the process. But whether or not you participate is a personal decision. There are many highly qualified tech people who are opting out simply due to the sheer lack of information concerning how it will operate and how secure it will be. Anyone who tells you that Sidewalk arrives with no security concerns at all is being naive at best.
How Do You Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk?
To opt out, access the Settings page on your device. Select Account Settings. Select Amazon Sidewalk, and turn it to off, which will generally involve sliding a slider to the left. If you ever change your mind and want to participate, you can simply return to this menu option and reverse the process