Amazon has revealed its plans to expand the range of its smart IoT devices, like the Echo or Ring doorbell. By extending their coverage, they can remain online even when they’re out of the Wi-Fi umbrella of the owners.
Bluetooth-enabled devices have a certain operating range, and they need Internet access to stay online. People might encounter problems because some devices, like smart cameras, are too far away from the Wi-Fi bubble. The obvious choice would be to set up another Wi-Fi hotspot, but that might not be necessary.
The new project from Amazon is called Sidewalk and aims to improve the range for old and new IoT devices from its portfolio. It’s an interesting undertaking that comes with security and privacy challenges that will be difficult to overcome.
“Amazon Sidewalk uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), the 900 MHz spectrum, and other frequencies to simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices, and help devices stay online and up-to-date even if they are outside the range of home Wi-Fi,” said Amazon on their blog.
The new features come with interesting applications. For example, users would continue to receive motion alerts from the camera even if the Internet is down. The smart devices would automatically connect to others in the neighborhood, even if they don’t belong to the same person, which raises an obvious security issue.
“The Sidewalk network uses three layers of encryption to keep data shared over the network safe, and the same strong encryption standards are required for all applications and devices that use the network,” also says Amazon.
“For customers who choose to pool their bandwidth with neighbors, we ensure owners of other devices cannot view data sent from your devices.”
The biggest issue with this new feature is that Amazon automatically enrolls existing hardware supporting the technology, leaving users the possibility to opt-out. New customers will be notified of the feature when setting up the device for the first time.
Amazon had some security problems in the past, especially with the Ring doorbell smart camera. The legality of the videos collected by law enforcement from Ring cameras is still a matter of debate and has yet to reach a satisfying conclusion.