Amazon.com Inc. today extended its low-power, long-range Internet of Things network service, Amazon Sidewalk, to provide better connectivity to factories, farms and other non-residential areas.
Amazon Sidewalk launched in 2019, touted as a way to keep Amazon devices like the Ring or Echo smart speaker connected even when the home network goes down. It does this by using the Bluetooth and LoRa technologies built into these devices, to piggyback on a neighbor’s Wi-Fi network.
At the time of its launch, Amazon said Sidewalk was an opt-in service that will help keep things like outdoor smart lights online at all times, even if internet connectivity is lost. This reliance on neighbor membership means there are significant gaps in coverage for Amazon’s Sidewalk Network, and the company is now trying to fill some with a new gimmick.
Called the Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring, it is intended to cover larger areas such as college campuses, parks, or large factories. It houses the radios required to relay signals from Sidewalk to the cloud and caters to industries and organizations currently beyond the reach of Amazon’s cloud.
The Sidewalk Bridge Pro is a rugged and weatherproof device that makes it suitable for outdoor use. It can send and receive data from the device at distances of up to five miles, Amazon said. This is far beyond the range of radios on Amazon’s Ring and Echo devices.
Interestingly, Amazon hasn’t said how much the Sidewalk Bridge Pro will cost, instead favoring an approach that will allow it to explore proof of concept partnerships.
One of the first partnerships is with Arizona State University’s University Technology Office, which will install Sidewalk Bridge Pro devices atop blue light poles used as emergency stations on its Tempe campus. They will be used to relay data from environmental sensors set up by ASU faculty researchers and provide better connectivity for devices in the region.
“Exploring sustainable, long-term solutions plays a critical role in advancing our smart technology initiatives, both on campus and within the community,” said Bobby Gray, director of digital transformation at the ‘ASU University Technology Office. “Our goal is to deploy and test Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro to deliver smart solutions, like those installed on blue light poles, on campus on a large scale and at a lower cost. “
A second partner is Thingy LLC, a manufacturer of outdoor air quality sensors primarily used to track forest fires. By connecting these sensors to the Amazon Sidewalk, Thingy’s sensors should be better able to relay critical information about forest conditions and help firefighters guard against potentially catastrophic fires.
Sidewalk’s coverage map expansion suggests that Amazon has ambitions to become a major competitor in the evolving IoT landscape. Long-range communications are vital for many industrial and agricultural applications, and Sidewalk will help ensure that Amazon and its public cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services Inc., play a role.
Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. told SiliconANGLE that although network availability has made great strides in availability and bandwidth over the years, there are still millions of devices stranded without network access due to from their remote location. “This is what Amazon wants to respond to with its Sidewalk expansion – another example of a technology introduced and first tested by the consumer finding its way into the business world,” he added. .
“We are building a network, we are enabling players to help the IoT industry,” Stefano Landi, director of Amazon Sidewalk, said in an interview with TechCrunch. He added that several thousand companies have reached out to Amazon to ask questions about Sidewalk’s business use cases, mostly companies looking to build smart city services.