Modules and Dev Kits Emerge for Building Amazon Sidewalk Devices
As the company opens Sidewalk up for testing, the service from Amazon could have big implications in the IoT and smart home space.
The smart home industry has been growing rapidly over the past few years, as more and more people are adopting smart devices in their homes to make their lives easier and more convenient. These devices include everything from smart lights and thermostats to security cameras and voice assistants.
However, one of the main challenges of the smart home industry has been the limited range of these devices, which can sometimes make it difficult to create a seamless and integrated experience.
The Sidewalk test kit includes a charging cable (left) and an Amazon Sidewalk coverage test kit device (right) that pings the network for coverage. Image courtesy of Amazon
To address this challenge, Amazon created a neighborhood network called Amazon Sidewalk. This week, the company announced that it has opened the network for developer testing. Developers can request their test kits here. Developers can find a link for requesting their test kits on the Amazon Sidekick page.
Now, to support the testing and development of Amazon Sidewalk, a set of hardware players, including Semtech, Nordic Semiconductor, and Quectel, have made Sidewalk associated announcements of their own.
In this article, we will explore Amazon Sidewalk and how some major hardware companies are getting in on the action.
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is a neighborhood network launched by Amazon that aims to extend the range of low-bandwidth devices like smart lights, sensors, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Sidewalk utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the 900 MHz LoRa spectrum to connect these devices, allowing them to communicate with each other and with Amazon's servers, even when they are out of range of a user's Wi-Fi network.
Amazon Sidewalk is a local IoT network. Image used courtesy of of Amazon
The network is designed to work by creating a low-bandwidth, long-range network of participating devices. Third-party IoT Devices do not commiunicate with each other, but rather, If a device is connected to Amazon Sidewalk, those IoT devices can send communication through Ring/Echo devices. But those Echo/Ring devices, functioning as bridges, do not communicate with each other.
One of the most notable aspects of Amazon Sidewalk is that it is a shared network. This means that if you opt-in, your Amazon devices will be used to extend the network's range to cover a larger area. For example, if your neighbor's Wi-Fi network does not reach your yard, but they have Sidewalk-enabled devices, your devices could connect to their network and vice versa. This creates a larger network that benefits everyone in the neighborhood.
Hardware Companies Involved
Even as far back as 2020, there have been a number of hardware companies that have been building tools with and for Sidewalk.
This week, more products have been announced to aid Amazon Sidewalk device developers. One of these companies is Semtech, which announced the availability of its collaboration with vendors offering the first third-party Amazon Sidewalk products based on Semtech’s LoRa technology. These collaborations include Nordic Semiconductor and Quectel. More on each below.
For its part, Nordic Semiconductor also weighed in with its announcement that Amazon Sidewalk devices can be built using existing nRF Connect SDK with the nRF52840. The nRF52840 is a multi-protocol Bluetooth 5.3 SoC that supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth mesh, NFC, Thread, and Zigbee—making it a solid choice for a plethora of smart home applications. For Sidewalk connectivity, the nRF52840 is combined with Semtech’s LoRa Connect SX1262.
Finally, Quectel joined the party when it announced the compatibility of its KG100S module for Amazon Sidewalk. The KG100S is a wireless module and a portfolio of matching antennas that was designed specifically for use with Amazon Sidewalk.
The Quectel KG100S module. Image used courtesy of Quectel
To support this, KG100S offers a low-power and cost-effective module, featuring a built-in SX1262 transceiver supporting LoRa, a low-power Silicon Labs EFR32BG21B microcontroller (MCU) with a 2.4 GHz radio transceiver for BLE, and an 80 MHz Arm Cortex-M33 MCU core.
Semtech says it worked with Quectel on the KG100S module to smooth the process for developers to integrate LoRa technology into new and existing devices and services.
Changing Smart Homes
Amazon Sidewalk seems poised to be a major development in the smart home industry. As a testament to this, some of the industry’s major wireless hardware companies have gotten involved in the project. Between the collaboration of Semtech and Nordic, as well as Quectel’s new KG100S module, it's clear that the hardware industry thinks highly of Sidewalk.