Tech

Amazon tests new wireless bridge to extend range of Sidewalk network by up to 5 miles or more

Amazon’s new Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon says it’s testing a new professional-grade device that can extend the reach of a single access point in its Sidewalk neighborhood wireless network by up to 5 miles or more.

Called the “Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring,” the device signals the company’s ambitions to expand the Sidewalk network beyond residential neighborhoods to connect sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices in business settings, college campuses and remote locations.

It’s not yet approved by the Federal Communications Commission or available for sale. However, Amazon announced pilot programs Thursday with Arizona State University to use the bridge to connect devices on its Tempe, Ariz., campus; and with Bellevue, Wash.-based Thingy to provide connectivity to its air quality monitoring systems that help combat wildfires.

Thingy AQ provides information to first responders in wildfires. (Thingy Photo via Amazon)

In its current neighborhood incarnation, Sidewalk uses Amazon customers’ Echo devices as connection points to create a shared, secure neighborhood network for devices such as outdoor lights and pet trackers. Ring and Echo devices are opted-in to the network by default. (Here’s how to opt out.)

In the ASU pilot, the Sidewalk Bridge Pro will instead get its connectivity from the Internet access built into blue-light emergency stations on campus.

Amazon says ASU “intends to extend the range of connectivity for its on-campus IoT devices, while freeing up the university’s Wi-Fi for high-bandwidth activities like remote learning, video conferencing, online research, or streaming.”

The proof-of-concept with Thingy will use LoRa (Long Range) telemetry to transmit data to and from the Thingy AQ air-quality monitoring device using the Sidewalk Bridge Pro.

Amazon says the approach will “significantly increase connectivity for Thingy AQ and help protect public lands, homes, vineyards, and farms from catastrophic damage.”

In a footnote about its claim of a 5-mile range, Amazon says the distance “varies depending on installation height, terrain, environmental conditions, and surrounding obstructions like buildings or trees.”



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