Amazon recently unveiled a slew of devices at its now-annual autumn hardware event, but buried among those product launches was a new technology protocol that the company briefly mentioned. Called Sidewalk, it's designed to connect and track smart devices in and around your house.

What is Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon described Amazon Sidewalk as a low-bandwidth, long-distance wireless protocol it's currently developing for low-powered devices, with the goal of allowing them to better communicate over long ranges. Amazon made the case that both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi don’t offer enough range, while 5G is too complex and requires a lot of power. That's where Amazon Sidewalk comes in handy.

“We came up with something that we call Amazon Sidewalk,” said Amazon. "It's a new low-bandwidth network that uses the already existing free over-the-air 900 megahertz spectrum. We think it will be great for keeping track of things, keeping things up to date – but first and foremost, it will extend the distance at which you can control these kinds of simple, low-cost, easy-to-use devices."

How does Amazon Sidewalk work?

According to Amazon, you may be able to use Amazon Sidewalk to connect to and even track simple devices up to a mile away. It's very similar to mesh networking technology. For instance, Amazon said it sent 700 Sidewalk-equipped devices to Ring employees and their friends and family in Los Angeles, and within three weeks, these "access points" were able to cover the entirety of Los Angeles.

Which devices use Amazon Sidewalk?

Currently, the only device that uses Amazon Sidewalk is Amazon's new Fetch dog tag, which Amazon recently premiered at its autumn hardware event. The Fetch device itself is pretty simple; just attach it to your dog's collar, and then you can set up a geofence around your yard. If your furry friend tries to make a break for it, you'll get a notification on your phone so you can go track them down.

The more people using Fetch tags will allow you to track your Fetch-wearing pet from further away. Each device works at a distance of 500 metres – so a handful of people using a Fetch would be enough to track your pet from miles away.

More Amazon products will likely become Amazon Sidewalk devices in the future, including Ring devices. Amazon explained:

“We think developers will build all kinds of useful, low-cost products for this network. . . We started with the obvious use case of lighting with Ring's smart lighting, but think about all the things that are far from your home Wi-Fi that might use Sidewalk – weather stations to tell you how much rain you’ve gotten, a water sensor in your garden with your tomatoes, a little sensor in your mailbox that lets you know when the mail has been delivered. The possibilities are endless.”

When will Amazon Sidewalk be available?

Amazon plans to publish the Amazon Sidewalk protocol so that other device makers can integrate it into their own devices. You'll have to wait to use it with the new Amazon Fetch pet tracker, however, as it won't be released until 2020.

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