Amazon and Apple’s meshy plan to connect every device

Apple’s “Find My” and Amazon’s “Sidewalk” are 2 leading mesh networks. What do they actually do?

May 13, 2021

Here’s a shocker: Amazon and Apple are plotting

The Washington Post recently showcased Apple and Amazon’s quiet construction of 2 large-scale wireless networks. The kicker? These networks work independent of WiFi and cell towers. Instead, they use consumer products like Echo speakers and iPhones.

The 2 networks, Apple’s Find My and Amazon Sidewalk, create a “mesh network” where nodes (devices) send small bits of information to each other.

Start with Apple’s Find My network…

Here’s how it works:

  1. Opted-in Apple devices pulse encrypted, low energy Bluetooth signals.
  2. Nearby devices pick up those signals and pass them down the line to a networked device.

The signals only go one-way and use 1/100th of the energy of a cell transmission. It’s the network AirTags rely on to locate lost tags (with disturbing accuracy).

Amazon Sidewalk > Find My

Sidewalk uses the same Bluetooth magic as Find My, but the devices aren’t iPhones in pockets; they’re stationary Ring cameras, lights, and Echo speakers.

A key difference between Sidewalk and Find My is that Sidewalk can handle two-way communication. But it’s not much — Amazon caps the amount of data it will send via Sidewalk at 500MBs per month.

Why do it?

The 2 networks do not communicate with one another, but both are moves by 2 (mostly) popular companies to use their appeal to build massive mesh networks.

The value of massive mesh networks is up for debate, but it lays the foundation for capable internet-connected ecosystems — think Amazon package trackers that talk to Ring cameras on their way to your doorstep.

Both Big Tech frenemies have been building these networks for some time. Apple’s Find My network was first released in 2011; Amazon says the Sidewalk network is compatible with Echo devices dating back to 2018…

… which gets you wondering, what are they packing into products today  that we’ve yet to find out about?

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