Business / Tech

Amazon developing longer-range wireless network for 'internet of things' devices

Reuters Inc. said on Wednesday it is developing a longer-range equivalent to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless protocols that the largest U.S. online retailer hopes third parties will eventually use in smart devices.

The Amazon Sidewalk, announced alongside a new range of Echo speakers and a multilingual mode for its Alexa virtual assistant, underscores the firm’s growth expectations for the internet of things — where a wider variety of devices and appliances are controlled over computer networks.

The company anticipates Sidewalk’s use in devices as varied as garden water sensors, and mailboxes that would alert the owner to new mail.

Sidewalk uses the low bandwidth 900 megahertz spectrum to extend the distance at which devices can be controlled, and requires less power than is needed for standard Wi-Fi, Amazon said.

“People don’t even realize yet how important that intermediate range is going to be, for things like lights in your yard, controlling your lights on your sidewalk in the street,” Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said about Sidewalk’s range at Amazon’s annual Alexa devices launch in Seattle.

Amazon, which started out selling books, has a history of exploring new ventures such as making original TV shows for subscribers to its Amazon Prime service. It has emerged as one of the Big Four technology companies along with Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc., and is a leading cloud services provider.

It plans to publish the new network protocol — made up of rules that govern communication between connected devices — so developers can use it for new products.

Amazon said it has tested Sidewalk to connect devices across Los Angeles. It did not say when it would be available for wider use.

The company said it would release a dog tracker in 2020, as a reference design for developers, that will use the network to alert a pet-owner when their dog leaves a certain perimeter.

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