Amazon Sidewalk is a Big, Fat, Nothing Burger

The Six Five team discusses Amazon Sidewalk and the consensus is that it’s a big, fat, nothing burger.

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Daniel Newman: We’re going to start out talking about Amazon Sidewalk and the misunderstood narrative that’s going on in the media, the press, across the board right now. We’re analysts, we look at this space as through a lens of trying to be as neutral, as possible. Of course I think we’re both a little bit bullish by nature. So you’ll hear us giving positive assessments more than negative because we love tech and we want things to work. We want innovation to be good, but we try to look at things like I said, not through rose colored glasses and we try to provide when something’s not good, we try to tell you that. That’s what good analysts do. Sidewalk is an interesting one, so the press over the last few weeks has been giving a pretty difficult time to Amazon about the Sidewalk announcements. Now, as kind of just a little bit of background, the whole idea of Sidewalk is a community of mesh like networks.

That takes a little bit of the bandwidth that’s put off by all of these things in our smart homes to enable people’s devices, to stay more reliably connected. And so if everybody, for instance, in the neighborhood is using Ring doorbells or different Amazon based thermostats or security or Echos, they could just take a little bit, not even a little bit, I’m talking about, I think the entire amount of bandwidth that can be shared on a monthly basis is equivalent to about 10 minutes of high-definition streamed content. So you’re not talking about a lot. And the thing that’s going on right now is this is a new feature that’s going to be rolled out. And largely what’s going to happen is when it does roll out in full people whose devices are connected to the network will automatically be opted in for the time being. Now, all these publications, Pat, are out there basically saying don’t opt in or opt out immediately and are giving this kind of illusion that if people don’t opt out that almost like they’re not going to be able to get out later.

And I think what I wanted to take our time here to do, Pat, is just spend a few minutes talking about some of the kind of misinformation that’s out there. Look, every device that goes on the network creates a security risk, period. Every time that you buy an IOT or smart device, you are relinquishing a little, little bit of security. Even if you’re fully encrypted, you create a little bit of risk. And if you are allowing yourself to be part of social communities like with Ring doorbells, or if you’re part of Netflix, any of these things, all these things that get your data out there, your data is being used. Now we’re in this privacy era now where it’s kind of an opt-in versus opt-out discussion. But first and foremost, June 8th is the day that this thing toggles on. But the reality is, yes, you will be opted into it, but you can opt out anytime. That is your right.

So first and foremost, whatever they’re saying, if you don’t opt out on June 8th, you can opt out right, June 15th, you can use it a little bit. See if it’s a problem you can opt out. The second, the thing is the fact that the whole identity that, Pat, people were only getting a week to opt out, well, not really true either. I believe the announcements Sidewalk came out months ago and the company has in fact verified that it sent emails as early as November of 2020 to Echo customers, to notify them that they have the right to opt out of Sidewalk. Ring users, in fact, have in some cases already been opted in and are using it and life has gone on, and I have not heard yet of any significant breaches that have come as a by-product of these beta users of Sidewalk. And the one other thing, and like I said, I’m going to lead on this topic and everybody out there I’m going to sometimes take more paddle.

Sometimes take more. I’m sure you’ll have some ads here. The security aspect of this is that there’s so little available data. And there are so many layers of security at the application at the hardware and the security level that people are making it sound like this, making your network available, this to me is no more making your network available than having an SSI ID that someone can drive by your house and see which by the way is almost every house on the planet. Look, if somebody’s dumb enough to not update their password and log in configurations, your network becomes vulnerable. There are more security layers that are inherently baked into these IOT smart devices, because Amazon is actually doing it in the cloud and protecting this and making this little partition of data merely available to those locally, and in a secured way, it just isn’t that big of a security risk.

Now my last thing, this doesn’t mean it’ll never get hacked. Okay? The government gets hacked, big enterprises get hacked. There’s a chance someone might hack your Ring doorbell. They might be able to see your camera and there might be some sort of disruption of service that is entirely possible. But the reality is, Pat, I think these are more fear-mongering stories than reality. Sure, amazon is trying to get more data. Every big tech company on the planet wants more data. I spent five minutes now, straight talking, and all I’m going to end on is saying, this is a nothing burger.

Patrick Moorhead: Daniel, you did a phenomenal job of breaking that down. And I am glad you took all the oxygen out of the room. No, you did a great job. You did a great job doing it. And I contrast this to air tags, right? Air tags, that theoretically, I can stick an air tag in your backpack and I can track you. Where was the freak out on this, Daniel? Apple didn’t even give you a chance to… They’re automatically opting you in to air tags. And oh, by the way, if you opt out, you can never track your phone, okay? So you’re losing a critical tool to find your stuff.

So what is it about Amazon that’s different from Apple? I have no idea. And we saw very certain freak out, a very similar freak out when it came down to another product, the Amazon always home cam where people were afraid that it was going to be a drone that was going to go through your house and go through your home and spy on you when you were sleeping.

It would just open your own door and walk in and take videos of you while you were sleeping. So, I don’t know. And Daniel, you hit it on the head. Nothing is unhackable given time and resources with country’s resources you can get in. But I look at the security that the three layers of security that Amazon put in, I also see the trial that they’ve been rolling this out for a while. I got a notification months ago and yeah, I opted in to everything. Do I know the risk that I’m taking? Absolutely. But do I like the benefit of being able to troubleshoot when my wifi goes sideways or the ability to track my dog in somebody else’s neighborhood? Yeah. That value proposition sounds pretty good. So Daniel, great job.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Just keeping… Just staying connected, buddy. Just staying connected. Nothing burger I’m going to reiterate that, it’s it made for a bunch of great headlines.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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