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In what could be a big game-changer, Amazon has just opened up Sidewalk, a long-range, low-bandwidth internet network for connected gadgets. The goal is simple: make it possible for any Internet of Things device to use free, low-speed data on a 24/7 basis. While Amazon would obviously prefer that you use Amazon devices such as the Ring or Echo, the network will accommodate any device, no matter how small.
The future of social media involves your smart home?
So why is Amazon doing this? After all, the behemoths of the tech industry are hardly known for their altruism. What Amazon has in mind is nothing less than becoming the dominant player in the space between the “smart home” and the “smart city.” Think of this as the sidewalks of your local town. You probably have some form of home internet, and once you leave your home, you probably have access to the internet at your workplace or the local cafe. But what about all the space in between? Amazon says that Sidewalk covers 90% of the U.S. population, so it is very extensive.
As Amazon found in its field tests, many sensors and smart home gadgets don’t work very well if they are positioned outside the home. Take the Ring doorbell camera, for example, which many people like to position outside their front door to see who’s outside, as well as to check on the status of new Amazon packages. Well, even in homes with a robust internet network, there are sometimes gaps in coverage with the Ring doorbell camera. So think of Sidewalk as a back-up option if your home internet goes out for some reason. Ring can simply connect to Amazon’s low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) located on the sidewalk outside.
There are several innovations that stand to benefit the most. Aside from Ring cameras and smart home gadgets, other items set to benefit include health trackers, dog trackers, package trackers, leak sensors, and mailbox sensors. Unlike traditional internet-connected devices like tablets or laptops, these are all gadgets that can subsist on very low speeds and very low power internet networks. It’s not like your mailbox sensor is going to be streaming a feature-length film from Netflix, right?
The future of social media?
That’s just the beginning. Amazon’s Sidewalk might also change the game for social media. Instead of swapping messages with your friends and colleagues, you might be swapping messages with your kitchen appliances. Imagine “friending” your neighbor’s dog, who happens to be wearing an internet-connected dog tracker. Or chatting with your Amazon package as it makes its way via flying drone to your front door. Ahhh, the future.
While this might sound like a scene from a science fiction movie, it actually speaks to a trend already found in the social media world. And that’s the trend toward bots creating a growing amount of the content found in the social media world. According to Elon Musk, for example, 20% of the accounts on Twitter in 2022 were bots and spam accounts. Your favorite celebrity? He or she likely has millions of computer-generated bot followers. It’s easy to see why Elon Musk has called for the cleaning up of the Twitter platform. But here’s the thing: many of us are used to interacting with bots these days.
Social media for the sidewalk
The other big social media implication of the Amazon announcement can best be described as social media for your sidewalk. You’ll now be able to use social media when you go out for your morning walk with your dog. You’ll be able to send messages to your friends when having a barbecue or pool party in your backyard. And wherever you go in the city, Facebook and Twitter will be there, 24/7. No more worrying about trying to find the nearest Starbucks for a Wi-Fi connection, because Sidewalk has you covered.
If you believe in the future of the smart home and the smart city, then Amazon’s Sidewalk announcement is huge. While it’s obviously geared to making Amazon and its products a bigger part of your daily life, it’s also a boon for social media platforms looking to create new experiences for users.