Amazon Sidewalk network is getting silicon traction

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An EDN article by Majeed Ahmad

New silicon solutions are emerging for Amazon Sidewalk network, and these chips come alongside developer tools providing step-by-step direction and expert advice for Amazon Sidewalk device development.

At its fourth annual Works With Developers Conference, Silicon Labs unveiled two system-on-chips (SoCs) optimized for Amazon Sidewalk: SG23 and SG28. These chips complement the Silicon Labs Pro Kit for Amazon Sidewalk previously announced by the Austin, Texas-based semiconductor supplier.

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Figure 1: Amazon Sidewalk is built on an architecture comprising a radio, network, and application layers. Source: Silicon Labs

The always-on, community-driven Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo, Ring security cameras, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door. It uses three different radios: Bluetooth LE for device provisioning and nearby device connectivity, sub-GHz FSK for connectivity up to one mile, and a proprietary CSS radio for extreme long-range.

Most Amazon Sidewalk end-devices will support Bluetooth LE and one of the two long-range protocols: FSK or CSS operating at 900 MHz frequencies to cover longer distances. So, SG28 includes two dual-band SoCs with radios for sub-GHz FSK as well as Bluetooth LE. That allows device makers to simplify designs and reduce costs by having the two most used radios on Sidewalk end-devices in one package. On the other hand, SG23 provides security and a robust sub-GHz link budget for long-range, end-node devices.

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Figure 2: The two SoCs are optimized for Amazon Sidewalk with extensive developer support. Source: Silicon Labs

Amazon Sidewalk is one of the exciting developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) space since it was launched in 2019. It pushes connectivity beyond the walls of the smart home while employing smart home devices like cameras and speakers as gateways for supporting long-range use cases. According to Amazon, it’s a community network built by the community for the community.

A neighborhood network

Silicon Labs CTO Daniel Cooley calls Amazon Sidewalk a neighborhood network. “While Bluetooth gives users an easy way to provision and deploy new devices onto the network, the sub-Ghz band is designed to support device communications over one mile, allowing for new edge applications in areas like smart agriculture and smart cities.”

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Figure 3: Amazon Sidewalk Bridges will pick up the message from the compatible device and route it through the AWS cloud to the user with multiple layers of security. Source: Silicon Labs

Besides chips like SG23 and SG28, Silicon Labs has launched a design kit that supports the development of wireless IoT-based devices on Bluetooth and sub-GHz wireless protocols for Amazon Sidewalk. The Wireless Pro Kit is built around a KG100S radio board that provides a complete reference design to support Bluetooth, FSK, and CSS protocols used in Amazon Sidewalk.

The kit also includes a BG24 radio board and FSK/CSS adapter board for developers who want a discrete design. Its mainboard contains an onboard J-Link debugger with a packet trace interface and a virtual COM port, enabling application development and debugging of the attached radio board as well as external hardware through an expansion header.

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Figure 4: The Pro Kit for Amazon Sidewalk provides the necessary tools for developing high-volume, scalable IoT applications. Source: Silicon Labs

Silicon Labs has been working closely with Amazon to navigate the Amazon Sidewalk development process. After all, it’s a new network, and developers need to be educated on how to best create Amazon Sidewalk devices. Recognizing this need, Silicon Labs has joined hands with Amazon to create the Amazon Sidewalk Developer’s Journey with Silicon Labs.

Amazon Sidewalk was opened for developers on 28 March 2023.


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