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AT&T's Digital Overseas Life

March 6, 2012, 5:22 a.m.
Jonathan Collins, Research Director

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AT&T’s plans to offer home automation services is an interesting move. AT&T has developed a platform that can provide a range of remote monitoring and home automation services. The new platform – dubbed Digital Life - is not for AT&T’s home US consumers but, rather, it is a wholesale offering aimed at providing non-US operators to offer web-based home automation, energy and security services.

AT&T’s Digital Life is a new software platform that the company says is customizable to enable carrier customers to develop and offer home automation management products that can manage a range of in-home devices, using a range co connectivity options. Details are few at present only that offering supports a variety of devices, such as sensors, cameras, door locks, lighting and thermostat controls and that these devices will communicate with a control center inside the home. In addition, end users will control the devices through a web-based user interface. However, specific devices and communications protocols between them are not yet defined. Neither has AT&T announced any specific home automation device partnerships at this time. AT&T says only that the services are wireless agnostic, with an open system designed for multi-country use and that it is working with various OEMs for each device category.

Digital Life builds on the technology the company acquired when it bought Xanboo in 2010. AT&T’s first forays into home automation were in partnership with Xanboo in 2006 in a largely security monitoring offering. AT&T says it has invested significant engineering resources to commercialize what we acquired from Xanboo.

At the launch of Digital Life AT&T has stressed that this new platform is only available to overseas carriers and that it has not announce plans to offer its own services using the platform in the US. However, any questions regarding a US deployment are answered with “not yet”.

AT&T rivals including Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon have launched home automation/home security offerings in the United States. By stalling its US launch but announcing this international offering AT&T keeps its name in the home automation frame. Even so, the strategy seems an unusual one. Releasing to overseas carriers first suggests a two stage release strategy that sees the customers it hopes to win acting as Guinean pigs for its own potential plans. Unusual especially as potential customers look for the product stability and security for their own investments. In this case AT&T looks to be asking other carriers provide the feedback and the learning’s it to leverage with its own product in its own territory.

Regardless of the style of announcement, AT&T’s Digital Life offering is further evidence that US telcos increasingly see potential in supporting home automation services as the technology receives another wave of interest – even if that means looking outside the US for initial customers.​