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First Look: AT&T home automation and security service

updated 01:18 am EDT, Tue May 8, 2012

Carrier pushes digital home interactions

AT&T at Mobile World Congress announced its home automation system, known as Digital Life, however the company has finally revealed additional details at CTIA's New Orleans expo. Electronista checked out the new system, which was demonstrated at a 19th-century mansion in the city's affluent Garden District.

Home automation and security obviously are not new concepts, and there are numerous examples of efforts to take these services into the digital realm, however AT&T is attempting to be the first large carrier to offer an all-encompassing platform that aims to bring both groups of services into the mainstream.

While competing systems seem to require a certain level of technical confidence to properly configure, we found Digital Life's iPad app to be a simple and straightforward approach. Users can manage various home systems with drag-and-drop controls, with a wide range of possibilities depending on the particular needs of each property.

The company demonstrated how the home-automation system can be used to control lighting, thermostats, and appliance power controls. On the security end, the system interacts with window/door sensors, door locks, moisture detection equipment, and smoke or carbon monoxide sensors.

In one example of a potential safeguard, the system interacts with a moisture sensor that can notify a user when a leaky pipe is detected. Additional settings can enable the system to automatically shut off a water main without any direct interaction, preventing damage in homes that may be susceptible to such problems.

We were surprised to find that AT&T chose a 19th-century mansion to show off its home-automation system, as such homes typically prove extremely difficult to modernize. The service interacts with products that may not require the entire house to be rewired, such as replacement door handles/locks and light switches, though the company has yet to announce which partner companies are working on the necessary accessories.

As a whole, AT&T's package appears to be an attractive proposition for the average homeowner who has no desire to contact multiple companies and custom installers to replicate the same functionality. Even though some components may prove difficult for DIY installations, AT&T will provide professional installation services if necessary.

The big question that lingers in our minds is the price tag. Having a 3G/4G wireless-connected home automation and security package is clearly an attractive service, however the company may need to prove that it can provide the entire range of services at a competitive price to attract customers.

by MacNN Staff



  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969



    ...because Google and Facebook knowing too much about you just isn't enough for some people.

  1. LenE

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It won't be cheap

    It won't be easy, like plugging a DSL or cable modem to a router.

    I have a partially automated house. Each light switch that is controllable is $50-$70, with the least expensive technology that is currently available. Zigbee (open wireless standard) is supposed to be inexpensive, but devices that use it are rare, and more expensive than what I already use.

    Right now, I can turn on and off lights, water my lawn, or open and close my garage from anywhere I have access to the Internet. When i get around to it, I'll write the software necessary to connect the wireless deadbolt on my door to my system (the technology is currently balkanized and requires much geekiness). My system is small, and cost me about $1,000 so far, if you don't count the cost of the Mac Mini that I run my access and automation software on (Indigo Pro).

    AT&T will sell this as a service, with all of the warm fuzziness that you get with subscribing to their $20 a month text messaging plan. I assume they will OEM a current system like Control4, and push that as their solution. Perhaps they will offer a discount price on installing a device, like $25 per switch and $200 for a controller device, but you will have to bend over and grab your ankles to automate anything, essentially paying to access the controlled devices, which should be free.

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