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AT&T debuts 'Digital Life' robo-home and security tech

Step into Internet of Things: Give us keys to homes in 15 US cities

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AT&T is pushing into home automation and security with Digital Life, a new service rolling out across 15 cities, which should carve out yet another niche for the US telecom giant.

The initial sell for Digital Life is security, but the upsell is home automation, all managed through an AT&T website and an AT&T hub connected over customers' existing broadband with a cellular backup. The intention is to make AT&T the default option when it comes to the Internet of Things.

The trials took place in Dallas and Atlanta last year, but this year the service launches across 13 other cities too, and will be available in AT&T's high street stores as well as online. The service goes live today in Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Riverside (California), San Francisco, Seattle, St Louis, and parts of New York and New Jersey.

Customers pay an upfront installation fee ($150 security, $250 to add some automation) and a monthly fee ($30 or $40 respectively) with additional options such as water detection (to spot leaks) and additional cameras (to nab the chap stealing milk from the doorstep).

But it's really about getting an AT&T hub installed, so when the customer starts adding more connected things (we're expecting 50 billion of them, or even 100 billion if one believes Microsoft) then those connected things will naturally end up routed their the AT&T hub even if they're not connected over the AT&T network.

AT&T is far from alone in hoping to become the default routing point. Smart electricity meters are packing Zigbee these days, along with routing aspirations, though some claim that the Internet of Things will be better served if each Thing has its own backhauled connection - such as that proposed by the White Space crowd, lurking in the background and mesh-ready at 915MHz.

The architecture of the Internet of Things will be critical to its adoption and our ability to control it. A customer-site hub, even one owned by AT&T, could let homeowners control the flow of information from appliances, assuming one trusts AT&T to manage that flow.

But that's for the future. In monitored alarms AT&T will have to go up against established players such as ADT, which dominates the monitored-security business. To combat that, AT&T will likely promote the home-automation and future-proofing side of its offering, which is future-proofed as long as that future involves letting AT&T manage one's Digital Life. ®

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