AT&T Inc. has finally launched its home security and monitoring service and application in 15 cities as it looks to add revenues beyond standard smartphone usage.
Starting Friday, AT&T is offering to wire up your home with a controller and sensors that can provide home security or further automate and monitor other aspects of home life, such as water levels, via a wireless or broadband connection.
The user can log in and control the system from anywhere via the "My Digital Life" smartphone app for Apple, Android or Windows phones or through a home computer or tablet. The service starts at $29.99 per month -- plus $149.99 for equipment and installation -- with a two-year contract for its "Simple Security" package and expands to a $39.99 "Smart Security" service, which allows the subscriber to add variously priced monitoring and home automation capabilities for up to $9.99 each.
Installation can take a matter of hours for the keypad security system. More complicated systems using cameras and additional monitors up the cost to $249.99 and can take up to a day.
AT&T is initially launching the service in 15 towns and cities but plans to deploy in up to 50 by the end of the year. The initial markets are Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Philadelphia; Riverside, Calif.; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis; and select areas of the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.
AT&T is able to launch in "markets outside of our traditional 22-state [wireline] footprint, such as New York and New Jersey" because the service can use 3G for connectivity as well as a wired connection, says Kevin Peterson, senior VP of Digital Life. New markets should spring up quickly -- "almost a monthly or bi-monthly ramp," he says.
This means that -- depending on the package -- users of the new service can do things like lock and unlock doors while away from home. Peterson says that AT&T has spent several years building the platform that enables the operator to provide such services.
AT&T has high expectations for its new service. It envisages the Digital Life offering as a billion-dollar business over time.
Peterson says that at present there is about "20 percent penetration for home security" and "1 to 2 percent" for monitoring and automation. The operator believes it can make inroads into the market with its wireless and broadband IP reach and is two to three years ahead of other service providers in this space.
AT&T will also take advantage of its wireless network to layer in location-based services over time. So, a user could set up rules for the home automation to undertake certain tasks -- like turning the lights on or off -- depending on the location of the user's cellphone.
"It's not in the distant future," says Peterson of location-enabling the service.
Why this matters This is AT&T's big push to expand its revenue base beyond traditional smartphone and home Internet services for subscribers. Although the operator has kept the two-year contract model familiar to its smartphone customers, what it is selling is much more of a machine-to-machine (M2M)-based security and automation service that is a first for the company.
"To grow the market you've got to change the model," says AT&T's Peterson of Digital Life. The service has been a while in the making, with AT&T first teasing the service last February and testing it over the summer of 2012 and initially promising a launch in March.
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— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile