CHICAGO -- ITA Internet of Things Summit -- After spending the last few years analyzing what smart home services its customers care about -- and, more importantly, which they will pay for -- AT&T has discovered along the way that a desire for discounts often outweighs concerns over data privacy.
With AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Digital Life home security and automation platform, the customer owns the data, according to Stephan Vincent, executive director of strategy and development for AT&T-Digital Life. That is what sets Digital Life apart from other services from companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) or Facebook .
"Truly free services come at the expense of sharing data and privacy," he said when asked about how it can compete with free options. "AT&T is very protective of customer data, and we don't share it with anyone else."
That said, the carrier has trialed allowing its customers to share their data with marketing partners on an opt-in basis in exchange for discounts on the service. The results have generally been positive, Vincent said, so "you may see those types of models overlaid as we go."
As it is now, AT&T offers home security as a baseline product, with the option to add bundles around energy, doors, camera or water. AT&T installs all of the devices and locks customers into a two-year contract. It starts to realize a meaningful return on investment in year three, Vincent said, when consumers opt to continue their service without the contract. (See Analysts Predict Smart Home Slow Down.)
Digital Life is currently in 83 markets across the US and is in trials with international operators like Telefónica to offer the service abroad. (See AT&T Looks Ahead & Abroad for Digital Life and AT&T & Telefónica Extend Digital Life to Europe.)
It's also in the process of trailing voice control in the home, as well as adding more third-party vendors to its ecosystem to offer its customers more choices for devices like thermostats. With everything it does, Vincent said it's focused on three themes going forward -- energy, presence and personalization. (See AT&T Adds New Partners to Its Digital Life.)
"These form the three high-level themes about how the smart home evolves beyond the thermostat," he said.
[UPDATE: AT&T says there have been no data-sharing trials for Digital Life and that Vincent misspoke. AT&T does have such a program in place for GigaPower, but has no plans to do one for Digital Life.]
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading