I often lament about how many control and home automation systems there are on the market and how many continue to be introduced. One such solution from AT&T was announced earlier this year with scant details, but it raised eyebrows over here at Residential Systems regarding how a company like AT&T, known for its mainstream wireless and broadband solutions, could fit into our world of premium custom home electronic systems design and installation.
Read the full extent of my initial reactions to the product from back in February, here.
Naturally, I jumped at a personal invitation to demo AT&T Digital Life at the AT&T Unwrapped press event in New York City. Let me preface my experience by reassuring our readers here that you should in by no means feel threatened by Digital Life. This isn’t to suggest the technology lacks potential, but it’s coming from a completely different direction—that of security, which is very much its conceptual foundation. In fact, Digital Life does not at this point directly integrate any traditional audio video products; although, doing so is “on the roadmap,” said Kevin Petersen, SVP, Digital Life.
Let me back up here for a minute also just to remind everyone that Digital Life is an IP-based remote monitoring and automation platform that global service providers can offer subscribers for customizable, web-based home automation, energy, and security features. Billed as “a complete end-to-end solution,” Digital Life integrates wireless sensors and cameras with a home control center for managing through any web-based device.
AT&T Digital Life home automation system sports a clean, user-friendly interface.
You can check out a video demo of Digital Life here.
At the demo and through speaking with Petersen, I learned that the end solution aims to include any and every kind of device capable of connecting to the network, from sensors on your medicine cabinet to water faucets. Energy management is a big goal as is appealing to the aging demographics and their children, the so-called “aging in place” trend.
AT&T-licensed technicians will be responsible for the initial installation, so it’s not going to be completely DIY as has been speculated; however, after the initial install, there are features available for users to modify as they please. Digital Life employs open system architecture, leaving space for anyone with programming chops to have their way with it. When I asked about whom these licensed technicians were, Petersen said they would be security technicians, though he also stressed the one-size-fits all approach that AT&T is open to certifying installers from any background.
This brings me back to my initial premise, though, that Digital Life, conceptually, is very much built from a security backbone. The main products they were demonstrating were security cameras, door locks, and thermostats. Petersen would not comment on which manufacturers they were partnering with initially, but the products on display included Honeywell thermostats and Yale locks.
I attempted to draw some comments out of Petersen about where AV dealers would fit into this equation and how the solution fits into our market, but he seemed a bit surprised by this angle of questioning. He continuously reverted back to the idea that Digital Life could include anything and everything, and telling me things were “on the roadmap.” In regards to pricing, Petersen said it would be “below the competition,” but I was not successful at extracting specifics about who the competition would be.
I should also mention that the product is very much in a beta, trial mode. AT&T has not set a projected market rollout and instead is focused on a “deliberate, disciplined approach to get it right,” a strategy I admire.
Hopefully, my analysis here has not created the impression that I’m dismissing Digital Life as a competent, successful solution for home automation, especially for mainstream consumers—something I believe does benefit custom installers by introducing homeowners to the possibilities and setting the stage for future upgrades. The user interface certainly had an attractive, user-friendly appeal, emphasizing simplicity (something custom control systems sometimes struggle to do). At this point, there is a lot of space for Digital Home to grow and develop its own niche in the market. I, personally, do not perceive it having much overlap with custom installation home automation solutions.
But don’t take my word for it; what do you think?