Greetings from New Orleans and the spring edition of the mobile phone CTIA exhibition. AT&T initiated the new product demonstrations with its new Digital Life home automation and security system, demonstrated in a beautiful old home in the city's Garden district reminiscent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Dubbed Digital Life, AT&T wants to make it cheap and easy for you to remotely control your lights, thermostat and door locks as well as monitor what's going your home via customizable iOS, Android or Windows Phone 7.5 apps.
AT&T's idea is to solve the two biggest issues for folks who want remotely control electronics in their home and a security system the FBI would approve - complexity and expense.
Yes, you can construct a home automation system cheaply yourself by buying components operating on either the Z-Wave or ZigBee wireless technologies, but figuring it all out often requires an engineering degree.
Or, you could make it easy on yourself by hiring a security expert to install a custom system, but you'd it'd be cheaper to just get robbed.
AT&T automation alternative
Instead of you trying to save some dough by DIYing or spending thousands on a home automation system, AT&T will come to your house and install all the necessary components so you can remotely video monitor your home, turn lights on/off, open and bolt locks remotely and control the temperature.
Depending on your needs, a Digital Life system could include up to eight different types of modules (no word of how many total modules a system could support), including "appliance" modules to remotely turn on and off connected electronics such as lamps, thermostat, camera for remote viewing, door and window sensors, window blinds control, motion detectors, door locks, carbon monoxide and fire detectors and water sensors.
The company also will provide monitoring services via centers located in Norcross, GA, and Flowery Branch, TX. If the system detects something awry in your abode, you'll get a text plus a call from one of the monitoring centers to double-check that something is actually awry before sending the cops or fire department or other emergency folks.
One drawback - you'll have to buy AT&T's own branded components, not off-the-shelf Z-Wave modules.
But you don't have to be an AT&T customer. The apps will work on phones from any cellular carrier.
Digital Life combines a variety of wireless technologies - Wi-Fi, 3G, Z-Wave and a couple of proprietary wireless technologies - so all the components in the system can "talk" to each other and so you can access and control everything from your smart phone or tablet.
Not only will you be able to control individual electronics in your home remotely, but you'll be able to program groups of activities. For instance, a "Morning" program could automatically open the window shades, turn up the temperature, turn on the lights in certain rooms, unbolt the front door and start the coffee maker all at a pre-determined time or at the touch of a button in the AT&T Digital Life app.
When? How much?
Unfortunately, you'll have to wait a bit to buy this relatively cheap home automation system. AT&T will begin testing the Digital Life line sometime this summer starting in Dallas and Atlanta; no word on when the system will roll out nationally.
While pricing hasn't been set, the AT&T people say its system - which will include installation - will be "price competitive."