AT&T ‘bullish’ on security

The company says it’s poised to not only compete in the home security/home automation market, but grow it too
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DALLAS—AT&T isn’t just entering the security space with trials here and in Atlanta this summer of its home security/home automation service. The telecom also believes it will be able to transform that space through such innovations as letting customers try out its new Digital Life product in its more than 2,000 retail stores around the country, an AT&T executive told Security Systems News.

In addition, AT&T is “seriously exploring” adding door-knocking to its range of selling techniques, said Kevin Petersen, senior vice president, Digital Life, AT&T Mobility.

“Quite frankly, we’re very bullish on our ability to not only compete effectively in the security/automation market as it stands today, but really grow those markets,” Petersen said.

The commonly accepted statistic is that about 20 percent of American homeowners have professional security systems. However, Petersen said, AT&T research shows that the home security market is “somewhat artificially capped by … the lack of interactivity and features and functionalities of today.”

Now, he said, “one of our goals is to bring the technology and bring an experience that is so extremely simple from the buy, to the install, to the use, to getting service, that it will allow us to … expand the reach of security in the households across the country.”

After AT&T last week announced the trials of Digital Life—a prelude to an eventual nationwide launch—mainstream newspapers reported that AT&T hoped to grow the service into a $1 billion business.

Petersen said he could not discuss projections at this juncture, but added, “I will say this: We do feel that with the set of assets we’ve put together, the experience we’re able to provide [customers], the synergy with other things we do, meaning our brand, our distribution [channels], our wireless network, etc., we do feel it’s a very sizable opportunity for us.”

In a May 7 news release, AT&T announced that trials of professionally installed and monitored Digital Life would begin this summer. The company said, “The devices will be wirelessly enabled to connect to the IP-based AT&T Digital Life platform inside the home. … [The system will] contain a user interface application, which allows customers to customize a solution based on individual needs, and the ability to manage and control their services from the U.S. or while traveling abroad.”

AT&T acquired home security and automation provider Xanboo in December 2010. In April 2011, SSN reported that AT&T was terminating its Xanboo dealer agreement.

Petersen spoke to SSN about Xanboo and Digital Life: “We own the IP-based platform that provides security and automation services. We made an acquisition bid over a year ago of Xanboo and we spent the last year really expanding and enhancing the capability set of that platform and making it truly one of a kind in the industry. We’ll come to market with a first-of-its-kind integrated home controller that operates both security and automation as standalones as well as together. It will be integrated with our wireless network so it goes in the home, and it links to our monitoring centers via the wireless network.” Also, he said, “it gives you the option to link into your home broadband regardless of the broadband provider.”

For competitive reasons, Petersen declined to say specifically when the trial launch would begin this summer, but explained to SSN why Dallas and Atlanta were chosen as locations.

AT&T’s headquarters is in Dallas, and Atlanta is the headquarters for AT&T Mobility, he said, “so we do have a strong employee base, and a strong connection to these two markets.” Also, he said, “they are good-sized markets with a good mix of consumers to trial these services.”

Each location will have its own monitoring center, Petersen said. “We have built two all-digital monitoring centers,” he said. “We felt it was important to leapfrog the old technology and go straight to digital. We felt speed, reliability, flexibly were very important there.”

He added, “They’ll be owned and operated by AT&T. We made a conscious choice not to wholesale those services.”

Petersen said licensed technicians will install the product, but they won’t be AT&T technicians. Instead, he said, they will work for “dedicated partners,” whom he declined to identify at this point. “We have dedicated partners that are integrated in our dispatch and scheduling systems, so they are fully integrated into us,” he said. “The experience will be seamless. We go to great lengths to ensure the quality is nothing but the best in terms of our partners.”

The product will be sold in a variety of ways, Petersen said. Customers can buy it online or at AT&T call centers, and the company also will have a sales force, he said.

The company also is thinking about selling door to door, Petersen said. “We know that’s an approach used in the industry … [and] we’re seriously exploring that avenue,” he said.

He said AT&T also will have a “truly unique way” to sell its product—through its retail stores. “We’re going to invite the public to come into our stores and really experience, interact, learn, build, really just get comfortable with the whole notion of Digital Life—What is it? How does it work? What does it mean to me?—in a non-pressured retail environment that allows you to look, feel and touch. ... That’s very important,” Petersen said.