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Home automation heats up--will energy services follow?

AT&T acquires home automation company Xanboo, one of a few deals that hints at possible broadband packages that could include security and home energy management.

AT&T has acquired home automation company Xanboo, part of a spate of activity which could lead to energy management services from broadband providers.

Xanboo provides homeowners with a system for managing connected devices, such as security cameras and controllers, from a smartphone, TV, or PC. CEPro reported the acquisition yesterday (hat tip to Earth2Tech).

The deal follows Motorola's announcement last week that it has bought home automation company 4Home, in which Verizon also had invested. Earlier this year, iControl and uControl merged their product offerings, which are expected to be used as part of Comcast's Xfinity home security service.

Xanboo's home-automation system could be used to monitor home electricity and remotely control networked appliances, lighting, and thermostat.
Xanboo's home automation system could be used to monitor home electricity and remotely control networked appliances, lighting, and thermostat. Screen capture by Martin LaMonica/CNET

Internet broadband providers are pushing into home automation to expand their product offerings as a way to retain customers. They expect that consumers will be willing to pay for security services, where people can access cameras and door alarms from a PC, TV, or smartphone.

One of the services broadband providers have explored with home automation is energy management, which would give consumers a way to monitor electricity use and control electronics from a Web-enabled device or TV.

Verizon, for example, has talked about offering a combined energy and security service, although it has yet to roll it out. The idea would be that a person could use a device, such as touch-screen display, to change home settings. For example, when leaving, a person can turn on the security and adjust the thermostat and lighting.

To do that sort of thing, a home automation system needs to control a network of devices, such as thermostat and security cameras, which communicate over a wireless home network. Services providers can offer applications, such as tracking energy use over time or programming home settings, over the Internet.

An AT&T representative today said it is too early to discuss specific offerings around the Xanboo technology. "We see synergies between Xanboo's technology and our offerings for consumers and small businesses. Xanboo's monitoring services are a natural extension of our high-speed Internet, video, and voice offerings and a good fit for our wireless services," she said.