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AT&T's next business: Securing your home

The company has formed a new group that offers security monitoring services and the ability to remotely control your house using your phone.

A mockup of AT&T's home security and automation app. AT&T

NEW ORLEANS--AT&T will finally make good on its promise to let consumers remotely control every facet of their home -- from the thermostat to the door locks -- through any smartphone, PC, or tablet.

A day before the CTIA Wireless conference kicks off, AT&T said it would enter the home security and automation business in a big way. The company said it has formed a digital life services group to push these services, which will be available nationwide and work with any Internet connection.

The creation of the group represents a completely new business for AT&T. Beyond offering Internet, phone, and television services to consumers, the company now wants to touch nearly every aspect of the home. The area plays into one of AT&T's recent strengths and areas of focus: the use of non-conventional devices with a cellular or Internet connection. The company has long championed the opportunity that comes from these devices, which provide a modest boost in revenue and attractive margins.

The home security and automation business is a burgeoning opportunity for a company looking for new sources of growth. It's part of the broader push by carriers to expand into different businesses beyond traditional telephone or cell phone services, which have begun to show signs of maturing. AT&T isn't the only one dabbling in this area; rival Verizon and the cable providers have also started offering similar services.

"The home security market is the proverbial low-hanging fruit as it has been a pretty stagnant market with little innovation over the years," said Roger Entner, a consultant with Recon Analytics. "AT&T thinks they can shake things up."

AT&T believes it is moving even more aggressively with the formation of the new group.

"AT&T digital life will change the way people live, work, and play -- and meets a clear need in the market," said Kevin Petersen, senior vice president of AT&T's digital life business.

The company's line of "Rethink Possibilities" commercials have long touted several pie-in-the-sky services, including a person's ability to remotely control the lights in a house even while away in another country. It seems consumers will get access to at least some of those services in the near future.

AT&T plans to offer connected cameras, windows, and door sensors; smoke, carbon monoxide, motion, and glass-break sensors; door locks; thermostats; moisture detectors; and the ability to remotely turn off appliances. The devices are all hooked into the home's broadband network, and can get commands from the homeowner's iPad, Android smartphone, or other mobile device using a cellular network.

The company will handle the professional installation of the sensors and devices, provide a wireless and integrated platform for security and automation services, and provide an application that allows customers to customize their service, as well as manage their home from anywhere in the country or abroad. It will also provide security services through its own monitoring services.

As part of AT&T's mobility group, the service will be offered nationwide like its wireless service. The connected devices in the home can be hooked into any home broadband service, and controlled remotely by any device that can get on the Internet through Wi-Fi or AT&T's service.

The company will start slowly with the deployment, with trials to begin in Dallas and Atlanta this summer. Once the rollout is expanded nationally, the service will be available via AT&T stores or the company's Web site.