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Hands-on AT&T Digital Life: A carrier secures your home

AT&T is branching out to home security you can control with your smartphone or tablet. Here's how it'll look.

Jessica Dolcourt Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt's career with CNET began in 2006, and spans reviews, reporting, analysis and commentary for desktop software; mobile software, including the very first Android and iPhone apps and operating systems; and mobile hardware, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of practical advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
3 min read

AT&T Digital Life protects your home, turns on lights
Watch this: AT&T Digital Life protects your home, turns on lights

NEW ORLEANS--AT&T is proposing some serious branching out with its new services for securing your home, and managing its appliances remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

At CTIA 2012, AT&T showed off its concept with a demo house equipped in the Big Easy's lovely Garden District.

Let's tackle security first. AT&T lays physical sensors on the doors and windows. If they trip, or if the smoke detector trips, a couple of things happen. First, any response you've programmed goes into effect. For instance, you might decide to set it to blare the radio or TV, or sound an alarm or flash a strobe light.

Second, there's the traditional security response, where AT&T's 24-hour security monitoring team receives the message. It'll call your preselected contacts, and if nobody picks up, it'll also dispatch a team, or call the firefighters, or the cops, depending on the nature of the alarm.

Then there's the app itself, which includes a schematic of your home (see the slideshow for app shots demoed on an iPad). From the app, you can select a room or area of the home to interact with, controlling your lights, appliances, window blinds, doors, security cameras, TV, and virtually any appliance with a simple on-and-off switch (dimmer lights included).

Inside AT&T's secure home (photos)

See all photos

How? It's an elegant concept, in which AT&T supplies "appliance modules," essentially Internet-connected plugs you push into your outlets. You can then plug the coffee maker, the lamp, smoke detector, radio, thermostat, and so on, into those plugs.

Appliances communicate with the master controller (this is what AT&T professionally installs) over a variety of protocols.

While you can turn devices on and off manually, there's an automated aspect as well. You can set up limitless profiles for different scenarios, for instance, when you go to sleep, when you go on vacation, and when you want to fill the house with music.

You can control the Digital Life app completely remotely.

The demo was a little disjointed, with separate tours in each room, but there's still the sense of how the app would work on a day-to-day basis.

On the surface of things, it's a pretty cool system, and one that will surely become synonymous with home security. After all, AT&T will be able to monitor security through those cameras and through its master controller.

On the other hand, it could be potentially costly. AT&T hasn't announced pricing for the system yet. There's also the question of failover: what happens if you lose power or connectivity?

AT&T has certainly offered an interesting glimpse of its security vision. AT&T's trials this summer in Dallas and Atlanta will certainly start answering some of the deeper questions about the service's ins and outs.

Come back for more hands-on photos and video of AT&T's Digital Life house. Catch all the latest news from CTIA 2012.

Article updated at 5:15 p.m. PT to correct the remote range of use. An AT&T representative originally described the range as "line of sight," referring to the demo station and not to the completed service.

AT&T exec runs through new home security, automation biz
Watch this: AT&T exec runs through new home security, automation biz