AT&T wants to make home automation cheap and easy

New Orleans, LA — AT&T wants to make home automation a no-brainer and cheap with a new line of products under the Digital Life family name, unveiled here at the CTIA spring show.

Instead of you trying to build a DIY Z-Wave or ZigBee-based system or hiring a contractor and spending thousands on a home security system Mr. Burns would approve (sans the releasing of the hounds), 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 via customizable iOS, Android or Windows Phone 7.5 apps, all for one low cost.

Combining a variety of wireless formats — Wi-Fi, 3G, Z-Wave and a couple of proprietary wireless technologies, AT&T will start testing the Digital Life line sometime this summer starting in Dallas and Atlanta; no word on when the system will roll out nationally.

AT&T is trying to solve the two biggest home automation set up problems — complexity and expense. You can construct a home automation system cheaply yourself by buying a Z-Wave or ZigBee gateway and adding wireless modules, but the process can be daunting for the technologically inept. A custom system is easier but can run into thousands of dollars.

While pricing hasn't been set, the AT&T people say its system — which will include installation — will be "price competitive."

Depending on your needs, a Digital Life system could include of 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, motion detectors, door locks, carbon monoxide and fire detectors and water sensors.

One drawback — you'll have to buy AT&T's own branded components, not off-the-shelf Z-Wave modules.

The company also will provide monitoring services via centers in Norcross, GA, and Flowery Branch, TX (yes, Flowery Branch is the name of a town). If the system detects something in your abode, you'll get a text plus a call from one of the monitoring sensors to double-check before sending the cops or fire department or other emergency folks.

Posted on location at International CTIA Wireless 2012 in New Orleans.

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