AT&T to expand Digital Life trials to more operators this year

BARCELONA, Spain--AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) will conduct more trials of its Digital Life home automation and security platform with operators in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to a senior AT&T executive. AT&T has been conducting a limited trial of the service with Telefónica, which is has been licensing the technology in the UK for the past several months.

Kevin Peterson, senior vice president of AT&T Digital Life services, said in an interview here at the Mobile World Congress trade show that the Telefónica trial (launched last fall) is going well and Telefónica is learning more about the retail sales, installation experience, tool systems and practical implications of launching a service like Digital Life. He said it was "too early to speculate" when and how Telefónica might launch Digital Life in the UK or other markets. 

Peterson said trials with other operators will take place throughout 2015. "We're talking to a number of big providers," he said adding that AT&T is going to launch trials with other carriers "opportunistically."

"We've got interest from a lot of big carriers that have their own network, they've got a brand and they are looking to enhance their revenues and deepen their relationship with customers," he said.

Digital Life is currently available in 82 markets in the U.S., and Peterson said he expects the service to expand further this year to new cities like New Orleans and in suburban areas. "If we are seeing demand or customers are asking for the service in an area we're not in, we can expand very easily," he said, since the service can be deployed wherever AT&T's wireless network exists.    

Peterson said Digital Life could become a $1 billion business for AT&T though he declined to say when AT&T might get that much revenue from the unit or how much revenue it is generating now. However, Peterson  did say that the average revenue per user from Digital Life customers is as high if not higher than AT&T had expected and that customers are adding services and devices like video surveillance, door locks, garage openers and thermostats to their packages. "We really like the progress we have made in the market," he said, adding that the business has a strong referral component.

In September AT&T announced a new set of services called Digital Life Care that are centered on home health monitoring for the elderly. Some of the technologies AT&T has discussed include a sensor in a drawer that turns on a light on a nightstand when the drawer opened; a motion detector on the foot of a bed that turns on lights when it detects someone has gotten out of bed; a monitor on a fridge that can send an alert to a care giver to let them know if an elderly person is eating or taking medicine; and a water detector that can let a care giver remotely shut off a water valve in a home if a flood is detected. The carrier said it would be testing the service in Atlanta and Dallas and commercially launching the service in 2015.

Peterson said the trials are continuing. However, he declined to say when the new service for the elderly will launch, though he added it will be focused on personal security for the elderly.

The company Essence already offers a similar service called [email protected], which uses passive monitoring and motion sensors, along with an analytics platform, to track an elderly person's motion and movements in their home via an algorithm that continually adapts to a person's behavior and patterns. Family members can also be notified is an elderly person falls, for example.

Danila Perlmutter, Essence's vice president and head of marketing, said that the company has been certified by AT&T to put the carrier's SIM cards inside its control panel for its [email protected] service, which communicates to cloud over the cellular channels.

"We are exploring working with ecosystems and other leading companies in North America like AT&T and Works with Nest to really make sure that we bring our solution to the wider market," she said.

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