AT&T's "home security" system

Thursday, November 2, 2006

SAN ANTONIO, Texas--Though recent reports have widely trumpeted AT&T's Oct. 26 entree into the "home security" market, AT&T itself is touting their new system as a "peace of mind" service. Said Brad Mays, AT&T's representative to trade media, "The service is not being sold as a traditional security service, but rather a peace-of-mind home monitoring application. There is no automated dialing of police departments through the service today."
AT&T Remote Monitoring allows US customers to monitor their systems remotely via computer or cell phone. The nationwide service is compatible with any broadband Internet service and is being offered to customers at $9.95 a month, with an initial start-up fee of $199 for equipment.
AT&T's system combines live and recorded video via Panasonic's pan-and-tilt BLC10 camera and wireless sensors manufactured by Motorola, providing customers with a way to maintain a virtual connection to their homes. The system can remotely control lighting in the home and provide alerts on environmental conditions, including motion detection, temperature changes and household flooding. "This service is ideal for a wide range of potential applications, from keeping an eye on children, elderly parents or pets to monitoring a second home or vacation home," Susan Johnson, senior vice president of business development at AT&T, said in a statement.
Tailored alerts can send a text message to a cell phone when motion is detected in a specific area of the home, while at the same time automatically turning on lighting and recording "high quality streaming digital video" of the same area. However, the monitoring is not full-motion-viewed on the computer. The picture runs at three-to-seven frames per second, and the video quality on a cell phone will be much lower, depending on the device and the local wireless network.
For Cingular subscribers, it will transmit at just one frame per second, while customers who have one of Cingular's next-generation phones in one of the markets where the network has been upgraded with "HSPDA" wireless technology are expected to get two or three frames per second.
The service is self-installed and, according to Mays, "The set-up process is quick and easy and requires little technical knowledge." Installation is a matter of connecting a gateway to a router using a supplied Ethernet cable. Cameras are also connected to the router, with a maximum distance between the two being set at 200 feet. AT&T is obviously banking on the low cost of their new service, along with its ease of use, to attract customers: After installing the provided software and registering a gateway on AT&T's web site, end users are, in effect, good to go. Upgrades to the system start at $6.95 a month, and it is also possible to purchase additional cameras and sensors.
Johnson maintained that with AT&T Remote Monitoring, customers will "no longer be tied to a specific device to access a specific service" and that it will allow customers to communicate and access information wherever they happen to be. "It's an early yet powerful example of the potential of converged services," said Johnson in a provided release.
Although this service may seem like a godsend to those who would like to monitor their homes remotely, there is at least one downside: The system will not work if the power fails.