AT&T’s ‘Digital Life’ lets you control your entire house from an iPad

If you think that your house just isn’t secure enough and you’re tired of getting up and walking to turn on and off your lights, AT&T sure has the solution for you. Today, at a house in New Orleans, CTIA 2012 (it’s a trade show about wireless technology), including yours truly, were given a tour through a home completely equipped with AT&T’s new “Digital Life” home automation and security system. Using a digital control box and an iOS, Android, or Web app (HTML5), the system allows you to remotely set up and control almost every aspect of your home.

The Digital Life system can connect up to your lights, door locks, security cameras, wall power outlets, garage doors, smoke detectors, window sensors that detect glass breaking, and even temperature sensors so you can remotely control them all from any laptop, iOS, or Android device. More importantly though, you can create your own programs and sequences of events, connecting up multiple systems. For example, you could make a vacation setting that turns down the heat, turns off all the lights, activates the security cameras and sirens, shuts off the water, and notifies you if anyone breaks into the house.

Some of the smaller uses are cooler. With an automated door system, you could have a friend call you when they approach your house (let’s say you’re away) and you could remotely unlock the doors for them. If that’s not good enough, you could give that person special permission or a passcode to enter as well.

Digital Life works off of AT&T’s 3G network and other short-range wireless communication types like Wi-Fi. All of your appliances will wirelessly communicate with an AT&T control box that will then connect up with the Internet via 3G. A landline high-speed connection can be used a backup service and is provider agnostic. AT&T representatives told me that wired landline could only be used as a backup due to the security risk involved. Apparently, a burgler could just cut your cable or DSL connection from outside of the house, thus rendering the security features of the system useless. 

The house they showed us was a bit of a perfect scenario, with each room fitted with its own Wi-Fi connection and a dozen knowledgeable AT&T reps controlling it, but it does seem like a fun idea. The iPad app is quite intuitive and well designed, though I have to imagine that tech-savvy kids might figure out how to control the entire house without much trouble. Just need to guess Mom and Dad’s password, right? Passive wars over room temperature are also inevitable in a world of complete home automation. Oh the fun that’s ahead…

The future may still be a little ways off, however. If you’re hoping for your own Digital Life system, you are in for a wait. It’s currently only being tested in Dallas and Atlanta, but will be expanding in time. No pricing is available, but I imagine that it’s quite expensive. Each of the sensors, door locks, and anything that connects has to be compatible with AT&T’s home network and nothing sold by wireless carriers comes cheap. Representatives said that a professional installation team is needed to get the whole system up and running, adding yet more prohibitive cost. And, of course, you have to actually own nice things that you want to secure and remotely control for a system like this to be worth the investment. 

AT&T has a sign-up page for those interested in being a guinea pig for the new system and a Digital Life information page for those hoping to learn more. All of the pictures above were taken in the test home in New Orleans. 

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