AT&T digs deep with 'Digital Life'

Telecommunications giant selling the experience and carving market penetration

Some may take exception to the fact that telecommunications stalwart AT&T has entered security and home automation in a big way with its Digital Life services. There’s reason for the industry’s trepidation. AT&T has a huge existing customer base and the ability to quickly gulp up recurring monthly revenue. Perhaps the big picture in all this is that AT&T is increasing awareness—which may drive business to whomever can deliver the best service ‘experience.’

We hear about experience all the time, and it really isn’t hard to achieve. Even the new Apple print and television ads talk about it: ‘This is it…this is what matters; the experience…’ You know full well that it takes an eye on the customer and fanatical follow up to really be able to deliver the experience the customer expects today.

AT&T Digital Life debuted at Mobile World Congress in February 2012.  At that time, the platform was already complete and it took the company about 12 months to bring the service to market. Since launching the service in early 2013, AT&T is now up to 27 markets with a goal of 50 before the end of 2013. Most recently, the company announced new foundry facilities to speed innovation in Digital Life services.

Whoever comes into the industry should know this is a tight-knit community that’s fought long and hard to erase the image of trunk slammer. I think AT&T knows this and has thrown its hat in the ring and its leader, Kevin Petersen, president of Digital Life Inc., Atlanta, concurred that the company is all in.

They recently achieved CSAA Five-Diamond Certification for their UL-listed Dallas and Atlanta central monitoring centers. All Digital Life central station operators have achieved proficiency and certification by passing CSAA central station online operator training. AT&T OEMs product with companies like Honeywell, Linear and Cisco as well as others (see complete list of at the end of this story). And according to AT&T, their technicians are 100 percent on-staff personnel specially trained in Digital Life—not local subcontractors.

“We will be active in the industry,” Petersen told me in an exclusive interview. “AT&T Digital Life is fully a security industry participant. To change the game, we have to be. We feel we can lead the way.” He added that AT&T is looking at partnerships in “customer acquisition,” and is “open to striking up partnerships in distribution.”

The company continues to assess its perception in the marketplace with Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Petersen said it is pleased with initial response to AT&T Digital Life. “We use NPS to assess the customer experience and now, consumers are enjoying going into the new retail stores where they can build a solution and also buy product online. They can come to us many ways for their solution.”

Petersen said that in its research it found people wanted a broader solution—enabling a fully interactive experience with smart devices. “The comfort level consumers now have with smart devices has unlocked a set of opportunities across the eco system. Our solution starts with security; but what does security mean to people? It means using automation to heighten the level of security available today. It all starts with security but integrates with other solutions.”

As far as industry pundits who claim AT&T will be unable to deliver professional services in the manner many homespun companies and independents deliver, Petersen said: “Everyone is entitled to their view. We have taken the necessary steps to be successful. The security industry is in transition—security is under-penetrated. For us it’s about how you unlock the penetration rate, especially in an interactive, mobile world. We have all the pieces in place; a fully integrated solution, a big foundation of customers and retail centers across the country. We are a big company with a strong local presence and brand recognition and a history of providing local support. People like to have options and we continue to look at how we can leverage technology. It’s going to come back to the experience—we can deliver a simple, but powerful experience.”

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