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AT&T Home Management Platform Includes Energy Options

AT&T announced a March launch date for its long-awaited Digital Life platform, which will allow homeowners to take greater control of their energy consumption, among other features that are likely to become commonplace in homes of the future.

Cisco is building the in-home control panel and back-office provisioning and applications management system for Digital Life. Interestingly, Cisco backed away from earlier plans to develop its own home-energy management system, as market demand was considered to be too soft (Microsoft and Google pulled the plug on the development of products as well).

While the Digital Life system includes home energy features, such as the ability to remotely control thermostats, lights and appliances, AT&T is marketing the system's broader capabilities for monitoring, protecting and managing homes via smartphone, tablet or PC.

Customers can select installation packages for video cameras, remote door locks, as well as security and fire alarms. AT&T also offers a water package that it says can detect leaks in home plumbing.

“The home security and automation market is about to expand significantly,” said Roger Entner, Founder and Lead Analyst of Recon Analytics. “As the capabilities and usability of home automation solutions are dramatically improving, installation becoming easier, the value proposition is becoming a lot more attractive to consumers. Not only can consumers protect their home against intruders, but with these new solutions they can save energy, keep an eye on what is going on in their home even when they are away and protect against costly accidents in their home.”

AT&T plans to launch the Digital Life service in eight U.S. markets in March, with up to 50 additional market rollouts planned in 2013.

Companies such as LG Electronics and Samsung already have introduced comprehensive lines of refrigerators, washing machines and stoves capable of communicating with home energy management systems, however the smart appliances market isn’t expected to take off for a couple more years.

Earlier this week, Ford announced a strategic collaboration with Whirlpool and SunPower that aims to demonstrate how a typical American family can reduce their electricity bills and carbon footprint by integrating home appliance technology with a plug-in vehicle and solar power.

For an idea of what may follow home energy management, check out this earlier article on theoretical work being done by the Georgia Energy Informatics Cluster to devise the framework of a Consumer Energy Management system that could track a person’s energy decisions beyond the walls of the home — a concept similar to what the startup Oroeco is doing with a new app.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.