Also on the main floor is a networked thermostat. This is probably the device that Chris interacts with the most. He can adjust the temperature from his iPad or iPhone and especially likes the ability to make changes remotely, such as when the family is coming home from a trip and wants to get the house at the proper temperature before they arrive. “I’m kind of lazy to begin with, so sitting up in bed and changing the temperature rather than getting up and going downstairs is very convenient,” he says. The thermostat can be programmed to change temperatures at different times of the day or for different circumstances (such as when the alarm is set to “Away”), but Chris chooses to adjust it on-the-fly.
Chris’ other favorite part of the system is the Yale deadbolt lock. It includes a built-in keypad, so no one in the family needs to carry a key. Each family member (plus the house cleaner) has a unique entry code. When a code is used to open the front door, Chris gets an alert on his phone or tablet, and knows exactly who entered the house. To confirm that, he can view the indoor surveillance camera and see if his kids brought any friends over when they came home.
“Knowing when people are home rather than having to call home to see if my kids are back from school—that helps my stress level a little bit,” he explains.
In the finished basement, where Chris has a front-projection home theater system, he had the AT&T team put in a water sensor near the sump pump. In the event of a flood Chris will be notified before significant damage can take place.
On the second floor, Chris uses an appliance module to automatically turn on and off a radio in one of his children’s rooms. She likes to go to sleep with music in the background, and this device allows Chris to turn the radio off when she’s asleep without creeping in and waking her up by accident.
Chris says he can envision adding a few more devices to the system, such as more lighting control and more cameras.
AT&T’s Digital Life system appears to cover all the basic expectations that people have of monitoring and automation systems, with the emphasis on monitoring. The system can’t integrate everything, especially the audio/video entertainment systems that other companies really specialize in. The customization is also significantly limited compared to some of the systems mention earlier, but seems to be a good balance of price, ease-of-use and functionality for middle-class families. Chris notes that he was initially struck by the “wow” factor of being able to operate and visualize so many devices from his iPad, but the convenience and security is what makes it stand out for him.
Other companies not traditionally in the automation or security markets are also trying to elbow their way in. Comcast offers a DIY home monitoring system with a $10/monthly fee. Verizon also offers a home monitoring and control solution to FiOS customers, also for $10/month, and also user-installed. AT&T’s Digital Life appears to have a better balance of hand-holding (professional installation is required) and user-customization.
View the slideshow to see some of the devices includes in the Digital Life home.
Also check out:
Home Automation FAQs
Trends in Affordable Home Automation
Xfinity Home Control Offers Remote Features for $10/month
Verizon Automation and Monitoring Customers Voicing Concerns
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.