AT&T's new home monitoring solution allows customers to view live video via their cell phones.

Telecommunications giant AT&T, San Antonio, launched a home monitoring service that is available nationwide. Prior to the nationwide launch, the company conducted a soft launch of the home monitoring offering in four markets to make sure customer service and deployment of the product were seamless.

The monitoring service – which includes cameras, door and window sensors, wireless gateway for connecting equipment to a home Broadband network, software, and instructions – is being marketed as a flexible home control system and not a security monitoring system, and sells for $199, with a monthly service fee of $9.95 per month.

“We are not marketing this as a typical security solution,” emphasized Jason Hillery, AT&T spokesperson. “Our offering is designed as a home piece-of-mind type service.” Hillery said that the offering is ideal for making sure children arrive home safely, or elderly parents are safe and well. Customers can also find the service useful for monitoring second homes or vacation residences.

“Our customers are finding a very wide range of things to use this new service for. For example, one customer uses the service to monitor the snow fall at his second home, so he can see when to call the snow plow,” Hillery said. “As we move further with this, people will figure out applications that we haven’t even thought of yet.”

In addition to the initial package, more sensors for a range of uses can be added on, Hillery said. “Customers can add more cameras and there are a range of sensors that can be added on,” he said. Hillery said that AT&T offers temperature sensors that are ideal for a vacation home or second home to make sure pipes don’t freeze, for example. Water sensors can detect water leakage, and motion sensors can be used in a range of application. One use of the motion sensors is they can be programmed to turn on a light and start recording video from the camera when motion is detected, Hillery explained.

AT&T and Cingular have partnered for this new offering. For the home monitoring service to work, customers need to have a Cingular wireless account and a Cingular Java-enabled phone (which makes up approximately 95 percent of the phones available currently, estimated Hillery). However, customers do not need to have AT&T Yahoo! Broadband service specifically — the service will work with any Broadband connection. Customers can see live, full-motion video from their cell phones or PDAs, or PCs. Via PC, customers have pan and tilt capability.

AT&T’s home monitoring solution includes Motorola cameras and Xanboo sensors and other equipment. The sensors are wireless and run over 400 MHz. Currently, each system will support up to four cameras and up to 32 sensors. Pan/tilt capability is up to 160 degrees for each camera. “Being on an IP platform, everything is very flexible. Look for a number of potential enhancements in the future,” Hillery said. As of now, the cameras are rated for indoor use, however, enhancements could include outdoor-rated cameras, pan/tilt capability via cell phone, and integration of TV into the home monitoring capabilities. An example of TV use would be for baby monitoring if you are in another room of the house.

At this time, the service is completely monitored by the customer, however, AT&T is looking at the possibility of adding third-party monitoring as a potential option in the future, Hillery said. As for now, AT&T is marketing the offering as a do-it-yourself home monitoring solution that is easy to install and control by the customer. “The beauty of the service is that you can add additional cameras and monitors and build a system to meet your needs,” Hillery said. “Since everything is on our IP platform now, we are able to deliver our customers new services and offerings that we haven’t been able to before. We continue to look for ways to give customers the ability to access the information they are looking for.”

While the service will be offered nationwide, AT&T plans to focus the majority of its outbound marketing efforts in the 13 states in which it currently offers local Broadband service, including Illinois, Texas, California, Connecticut and Ohio. For more information,