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AT&T Launches Smart City Partnership, Multi-Front IoT Campaign

The telecommunications provider announced several new Internet of Things initiatives aimed at government, transportation, developers and other commercial customers on Tuesday.

by / January 5, 2016

AT&T started an all-out campaign Tuesday, Jan. 5, to make its name in the emerging Internet of Things business, launching tools for application developers as well as customers in the private and public sectors.

The telecommunications giant made a series of announcements Tuesday morning at its annual Developer Summit in Las Vegas, including:

  • The launching of a “smart cities framework” and an alliance with several business partners to bring new smart city technology to Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Chicago and Dallas. The framework will add a focus on IoT technologies addressing infrastructure, citizen engagement, transportation and public safety. As part of its offerings, AT&T is developing a municipal operations dashboard called the Smart City Network Operations Center. The concept is to bring together data from multiple sources into one place, allowing city officials to see issues such as water leaks, power outages and traffic problems side by side.
  • The opening of its Flow Designer tool to commercial customers. Flow Designer lets users create data flows using prewritten code to support the easy building of IoT apps.
  • Trial runs of two new features for app developers, Flow Edge and M2X Context. Flow Edge allows users to narrow data flows to only those at the edge of the network — those that come in near real time — in order to speed up processing. M2X Context gives users the ability to selectively show data to different groups based on rules. For instance, an application could use M2X Context to give only environmental data to regulators.
  • Expansion of the company’s connected vehicle offerings. AT&T extended its existing exclusive contract to provide Wi-Fi connections in BMW vehicles, which it has held since 2008, as well as signing on as the connectivity provider for Ford’s new SYNC Connect concept. With Ford, AT&T hopes to connect 10 million customers’ cars in the next five years to allow for remote door locking and unlocking, locating parked vehicles, remote vehicle starting and accessing information such as fuel and tire pressure readings. Ford will introduce SYNC Connect in its new Escape this spring.
  • The establishment of the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health at the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston. AT&T is setting up the center in the hopes that it will serve as an incubator and jumping-off point for IoT technologies in medicine.
  • Publishing a report Monday on how business can use IoT technology. The report, The Right Information Can Change the World, showcases commercial uses for the Internet of Things that can cut costs, grow revenue, make systems function more efficiently and help satisfy customers.

The expansion of Flow Designer comes about two months after one of AT&T’s largest telecommunications competitors, Verizon, launched its own platform aimed at helping developers design IoT applications. Alongside the launch of ThingSpace, Verizon also unveiled technologies meant to create faster, cheaper connectivity for IoT devices.

While much of Verizon’s push was toward developers, AT&T’s announcements Tuesday involved a lot of direct appeals to customers, including cities. Aside from the operations dashboard, AT&T talked about several IoT applications for cities:

  • Remotely monitoring the condition of roads, bridges, buildings, parks and other infrastructure.
  • Creating mobile apps that give citizens better information about city services such as parking availability and traffic lights.
  • Installing stations where citizens can rent electric bicycles.
  • Putting up digital signs that let transit users know in real time when the next bus or train is going to arrive.
  • Detecting the sound of gunfire and sending its location to police.
  • Helping to manage pedestrian traffic.