AT&T launches video monitoring service

AT&T launches video monitoring service

By BRUCE MEYERSON, AP Technology Writer1 hour, 19 minutes ago

AT&T Inc. is introducing a home monitoring service that includes live video surveillance on a computer or cell phone, as well as lighting controls and detection sensors for motion, temperature changes and flooding.

The service being launched Thursday, priced at $9.95 per month, is compatible with any broadband Internet service. The cellular feature is limited to mobile phones from Cingular Wireless, a majority-owned subsidiary of AT&T, and requires the customer to subscribe to a wireless Internet package costing $10 to $20 a month, on top of voice plan fees.

A customer also needs to buy a $199 equipment package consisting of a tilt-and-pan video camera, a motion sensor for a door or window, a central router to connect those systems to the Internet, and two power-outlet modules that transmit the video between the camera and the router using the home's electrical wiring. Shipping is about $10 extra.

While a wide array of remote surveillance technologies have been available for some time, the AT&T system integrates a variety of capabilities and adds some novel features. There's no need, for example, to leave a home computer running to operate the system.

Users also can program the system to take specific actions or send an alert via e-mail or wireless text message when a sensor detects changes. If the there's motion across the video camera's field of view or if a sensor detects that a window has been opened, the system can automatically send an alert, turn on a light and start recording video. A Web-based dashboard is used to configure the system, and certain features can be controlled via cell.

The remote video monitoring is not full-motion. Viewed on a computer, the picture runs at three to seven frames per second, as compared with 24-to-30 in television and movies.

The video quality on a cell phone will be lower, varying with the device and the local wireless network. Customers who have one of Cingular's next-generation phones and are using the device in one of the roughly 50 markets where the network has been upgraded with speedier "HSDPA" wireless technology are expected to get two or three frames per second. For other Cingular subscribers or in other markets, the picture will transmit at just one frame per second.

The system won't work if the power fails.

Each account can support up to four of video cameras, which need to be one of two Panasonic models that AT&T has configured to work with the system. An additional tilt-and-pan unit costs $180, while a stationary video camera costs $100.

The system also can support up to 32 sensors to detect when doors and windows are opened, monitor the temperature or water leaks in different rooms, or turn various lights on and off. The Motorola Inc. sensors, costing $20 to $25 for extras beyond the one in the starter kit, communicate with the system router over a wireless signal.

A customer also has the option of using the account to monitor a second location such as a business or a vacation home, but would need to buy an additional starter kit.

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