Business

AT&T's Palo Alto foundry drives to produce new apps

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A TV you tell to change channels and an app that restricts how far your teenager can drive -- those are some of the ideas coming out of a research lab in Palo Alto for your smartphone or tablet.

AT&T calls it their foundry, but instead of casting and molding metal, it's producing new apps and services that tap into today's high-speed wireless networks.

One idea, started just six weeks ago, is to link patients with health care providers, using a tablet to monitor their vitals, such as blood pressure or weight, real-time.

Another, expected to be released next year, promotes driver safety. A module inside a car will allow parents to track their teenagers' speed and location from home on a tablet. Texting can be turned off remotely, and parents can restrict how far their teenager can drive. It's called geofencing.

"Geofencing is setting a radius for the teenage driver within a particular area that if the teenage driver were to leave that area, the parent would receive an alert that the driver's out of the radius," said Brad Beal with the Driving Safety Project.

AT&T has invested $90 million to set up three foundries to foster innovation. The other two are in Texas and Israel.

"Most of our partners here are not AT&T employees. They're outside developers, they're start-ups, they're architects, and we think that drawing on that knowledge in the community is the only way we're going to move things forward at a fast pace," said Mark Nagel, the AT&T foundry marketing director.

There's been lots of talk about replacing remote controls with voice commands. The foundry launched a new TV remote app this week.

"'Channel 1007.' That audio gets sent up to the speech recognition server and in the cloud it figures out what those words were and how they match with the program content that's available," said Charles Galles from Easy Remote App.

Projects get 90 days to prove their worth or get chopped.

AT&T's Palo Alto foundry is a busy place with about 30 projects underway at any one given time. And the goal is, of course, to have a high percentage of them end up on your smartphone or tablet soon.

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AT&T, palo alto, apps, business, david louie
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