The Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) were the prime focus at AT&T's Shape conference, held in San Francisco in July 2016, where developers and entrepreneurs from all over the tech ecosystem met to discuss how technology will evolve and converge. AT&T is already active in investing in and developing IoT solutions for both consumers and enterprise partners. The company is set to take advantage of the increased demand for bandwidth as innovative technologies take off.
AT&T shows it is more than its network
There are two aspects to AT&T's drive to incorporate new technologies into its offering. First, investment in IoT development platforms, as well as service delivery networks and machine learning, allows the company to demonstrate that it is more than just a network. This is an important point when trying to attract entrepreneurs to work with its Foundry innovation labs, among other things.
Second, innovative technologies are necessarily more data-intensive, something underlined earlier in July 2016 when T-Mobile US announced it was offering zero-rated access to AR game Pokémon Go to certain customers as part of its "Get Thanked" initiative. One of the speakers at Shape, Google's Justin Quimby, outlined likely use cases for AR using phones enabled with Google's 3D-sensing Tango chips, which will launch toward the end of 2016 in the form of LG's Phab 2 Pro.
These uses will make a case for AT&T's adoption of 5G, enabling a smoother and faster experience and guaranteeing interest in data packages at higher price points. The same can be said for other consumer uses such as self-driving cars (or regular connected cars, as part of AT&T's Drive product), or enterprise uses such as machine learning. It also would cement AT&T's position as an innovative telco company that licenses technology to other firms, as it has done with its Digital Life and Drive platforms in Europe.
Innovation Strategy: AT&T’s Foundry Program, TE0009-001419 (May 2015)
"Google to push AR ambitions with its own smartphone," TE0004-001093 (July 2016)
"Computer vision: Intel does the Tango with Google on 3D imaging," TE0004-001039 (August 2015)
Francesco Radicati, Senior Analyst, Consumer Technology