AT&T Foundry innovation center opens its doors in Palo Alto to help devs do what they do

We've heard of keeping up with the Joneses, but this is getting ridiculous. First it was Verizon, then Vodafone, and now Ma Bell -- with an assist from Ericsson -- has built an innovation center in Silicon Valley. This new center completes the triumvirate of AT&T Foundry facilities (the other two are in Texas and Israel), and is a part of the company's strategy to accelerate the process of developing and delivering new products to its customers. Right now, there are over 100 projects in development in Palo Alto, and AT&T is looking to add more. Those who are chosen gain access to AT&T's networks and expertise to ensure that new projects play nice with all of the company's gear, and it's already produced a few things that were on display at the center's grand opening. Want a sneak peek at what's in AT&T's innovation pipeline? Read on past the break to get it.

The center is focused on innovation and providing developers with tools to produce new apps and services, so it's no surprise that we saw a couple of projects squarely aimed at accomplishing both of those goals. One of these is the new developer API Platform, currently in beta, that seeks to make it simple and easy to develop new HTML 5 apps. As a part of AT&T's developer program, the platform streamlines the process for getting access to the API library, including those for app development, payments, and in-app ads.

Another project, called mHealth, provides APIs to access medical and wellness data so that app developers can create more comprehensive personal health applications. These APIs have all of the necessary security layers built in to ensure that sensitive info can only be accessed in a way that the end user wants (and that federal law requires). It essentially gives plug and play access to all of the back end infrastructure needed to pull data both from devices like the Fitbit or Zeo and from your medical records. That way, developers can come up with creative ways to use the data and make it easier than ever to get a complete picture of your current physical well-being.

While most of the projects on hand were app-oriented, we got some hands-on time with a nifty gadget named Ringbow. The Ringbow is (surprise, surprise) a ring that clamps to your index finger to provide an additional way to input commands to a touchscreen device via Bluetooth. In its current iteration, the gadget has a small nubbin d-pad that's operated by your thumb to provide direct access to menus and other functions depending upon the app. We got a brief demo of the ring in action, and came away fairly impressed. It's lightweight, and we can see its secondary input functionality being put to good use in both games and productivity applications. Of course, we only saw prototypes that were tethered to an external power source -- though company CEO Efrat Barit said to expect 5 hours of battery life when it goes into production -- and it's also considering replacing the control nub with an optical pad or trackball. There's no word on when it'll hit the market, but the plan is for it to work with any and all touchscreen devices, and the Foundry aims to make that happen.

We also got to see some new U-Verse apps in action, including social TV platform Miso (which lets you share what show you're watching via check-ins or on Facebook and Twitter), and an AT&T Radio app that lets you push whatever you're listening to on your phone to your TV. In addition, there was a finger-painting app (for adding a sweet 'stache to your favorite talking heads, we presume), and an application that lets you flick Facebook videos from your handset onto your flatscreen. All in all, AT&T's fresh new Foundry showed off quite a few promising projects, all that's left is to turn that promise into production.

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AT&T Ups the Innovation Ante With New Collaboration Center in the Heart of Silicon Valley

Dozens of collaborative innovation projects currently underway as Palo Alto joins locations in Texas and Israel to expand AT&T Foundry constellation

PALO ALTO, Calif., Sept. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- What happens when you open the network to developers from around the world with new tools and services, establish a collaborative infrastructure in which dedicated project teams have direct access to decision makers that can quickly make the right connections and open a new facility in the heart of Silicon Valley that's directly linked to innovators across the world?

You get increased velocity and a broader range of innovation, with new apps and services 3x faster.

That's what AT&T* has done with its AT&T Foundry innovation centers, including the newest center, which opened today in Palo Alto, Calif. AT&T Foundries are fast-paced and collaborative environments where AT&T and technology providers team with developers to deliver the latest applications and services to customers more quickly than ever before.

"AT&T's approach to the innovation center concept is unique for the industry," said Jim Goetz, general partner with Sequoia Capital. "Their strategy embraces how development gets done in the Valley. AT&T understands where it brings value to collaborations and how they can help others innovate in new ways to bring new ideas to market quickly."

The AT&T Foundry is one part of AT&T's overall innovation strategy that aims to accelerate technology development by collaborating with third party developers, venture capitalists and technology providers – sometimes by taking lead on a project, other times by contributing expertise, connections and resources to help developers bring an idea to reality.

"The AT&T Foundry is a core component of our innovation strategy," said AT&T Chief Technology Officer John Donovan. "This isn't a technology showroom or testing facility. It's a place where real innovation is occurring at an unprecedented pace in order to bring new services and products to our customers in a fraction of the time."

"In here, we're collaborating to open up our network with tools and know-how so that developers can more quickly add new capabilities to their apps," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "We're also developing ecosystems and platforms such as mHealth to help drive further innovation and provide new wireless experiences for our customers."

The teams at the AT&T Foundry look for ways to speed ideas to market by identifying and eliminating common inefficiencies or bringing the right people together to deliver access to new technologies. One project currently in development focuses on ways to eliminate developer frustration with the wide range of business and technical relationships required to create applications. The team is collaborating on a concept that opens the network to developers through services such as messaging, location, payments and advertising accessible via HTML5. The result is significantly reduced complexity so that developers can more quickly build cool new apps.

"AT&T has the resources and the vision to make real innovation happen," said Michael Mullany, CEO of Sencha, which collaborated with AT&T to develop the HTML5 interface at the AT&T Foundry. "Together, we're working to provide developers with the tools and access to network services that help them bring new ideas to reality in months rather than years. That means AT&T customers will have the latest and greatest apps at record speed."

The Palo Alto center, sponsored by Ericsson, is the third permanent AT&T Foundry facility to open worldwide, adding to a global network that includes facilities sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent and Amdocs in Plano, Texas, and Ra'anana, Israel, respectively. The new location will join two temporary facilities in the Bay Area where collaborative projects are already underway, many on display during today's opening day festivities.

"AT&T and Ericsson are working to transform the way telecommunications companies develop concepts that will form tomorrow's networked society," said Hakan Eriksson, Ericsson Group Chief Technology Officer and President of Ericsson Silicon Valley. "AT&T is actively engaged with us to combine local insights with global ecosystems to help entrepreneurs bring innovative ideas to market as quickly as possible."

Projects are funneled to the AT&T Foundry in several ways:
Fast Pitch, or "speed date" reviews, where companies or developers meet with key AT&T decision makers to evaluate projects or technologies. AT&T is on track to hold 400 of the fast-pitch sessions in locations across the globe this year.

The Innovation Pipeline (TIP), AT&T's crowd-sourcing idea-generating platform, where more than 100,000 employees gather to share ideas and collaborate on bringing new products and services to market.

AT&T Labs, with 135 years of history in innovation and technology breakthroughs, which provides the starting point for many AT&T Foundry projects. Many of the organization's 1,200 researchers also provide expertise to projects currently underway.