AT&T opens second Foundry lab in Plano, Texas, hopes to foster the 'Internet of Things'

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Daniel Cooper
September 17, 2013 8:00 AM
AT&T opens second Foundry lab in Plano, Texas, hopes to foster the 'Internet of Things'

Carriers need to innovate their way to bigger profits, so AT&T has been opening up foundries -- startup incubators that try and recreate the spirit of Bell Labs. While the company already has a software-focused facility in Plano, 'Ma Bell has now rented the office space directly above it for the follow-up. The second Texas facility will concentrate on hardware for the "Internet of Things," packing gear like a faraday cage, fast prototyping equipment and 3D printers. Aspiring inventors should just bear in mind that whatever you go there to build will probably need to sell a wireless plan alongside -- after all, AT&T is paying the bills.

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New facility will speed innovation in Machine-to-Machine and Connected Device technology, creating a smarter world

DALLAS, September 17, 2013 - The second AT&T Foundry® facility in Plano, just north of Dallas, officially opened today as the home of cutting-edge development around machine-to-machine solutions and connected devices.

With this new facility, AT&T will develop innovative products and services that improve your life and livelihood in a variety of ways. We'll do this by bringing network connectivity and intelligence to both existing devices and new hardware. Imagine, for example, the ability to track the location of a suitcase and report when it has been opened as a traveler moves from one airport to another. Or think of soil sensors in a corn field that can automatically test the moisture in the dirt, and then signal the irrigation system to turn on when needed.

We will work with our business customers to develop and refine these sorts of innovative ideas, and then take those concepts to this new AT&T Foundry to quickly turn them into working prototypes and platforms with broad industry applications. These sorts of machine-to-machine and connected device technologies are commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things."

"Adding intelligence and connectivity to a new and wide range of machines is a huge opportunity, and we welcome the challenge," said John Donovan, Senior Executive Vice President of AT&T Technology and Network Operations, AT&T. "This new AT&T Foundry facility has the capability to rapidly prototype hardware and develop the sophisticated software needed in the growing M2M and connected device space."

The AT&T Foundry is equipped with all the tools to make that happen, such as a 3D printer, a shielded copper testing room called a Faraday Cage that blocks external radio frequency signals, and more. AT&T can collaborate on site with a customer, build a prototype in hours, test it, refine and move on to the next stage. No waiting for days for parts or samples to be shipped from overseas.

"AT&T already has a huge role in this emerging market, with 15.2 million connected devices and growing, an increase of 50 percent from the first half of 2012," said Chris Hill, Senior Vice President, Advanced Solutions, AT&T Business Solutions. "More specifically, we've experienced a 38 percent increase in M2M customers in the past year as we continue to connect machines and develop applications to meet the unique needs of different vertical markets. Our goal with this new facility is to move faster to help our global customers develop prototypes and test ideas at a rapid pace and then quickly bring those concepts to market."

"As the Internet of Things continues to evolve, so does the technology and how businesses and consumers use it," said Chris Penrose, senior vice president, AT&T Emerging Devices. "We are committed to developing new customer experiences in a number of areas, including item-tracking, the connected car and telematics, mHealth, education, and home. The AT&T Foundry helps us quickly deliver on this commitment."

This new facility also represents a literal doubling down on AT&T's innovation investment in Plano and the larger Dallas area. The center sits one floor above the original AT&T Foundry facility, which opened in 2011. The two facilities will be regular collaborators, with the downstairs team often developing the software and services for the hardware being printed, soldered and assembled upstairs. Indeed, all of our innovation centers collaborate closely, creating a "network of Foundries" that accelerates innovation.

"The AT&T Foundry® is all about delivering new innovations as quickly as possible, and to accomplish that you need a skilled workforce, as well as an environment where creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship are prized," said Plano mayor Harry LaRosiliere. "Plano is the ideal site for this new innovation center, as the original AT&T Foundry® facility proved. We are so excited that we are deepening our relationship with AT&T and I anxiously await the amazing projects that will come out of this new location."

The new location will also, as with our other AT&T Foundry centers, host hackathons, workshops and other events designed to help local hardware developers and enthusiasts learn new skills, network and get input from our staff.

There are five AT&T Foundry locations. In addition to the two Plano locations, we also have innovation centers in Palo Alto, Calif., Atlanta, Georgia, and Ra'anana, Israel. The Palo Alto location focuses on consumer technology, the Atlanta team is working on projects related to Digital Life, mobility, U-verse and connected car, while Israel is developing back-office technologies. AT&T Foundry sponsors include Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs, Cisco, and Ericsson, as well as Intel and Microsoft. Together, AT&T and the sponsors have invested more than $100 million in the AT&T Foundry program.

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