Field Trip to the Future

Field Trip to the Future

Monday, May 5, 2014 - 12:05pm


By John Schulz, AVP of Sustainability Operations

My second grade daughter recently took a field trip. She rode in the “yellow dog” school bus with her class to the new science museum in town to learn about the past and see the possibilities for the future. They wore the same color t-shirts so they wouldn’t get lost, she got a pencil with the logo of the museum on it – the whole bit.

Inspired by my seven year old, I took a field trip of my own the other week, visiting the AT&T Drive Studio and Digital Life demonstration home in Atlanta to meet the people and see the technologies that are shaping our mobilized world. Specifically, how will it change how we get from place to place and operate our homes? What social benefits can be generated? How can these changes improve our resource efficiency?

The Drive Studio – the hub for AT&T’s work on the Connected Car and Connected Transportation – is literally in a garage. But it’s not your neighborhood mechanic shop. In addition to a shiny new meeting space, the place has cars – and parts of cars – in various states of assembly. In addition to a bit of traditional auto shop gear, the room is stocked with laptops, networking equipment and flat-screen displays. The buzz of lug nut drills removing wheels has been replaced by the tipping of fingers on keyboards. While there, we discussed the plans for the Studio – to work with car companies and best-of-breed technology to transform the relationship between people and their transportation – and we talked about ways to seize the safety, social and environmental benefits of these changes.

At the Digital Life home, we got first hand exposure to what Digital Life can do today – thermostat adjustment, lighting control and water shut-off, all from a wireless device – and we chatted about the future vision. Using home security as the foundation, Digital Life promises to provide incredible visibility and access to the workings of a home. Just like at the Drive Studio, our conversations focused on ways to use this transformation to increase the safety and efficiency of the home of the future.

Before I had visited these places, I had heard the word “platform” used to describe them. At first, I didn’t get it. But now I understand that these efforts aren’t about a single device anymore. It’s about myriad activities that occur throughout the day and how the remote control for our lives (what we used to call a “phone”) makes navigating the day safer and more efficient. I was struck by the expansive potential of these connections to improve how we get from place to place and get things done. What does that future look like? We’re working to build it, and we’re looking for ways that it can unlock the environmental efficiency and social benefits that can help our communities thrive. It’s amazing what you can learn on field trips, and how they can inspire visions for our future.