AT&T adopted a DevOps mindset when it announced its first AT&T Foundry five years ago. The goal of the AT&T Foundry program is to create a fast-paced, collaborative environment for technologists at each of the six locations.
This year marks the fifth anniversary for AT&T's Foundry program, which first launched in Plano, Texas and then Israel in 2011. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) added another Foundry in Plano while the rest are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Atlanta; and most recently, Houston. (See AT&T Boots Up Connected Health Facility .)
In this Q&A, Igal Elbaz, vice president of ecosystem and innovation at AT&T Services, talked about the specific products and services that have come out of the various Foundry locations. In the first installment of the Q&A, Elbaz discussed the importance of APIs and working with third-party developers and vendors to create new ecosystems. (See AT&T's Elbaz on How AT&T Foundries Create a Culture of Innovation.)
Telco Transformation: The Foundries are all about driving innovation. Can you give us some examples of Foundry-based products and services?
Igal Elbaz: At each AT&T Foundry location, teams work to explore new technology, solve business challenges and power new services for customers, both as internal cross-functional groups and in collaboration with outside companies and start-ups. Over the years, AT&T has deployed numerous products and services that originated as AT&T Foundry projects.
One recent project was NumberSync, an innovation that lets customers send and receive texts, as well as make and receive calls, from a compatible smartwatch without their smartphones handy, using the same number that their friends and family already recognize. This was an idea that came in through our employee crowdsourcing platform, The Innovation Pipeline (TIP), and was brought to life at AT&T Foundry.
AT&T Foundry has also been on the forefront of AT&T's IoT work. As part of this effort we've recently unveiled two healthcare projects -- a Remote Patient Monitoring solution that helps providers to proactively monitor patients after they have been discharged from the hospital, and a connected wheelchair concept developed with Permobil. We're looking forward to further healthcare innovation with the opening of our newest Innovation Center in Houston.
TT: Are any of them being used on a large scale today? Or what has had the biggest impact on AT&T's apps or services?
IE: Many AT&T Foundry projects are in large-scale use. One is Self-Optimizing Network, or SON, which automatically analyzes and adjusts antenna positions and signal strength on our cell towers to provide the best possible signal to nearby wireless users. If one tower is overloaded with wireless users, for example, nearby towers can increase their range to pick up some for those users. The network automatically makes these adjustments in minutes without an engineer having to make manual changes.
Another project we've deployed widely is Video Bill. New AT&T customers and existing customers who've changed some element of their service received a computer-generated but personalized video explanation of their new bill. The audio narration walks through each line on the bill, explains the new charges, and highlights what the customer can expect to see on future bills. Again, no human intervention required.
AT&T Foundry was also instrumental in launching the use of software bots internally to help our employees automate many of their manual tasks so they could focus on higher-level projects or customer service issues.
Our project managers, engineers, and developers also work behind the scenes on initiatives that power the service we offer to customers, such as projects related to our goal of virtualizing 75% of our network by 2020. (See AT&T's Fuetsch Provides Download on SDN/NFV Roadmap.) Through the work of AT&T Foundry, along with many others across our business, we hit 5.7% in 2015 and plan to hit 30% by end of this year.
TT: How does AT&T pick a sector of technology for a Foundry?
IE: While we have AT&T Foundry Innovation Centers dedicated to connected healthcare and the IoT, others are broader in their focus and tackle projects driven by the needs of the business. We regularly review the strategic focus areas for AT&T, such as cyber security, the Internet of Things, software-defined networking (SDN) and others, and prioritize resources based on those needs.
Sometimes staffers also choose projects based on personal interest, as was the case in Palo Alto with a project to test our network at higher altitudes to address challenges and opportunities for drones through network connectivity.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation