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Materiality Assessment Topic: Products that enable social and environmental benefit

Issue Summary

Innovation can not only deliver cutting-edge products to improve customers’ lives, it also can help us solve some of the greatest social and environmental challenges of our time. Our innovation programs generate new ideas, solve complex issues, speed up the development process, put innovative products and services into the market and develop the network and customer experience of the future. We’ve opened our networks and systems to developers, startups and other companies so they can quickly turn innovative ideas into viable products and services. Our approach has led to new technologies, apps, products and services that are improving lives at home, work and play.

Our Position

Innovation is part of everything we do. We work with innovators inside and outside AT&T to create unique personal, digital and mobile experiences that enrich and simplify our customers' lives.

Data Highlights

Targets to our 2020/2025 Goals
In Progress
  • 2020 Target: Demonstrate the environmental and social enablement power of consumer devices and solutions to help consumers live smarter, healthier and more independent lives.
    • Collaborate both internally and externally to help quantify the environmental and social sustainability enablement impacts of AT&T consumer devices and solutions (e.g., Internet of Things, Digital Life, Eco-Ratings, Connected Car, education and accessibility).
      • PROGRESS: As AT&T builds an overarching measurement methodology to reach our 2025 goal of enabling carbon reductions 10 times the footprint of our operations, we consider the relevant consumer-facing products and services that will help us reach our goal. Working with our internal business units, we continue to identify the environmental and social benefits associated with specific devices and solutions, as well as their power to enable smarter, healthier and more independent lives.
  • 2020 Target: Develop and deploy robust methodology to understand AT&T’s network impacts to society.
    • PROGRESS: In 2016, AT&T engaged with leading NGOs, industry groups and peer companies to develop a credible methodology to measure the greenhouse gas impacts of customers’ use of AT&T’s technology in an effort to track progress against our 10X goal.
  • 2025 Target: Enhance network efficiency to enable the achievement of the “net positive” ratio.
  • 2025 Target: Deliver customer solutions to achieve “net positive” ratio.
    • PROGRESS: AT&T joined the Net Positive Project in 2016, a cross-sector coalition that aims to develop practices and tools companies can use to quantify, assess, communicate, and enhance their positive impacts on society and the environment.

Our Action


Our entire leadership team is responsible for fostering innovation. The Chief Technology Officer (CTO), who is also president of AT&T Labs, oversees organizations responsible for disruptive and incremental innovation through programs such as our Foundry, TIP (The Innovation Pipeline) and Labs (please see below for more information). Through our research, lab solutions and inventions, AT&T seeks to provide innovation that increases revenue, market share and speed to market. The CTO organization has measured targets for patent and solution launches. In addition to our employee-based TIP program, we offer online training, as well as specific localized classes for those employees and teams most engaged in our innovation work.

Our culture of innovation is grounded in our Code of Business Conduct (COBC), which explains our responsibility to safeguard intellectual property and confirms that “by harnessing the scale of our network to deliver more sustainable solutions, we connect people and businesses seamlessly.” We maintain an easy-to-use website that provides access to specific policies and more detailed guidance around key topics covered in the COBC. Each employee — from our part-time employees to our CEO — is responsible for reviewing the COBC annually and understanding its provisions. Our innovation work is also governed by many other policies, including our environmental, health & safety policy, our intellectual property policy, our privacy policy, and supplier policies that cover sustainability, governance and security requirements.

Our suppliers are also vital to our success. Through the Domain 2.0 initiative, we’re working with suppliers to build a next-generation, virtualized, software-based network. In our Foundry locations, suppliers can sponsor research and work alongside our teams. Suppliers also frequently work in our Labs offices to join our innovation process. Many of our supplier agreements promote innovation through models of shared value — such as joint intellectual property agreements or shared revenue.

Innovating for Today & Tomorrow

To shape the technologies of tomorrow, we’re building an innovation ecosystem today that is open and collaborative. We actively collaborate with bright minds inside and outside AT&T to advance technology and create solutions for society.

Through our innovation platforms, we shorten the distance from ideas to marketplace. We’re building upon a 140-year heritage that has produced 8 Nobel prizes and encourages openness, teamwork and collaboration. We are also a FORTUNE World’s Most Admired Company and FORTUNE’s No. 1 Most Admired Telecommunications Company.

Innovation Programs

Examples of our innovation programs include:

AT&T Foundry

Through our AT&T Foundry, we’re working with developers, startups and other companies to move ideas to marketplace up to 3 times faster. Since its launch 6 years ago, the AT&T Foundry has started more than 400 projects and deployed dozens of new products and services. The AT&T Foundry brings the expertise of AT&T innovators into a collaborative environment with industry technology providers and developers. Project leaders get access to our network capabilities, test beds, technology experts and project coaches.

AT&T Foundry represents a collective $100+ million investment, along with technology providers Nokia, Amdocs, Cisco and Ericsson. We’ve opened 6 AT&T Foundry facilities, located in Atlanta; Houston; Palo Alto, Calif.; Ra'anana, Israel; and 2 in Plano, Texas.

As an example, our Internet of Things (IoT) AT&T Foundry in Plano is advancing solutions that connect machines in the utilities industry, track assets for airlines and other transportation companies, embed communications in industrial machinery and capture performance data for heavy equipment. The IoT AT&T Foundry is equipped to help develop the tools necessary to keep machines connected, as well as the accompanying applications to benefit companies and society. Engineers at the IoT AT&T Foundry connected the AT&T network and IoT software to enhance Schneider Electric’s EVlink Basic (non-connected) charging station. The proof of concept developed by Foundry engineers better serves EV drivers and station operators and allows EV drivers to receive notifications on their mobile phones when charging is complete or occupied charging stations become available.

Projects from our other AT&T Foundry facilities include:

  • Bringing wireless connectivity to Aira wearables for the blind and visually impaired to help wearers gain more information about their surroundings.
  • Fast-tracking the Self-Optimizing Network (SON), a technology from Israeli firm Intucell that better manages the load on individual cell towers and improves network performance. SON began operating in our network within a year of the first pitch.
  • Giving customers the ability to use 1 mobile number across multiple devices with NumberSync, originally an AT&T TIP submission (see more below).
  • Exploring how network connectivity for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, can address today’s challenges and support tomorrow’s opportunities, including assisting in emergency response and supporting industry solutions.
  • AT&T Stadium Wi-Fi custom solution, which was created to improve the wireless customer experience during stadium events in the premium seats closest to the field. Using 3-D printing and RF (radio frequency) expertise, the custom solution was created and installed over a short 6-week cycle.

Learn more at

Innovation Pipeline (TIP)

We built The Innovation Pipeline (TIP), an online crowdsourcing platform, to tap the collective imagination of our employees. We believe it is the world’s largest corporate crowdsourcing site. It allows employee ideas to grow; get refined and enhanced; and turn into real products, applications and services for our customers.

More than 130,000 employees — from 54 countries and all 50 states — are engaged in TIP. They have generated more than 43,000 ideas, landed more than 80 projects for development and allocated $45 million to fund projects ranging from customer service enhancements to new technology offerings. 

Drive Mode

AT&T’s DriveMode is an app that came from an employee’s TIP submission. The application helps prevent distracted driving by silencing incoming text message alerts and automatically replying to text messages. At the end of 2016, the app was downloaded more than 8 million times.

Flying COWs (Cell Tower On Wings)

In the mobility world, a COW typically refers to a Cell on Wheels, designed to provide temporary or enhanced cellular connectivity on an as-needed basis. The Flying COW — or Cell Tower on Wings — is an exciting next step in how AT&T plans to use drones to bring strong wireless connectivity to those who need it most. A Flying COW functions like a cell site on a drone that, once airborne, is designed to provide LTE wireless coverage from the sky to a designated area on the ground.

In 2017, our drone team completed a successful live test flight of the Flying COW transmitting and receiving high speed data above a field outside Atlanta.

In the future, Flying COWs may serve as a potential solution for providing wireless coverage in emergency situations requiring rapid response or enhancing network coverage during large events. We expect it to provide coverage to a larger footprint because it can potentially fly at altitudes higher than a traditional Cell on Wheels mast.

Learn more at

AT&T Threat IntellectSM

We’re continuing to transition the AT&T global network and move our security functions to virtual solutions. And now, AT&T is helping enable businesses to detect, analyze and address security threats faster and more efficiently than ever before. We developed AT&T Threat IntellectSM to provide unparalleled visibility into the data patterns and threat activity across our network, helping businesses customize their security to meet their needs. It uses multitudes of unique threat signature data streams, analytics and intelligence to help detect known and unknown threats. And, Threat Intellect is constantly learning to adapt to the latest global security issues.

Learn more at


AT&T is leading the evolution to 5G mobile network technology. We’re always evolving our network and looking forward to what’s next. Work we’re doing on our network today is laying the foundation for standards-based 5G. With a Software-Defined Network, Big Data and Open Source network approach, combined with our superior spectrum position and broadband build-out commitment to millions of locations throughout the U.S., we believe AT&T is in a unique position to support next-generation 5G applications quickly and efficiently.

We currently have validation and testing going on in 5 major labs — Austin, Texas, Middletown, N.J., Atlanta, Redmond, WA and San Ramon, Calif. The trials and lab work we’re conducting are helping us guide our 5G 3GPP standards contributions. It also starts to set the stage for widespread commercial and mobile availability of standards-based service once the technology standards for 5G are established.

Learn more at

IoT Solutions 

Examples of our IoT solutions include.   

AT&T Drive Studio

In the spirit of innovation and the evolution of the connected life for our customers, we are using our AT&T Drive Studio in Atlanta to work with auto companies, individuals and IoT equipment makers from across the globe to develop and test new technologies that improve safety, convenience and entertainment in the connected car. With the more than 5,000-square-foot AT&T Drive Studio, we became the first wireless carrier to open a dedicated connected car research and innovation facility.

The AT&T Drive Studio features a working lab and a showroom to exhibit its latest innovations. It also serves as a hub where AT&T can respond to specific challenges from automotive manufacturers. An example of the work coming out of the AT&T Drive Studio includes the ability to access the app for AT&T Digital Life, our home security and automation service, from a connected car. Capabilities include being able to automate the functionality of devices in your home — such as lights, alarms and locks — while you are inside your vehicle.

We’re committed to improving road safety. We are a founding member of a global coalition called Together for Safer Roads (TSR) to address road safety — a critical global public health challenge and a barrier to human development and economic growth. Recognizing that safer roads are a shared responsibility, TSR was formally launched to align the private sector’s road safety efforts with the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety. The coalition brings together members’ knowledge, data, technology and global networks to focus on 5 areas that will make the greatest impact globally and within local communities. These focus areas align with the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety’s Five Pillars by developing programs to address issues in road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users and post-crash response.

To learn more about our IoT solutions, visit our IoT website and our Technology’s Role in Climate and Resource Resilience issue brief.

AT&T Labs

Some of the world’s best scientists and engineers at AT&T Labs Advanced Technologies focus their unique research capabilities and expertise on our network and anything that uses our network. They have been working to invent disruptive technologies that will drive future innovations.

Specifically, our research programs are at the tip of the spear in creating advanced technologies in SDN and NFV, Big Data, Networking and Service Quality Management and Intelligent Systems.

Examples of recent projects include:

  • Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP): Our Labs team wrote more than 8.5 million lines of code to create ECOMP. Internally, it powers AT&T’s Software-Defined Network, and we’ll use it to rapidly onboard new customer services (created by AT&T or third parties). The platform lets service providers quickly add features and drive down operations costs. It gives service providers and businesses more control of their network services and enables developers to create new services. Ultimately, consumers benefit because the network better adapts, scales and predicts how to make their connected experiences seamless. That means that all the network-enabled technologies evolving over the next few years — from virtual reality to self-driving cars to 4K video — will run more smoothly.
  • AT&T's Machine Learning Platform: AT&T Labs is developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform to create a self-healing and self-learning network. AI is vital to our transformation to a software-centric network. By analyzing data from the edge of our network, we can study data securely and efficiently to identify and eliminate potential security threats — before any security breach reaches the consumer. In the same way, AT&T’s network operators can use the AI platform to extract and analyze network signals to make predictions about potential disruptions or any degradation of experience – and take action before any network disruption becomes a problem for the customer. AI automates the network for a continuous network experience for customers. AT&T receives an enormous amount of customer care calls, instant messages and web inquiries each year. With the vast amount of data available, the AI platform can learn from past customer interactions to provide customer care recommendations to each agent. This way, the customer care agents can provide educated, proactive assistance to customers.
  • Software-Defined Storage (SDS): This technology automates the whole storage-deployment process in the cloud while preserving storage QoS requirements without interference. This proof-of-concept technology can deploy storage solutions in just minutes. The result is a fully automated way to build custom storage plans. Businesses can adjust requirements that matter most to them in a multi-tenant cloud at a lower cost. Ultimately, all of this has the potential to save businesses time and money.
  • Project AirGig: This technology could one day deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless internet speeds using power lines. By using existing infrastructure, such as power lines, Project AirGig can enable a dramatically expanded wireless footprint to provide service in urban, rural and underserved parts of the world. We are currently testing the technology at AT&T Labs and so far, the testing at our multiple outdoor facilities — spanning 262 acres — has been positive. We expect to kick off our first field trials later in 2017.

For more information, visit

AT&T Intellectual Property

AT&T Intellectual Property is one of the world's largest intellectual property operations with a heritage of innovation that dates back more than a century to Alexander Graham Bell. Receiving an average of more than 5 patents per business day, AT&T consistently ranks among the top 20 companies obtaining new U.S. patents. Our patent portfolio is one of the strongest in the telecommunications industry. Our philosophy is to optimally protect AT&T’s intellectual property, respect the intellectual property of others and license or sell AT&T’s intellectual property to others for fostering continued innovation in society. We develop valuable, innovative technologies to create new features and services for customers, and AT&T Intellectual Property offers these technologies to other companies, third parties and distribution partners.

To learn more, visit the AT&T Intellectual Property website. 

Collaboration and Outreach

We’re reaching out to find and work with entrepreneurs and innovators outside of AT&T. Our efforts aim to quickly identify new collaborators, engage in collaboration and accelerate projects to market as rapidly as possible. For more on AT&T’s innovation programs, visit or read our blog at

AT&T Developer Program: Hackathons

At AT&T hackathons, we bring together developers, designers and entrepreneurs to design and discuss applications — many of which are aimed at achieving an environmental or social good. Mobile app hackathons have focused on a variety of topics ranging from public safety to women in technology. Since 2011, the AT&T Developer Program has hosted more than 180 hackathons, engaging more than 21,000 third-party developers and producing more than 2,700 prototypes.

AT&T Aspire Accelerator

We’ve graduated 2 classes of organizations from the Aspire Accelerator. The Aspire Accelerator’s mission is to support innovations that have the potential to help every student achieve a bright, successful future — exponentially and at scale. In 2016, 6 innovative ed-tech startups were chosen to receive financial investment, mentorship and access to expert services from AT&T and others. The 11 participants from the first 2 classes have thrived in the program and together have reached more than 4 million students.

Learn more at

External Collaboration

We’re collaborating with information and communications technology (ICT) peers, clients and third parties to drive development of ICT solutions. To learn more, please visit our Internet of Things and Smart Cities websites.

We also commissioned a study by the University of Cambridge Judge Business School in 2015 that aims to help companies innovate. The results of survey show that innovation is fostered when companies utilize one or more of the 6 business model characteristics — “Six Degrees of Innovation”:

  1. Tailor-made products and services that meet customers' individual needs, such as downloading personalized apps to a mobile phone
  2. Sustainability, where companies minimize waste and manage resource costs
  3. Jointly owned assets, such as peer-to-peer businesses
  4. Only paying for service that is used, such as car-share companies
  5. Effective monitoring of supply chains, such as businesses that use handheld tracking systems to better monitor their operations
  6. Using data to easily adapt to customer needs, such as clothing companies that can quickly produce new designs to meet fashion trends

For more on AT&T’s innovation programs, visit or read our blog at

Updated on: Jun 21, 2018