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Materiality Assessment Topic: Innovation, Intellectual property, Products that enable social and environmental benefit | Global Reporting Initiative Indicator: Material Topic DMA

Issue Summary

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, and are working with 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: Develop and deploy robust methodology to understand AT&T’s network impacts to society.
    • PROGRESS: In 2015, AT&T began the process of engaging with industry groups and customers to develop a credible methodology to measure network impacts to society.
  • 2020 Target: Demonstrate the environmental and social enablement power of consumer devices and solutions to 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, 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.
  • 2025 Target: Enhance network efficiency to enable the achievement of the “net positive” ratio.
In Progress
  • 2025 Target: Deliver customer solutions to achieve “net positive” ratio.
    • PROGRESS: AT&T joined BSR’s 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 (also president of AT&T Labs) oversees organizations responsible for both disruptive and incremental innovation, through programs such as our Foundry, TIP and Labs. Through our research, lab solutions and inventions, we seek 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 Innovation Pipeline, we offer online training, as well as specific localized classes for those teams most engaged in our innovation work.

Our culture of innovation is grounded in our Code of Business Conduct, 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.” All AT&T employees are required to review and acknowledge the code annually. Our innovation work is governed by many other policies as well, including our EH&S policy, our intellectual property policy, our privacy policy and supplier policies that cover sustainability, governance and security requirements.

Our suppliers are 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 innovators inside and outside AT&T to advance technology and to create solutions for society.

Our innovation initiatives deliver new technologies and services to our customers faster than ever before. Through our innovation platforms, we shorten the distance from idea to marketplace. We’re building on a 138-year heritage that has produced eight Nobel prizes and encourages openness, teamwork and collaboration.

Examples of our innovation programs include:

AT&T Foundry Innovation Centers

At our AT&T Foundry innovation centers, we’re fast-tracking collaborations with developers, startups, and other companies to move ideas to marketplace up to three times faster. Since its launch, the AT&T Foundry has started more than 200 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 five AT&T Foundry facilities in Palo Alto, Ra'anana, Israel, Atlanta, and Plano, Texas. We plan to open the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health at the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston, Texas. Example projects include:

  • Self-Optimizing Network (SON) is a technology from the Israeli firm Intucell that better manages the load on individual cell towers and improves network performance. It was fast-tracked through the Foundry and began operating in our network within a year of the first pitch. Intucell was acquired by Cisco for $475 million in 2013.
  • NumberSync, originally a TIP submission, which gives customers the ability to use one mobile number across multiple devices.
  • AT&T Stadium Wi-Fi custom solution was created to improve the wireless customer experience during stadium events in the premium seats closest to the field. Using 3D printing and RF (radio frequency) expertise, in part at the IoT AT&T Foundry in Plano, the custom solution was created and installed over a 6-week cycle — in time for the college football playoffs held at the Arlington stadium in the summer of 2014.

Learn more at

Digital Life

Our Digital Life service is an end-to-end solution enabling customers to remotely monitor and control lighting, thermostats, smoke detectors and water sensors from smartphones, tablets and laptops. In addition to giving customers the ability to help protect their homes, Digital Life enables them to better manage utilities with remote access and programming options.

To learn more, visit

Connected Car

We’re focused on serving the growing number of tech-savvy car owners looking for an improved driving experience. According to a recent study by AT&T and Ericsson, 3 out of 4 consumers consider connected car services an important feature in their next car purchase.

We launched two major initiatives to lead innovation in the connected car market. The first is a pioneering connected car innovation center in Atlanta, called the AT&T Drive Studio. We also offer a global platform, AT&T Drive, which is modular and flexible to allow carmakers to build unique solutions for their customers. AT&T was the first major wireless carrier to launch a global SIM platform for cars. This platform lets automotive, individuals and Internet of Things (IoT) equipment makers use a single carrier to wirelessly connect products across the globe. We have been committed to improving road safety through our It Can Wait campaign and as a founding member of the Together for Safer Roads coalition.

To learn more about the IoT’s potential to transform business, visit and download the AT&T IoT Insights Report here.

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 develop and test new technologies that improve safety, convenience and entertainment in the connected car. We opened our more than 5,000 square-foot AT&T Drive Studio in January 2014, just blocks away from our Atlanta Foundry innovation center, and are the first carrier to open a dedicated connected car research and innovation center. The Atlanta Foundry is dedicated to new wireless services, like the connected home, car and other consumer electronics.  Ideas started in these innovation centers will be integrated into our AT&T Drive platform, which is utilized at the Drive Studio.

The AT&T Drive Studio features a working lab, showroom to exhibit its latest innovations and 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 is the possibility to access the app for AT&T Digital Life, our home security and automation service, from a connected car. Imagine being able to automate the functionality of devices in your home all based on the location of your vehicle and/or the voice commands you request.  You can control the complete Digital Life system from one cloud-based app, and many of these configurable settings and notifications can be set up with just a few touches.

In November 2014, AT&T, along with fellow founding members, launched a global coalition called Together for Safer Roads (TSR) to address road safety and paths to improve both human and economic impacts. In support of the United Nation’s Decade of Action campaign, TSR will use its private sector memberships’ strengths in concert with a select expert panel to focus on vehicular related deaths and injuries which, left unchecked, will be the fifth largest global cause of mortality by 2030. The coalition will accomplish this by engaging in three work groups focused on raising awareness about the importance of road safety, influencing driver behavior and advancing safer vehicles and roads through data and technology.

AT&T Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Foundry

AT&T is leading in the development and launching of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, helping meet customer needs across a variety of industries. The M2M AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas is advancing solutions that connect machines in the utilities industry, track assets for airlines, embed communications in industrial machinery and capture performance data for heavy equipment. The M2M AT&T Foundry is equipped with the tools necessary to keep machines connected and to develop applications that are commonly referred to as “The Internet of Things.”

The initial “Smart Luggage" proof of concept started at the IoT Foundry as one of these applications. Our AT&T Foundry team worked side by side with TUMI to develop the original concept and workable prototype. The “TUMI Global Locator” is compliant with FAA standards. The device offers real-time wireless luggage location tracking services. Our Foundry engineers and software developers also mocked up and built a “smart” shredder bin in just five days. The bin can wirelessly alert a dispatcher when it’s full and, just as important, when it’s not — saving unnecessary trips.

Learn more at

The Innovation Pipeline (TIP)

We built The Innovation Pipeline (TIP) to tap the collective imagination of our employees. We believe it is the world’s largest corporate crowdsourcing site. It allows 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 28,000 ideas, landed more than 75 projects for development and allocated $44 million to fund projects ranging from customer-service enhancements to new technology offerings.

Learn more at  


AT&T DriveMode is an application that reduces the dangers of distracted driving. The app, which came from an employee’s TIP submission, silences incoming text message alerts and automatically replies to text messages, helping drivers avoid distractions. At the end of 2015, the app had been downloaded more than 3 million times. Learn more about AT&T DriveMode and how to download at   

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 creating advanced technologies in big data, cloud services, intelligent services, networking and service quality management. AT&T Labs draws on a rich heritage of innovation, including eight Nobel Prizes, and a strong culture that encourages openness, teamwork and collaboration across AT&T and within the industry.

Examples of recent projects include:

  • Software-Defined Storage (SDS): The technology automates the whole storage deployment process in the cloud, while preserving storage QoS requirements with no 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 multitenant cloud at a lower cost. Ultimately, all of this has the potential to save businesses time and money.
  • Connected Communities (Caltrans): AT&T Labs is exploring how smart traffic design can help commuters spend less time on the road and more time doing the things they want. We have some of the world’s top data science experts conducting research – in collaboration with University of California at Berkeley and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) – that shows how aggregate and anonymous cellphone data can improve urban planning. The state needs a more economical and more efficient way to monitor and estimate traffic. Insight from aggregate and anonymous cell phone data could be the answer for California, and the research has the potential to be applicable to other cities.
  • Application Resource Optimizer: Smartphones are great for watching streaming videos, listening to playlists set up by friends and much more. But sometimes these apps can drain battery more than others, due to complex interactions between the device and the mobile network — interactions that are hard for developers to see. AT&T Labs researchers found a solution to this problem and created a tool to help app developers better design how their apps tap the network.
  • Voice Call Analytics: This technology project analyzes tone and sentiment of spoken language on customer care calls. The prototype software provides real-time feedback to call service representatives, based on a new way to classify emotion and modulation features in speech. AT&T Labs researchers envision that this technology someday could be used to help optimize customer service and other conversations across many different environments, including social media.

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 more than four 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. 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 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

In January 2015, AT&T launched the AT&T Aspire Accelerator, which aims to enhance education by supporting and mentoring the most promising and innovative startups in ed-tech. The Aspire Accelerator will connect for- and non-profit companies to support with a customized program that includes financial investment, access to expert services and mentorship. The Aspire Accelerator is part of the company’s $350 million commitment to education. To learn more, please visit

External Collaboration

We’re collaborating with information and communications technology (ICT) peers, clients and third parties to drive ICT solutions.

In 2015, we commissioned a study by the University of Cambridge Judge Business School that aims to help companies innovate. The results of survey show that innovation is fostered when companies utilize one or more of the six 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 which 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.

In 2015, our collaboration included:

  • Working with GE, we are leading innovation around smart energy technology and solutions using the Internet of Things (IoT). Proofs of concept for energy management solutions are being developed and tested in AT&T’s M2M/IoT Foundry.
  • As part of AT&T’s alliance with IBM, we participated in the 2014 Smart America Challenge. The event focused on the socio-economic benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT), and featured our work on Smarter Cities.
  • AT&T M2M technology powers HydroPoint, a solution that manages water use and reduces water waste. HydroPoint uses M2M sensors to collect and monitor data, store data in the cloud and connect it to other applications for business operations.
  • AT&T collaborated with BSR on the report: “Advancing Environmental Sustainability in the Power Sector.” AT&T’s smart grid product solutions and research were referenced throughout the report via contributions from Smart Grid lead manager, Ed Davalos. 

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

Updated on: Aug 2, 2016