Since 2011, AT&T has operated the AT&T Foundry as an innovation hub, engaging with numerous startups and innovators to develop applications and services. Ruth Yomtoubian, director of AT&T Foundry, will be at [a]list summit on April 20 to discuss how the brand is utilizing the Foundry model to not only support innovation, but to make it an intrinsic and core element of the AT&T brand.

[a]listdaily spoke with Yomtoubian about the Foundry, emerging technology and the newest location dedicated to connected health set to open this spring in Houston.

Tell us a little bit about AT&T Foundry.

AT&T Foundry is the company’s network of innovation centers, set up to take great ideas and bring them to life. We have teams working across five locations whose job it is to explore new technology for AT&T, both as internal cross-functional teams and in collaboration with partners and startups.

What function does AT&T Foundry serve for the AT&T brand? In what ways is it different?

Foundry is one of the ways that AT&T maintains a meaningful voice in the innovation conversation and that’s critical for a technology brand. Foundry is the front door for AT&T in the Silicon Valley and the global startup community—we meet with over 500 startups a year. It’s also one of the ways we discover technology that can help us run our business more efficiently and power new services we are offering to customers, like a project we launched that lets you get your texts on your smartwatch, using your mobile number without your phone.

How are you getting the word out about what AT&T Foundry does this year? Any big things in the works?

Foundry has a major role in organizing the Shape Challenge, happening this summer at AT&T Park in San Francisco. This is an open innovation contest where we’re inviting technologists, innovators and students to submit ideas that might be the next big thing in smart cities, the Internet of Things and augmented networks. We’re also looking to expand Foundry’s role in thought leadership through our Futurecast series and content development. The Foundry is exploring the potential of many groundbreaking new industries that are no longer discussed in terms of if, but when.

What kinds of technologies are you seeing emerge this year?

It’s incredible how quickly technology evolves. One of our big focuses lately has been connected “things”—from your drone, to your car, to your city, to connected healthcare technology, to connected equipment in a business. On the operations side of AT&T, Foundry is also at the forefront of a major transformation in our network as the way we all communicate and collaborate evolves. We’ve seen more than 150,000 percent growth in mobile data traffic since 2007 and that’s expected to grow ten times by 2020—this shift demands innovative solutions to some major challenges.  

You’re also partnering with other companies like Ericsson, Alcatel, Amdocs, Cisco and more. Can you tell us more about how these came about?

AT&T Foundry was established in partnership with Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs, Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft, so collaboration is part of our DNA. Telco is going through a massive transformation. AT&T and our biggest partners decided to work together to disrupt the industry from the inside. We work together every day on projects that impact our business, as well as programs like Futurecast.

What was the impetus for the Futurecast with Ericsson?

Ericsson and AT&T share a vested interest in providing a platform for innovators to discuss the future of technology. The Futurecast Technology Innovation Series is a thought leader series designed to vet, debate and ultimately spark ideas that that will set the course of our collective technological future. Each event focuses on a single topic, such as navigating the innovation adoption curve, content in the Digital Age, or investing for inclusion. We established Futurecast as an opportunity to bring in smart thinkers—from entrepreneurs to government officials, investors, academics, authors and media—to help us to better understand these important issues and participate in conversations around how technology is shaping our world.

You’re opening up a new Foundry in Houston dedicated to connected health and health is an area people don’t typically associate with AT&T. What spurred this?

AT&T Foundry was built to accelerate innovation and nowhere is that more important than in health care. The Houston Foundry is an opportunity to apply our experience with connected devices toward health care, both in a clinical setting and the home. We’re looking forward to opening the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health this spring on Texas Medical Center’s campus, the largest medical center in the world.