Deep Integration: Comcast Bolsters, Scales Smart Home Technology

By Alex Silverman

Comcast is taking its quest for home automation domination to the next level, enabling a slew of new smart home functionality that it introduced to the media Wednesday morning at CES. The tech, which the company is extending to 15mln homes, links all of Comcast’s Xfinity services—X1 video; xFi WiFi, Xfinity Home security and Xfinity Mobile—to create a comprehensive, easily accessible household-management system.

The MSO is leveraging technology to let customers use either their X1 voice remote or any internet-connected device to control virtually any function around the house. In fact, the system will even enable a situational series of commands throughout the home. For example, a user can set up an “I’m Leaving” scenario that, when triggered, turns off all the lights, locks the door and arms the home security system simultaneously. Leave the house without locking up? The system will prompt the user via their mobile device to do so remotely. Beyond that, the system will eventually recognize patterns through machine learning and actually suggest other options to make a user’s life easier.

“We really see this opportunity around the notion of the digital home to be part of our customers’ lives every day, and our ability to really tap into these different products and bring them together in a more integrated and seamless way,” said Comcast evp, Xfinity Services Matt Strauss. “Where today we typically sell on price, in time, our ambition is to sell on experience. The more products and services you take from us, the better that experience.”

Comcast evp and chief product officer Chris Satchell said the company plans to work with any and all smart device manufacturers to integrate their IoT-based products into the Xfinity system. It will certify those devices with a “Works with Xfinity” stamp of approval. As customers add devices to their network, the system will suggest new automation scenarios and potential synergies between devices. Satchell suggested this “deep integration” is a departure from a current IoT pain point.

“A lot of people want to sell you devices, and that’s great; they’re phenomenal devices,” Satchell quipped. “But the problem is they leave it up to the customer. They say, ‘Buy our smart stuff and magic will happen.’ How does magic happen? ‘I don’t know. That’s up to you. You’re the customer.’”

Satchell pointed to the company’s partnership with Tile, a company that manufacturers tracking devices, as an example of third-party device integration. Using the Xfinity voice remote, a user can simply ask for the location of whatever object the Tile is attached to, which will instantly be displayed on the TV screen. Other brands Comcast has partnered with include August, Honeywell, Kwikset, Lutron and Nest. Comcast introduced a wide range of features for both xFi and Xfinity home that give customers greater control over their networks and homes.

Device Intelligence, for instance, is designed to simplify the process of adding smart devices to the network by identifying the specific type of device (i.e. 3rd Gen Apple TV, Nest thermostat) and offering troubleshooting steps. Another feature called Away Mode doesn’t let any new devices join the network—even with the correct login information—when a user is out of the home. In the event someone attempts to access the network, the system will notify the customer on their mobile device.

Secure Connect Mode allows customers to accept or deny requests to join the network. On the physical security side, the system can alert customers about unusual times of entry. Satchell said users can also request to be notified if there is no entry by a certain time, notifying parents in the event their child doesn’t make it home. Users with cameras hooked up to their system can remotely view entry attempts and any other disturbance on the property.

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Posted on: January 11, 2018

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