Comcast Opens Up the Smart Home
When service providers started out in the home security and automation business, their smart home peripheral devices were limited to a small number of non-descript sensors and IP cameras. Now Comcast is evidence of just how far the industry has evolved.
At the Internet & Television Expo (INTX), Comcast announced several new smart home product integrations, along with news that the company will introduce a software development kit and device certification program called "Works with Xfinity Home" later this year.
Currently, the only retail device listed as available for use with Xfinity Home is a Kwikset SmartCode door lock. However, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) said it will soon support August smart locks, car adapters from Automatic, smart jewelry from Cuff, a Leeo nightlight with smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, Lutron wireless lighting and window shade solutions, Rachio smart sprinkler controllers, video doorbells from SkyBell and a smart pet monitor from Whistle. Comcast is also working separately with Nest Labs to integrate the Nest smart thermostat.
Xfinity Home is built on the Icontrol Networks Inc. platform, but Comcast has plenty of freedom to customize the way the technology operates. iControl recognized the need for flexibility back in 2013 when it began opening up its platform to allow partners to innovate with new applications and devices. Separate from but related to its work with Comcast, the company made its OpenHome partner program available to developers in the summer of 2013 and to hardware manufacturers in December of the same year. The company also actively pursues some popular consumer products for integration. (See Icontrol Embraces New Devices.)
"If we haven't launched that solution [i.e., a particular kind of smart home device], then let's go see what consumers are migrating to," iControl Vice President of Marketing Greg Roberts told Light Reading in January.
Comcast and iControl aren't the only companies that see an advantage in supporting a large ecosystem of smart home products. SmartThings, which was acquired by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) in 2014, built its business around being able to integrate with as many hardware devices and software apps as possible. Zonoff, which powers the Staples Connect smart home solution, also supports a wide range of consumer devices and looks to be moving into the service provider channel through a recent deal with ADT Corp. . (See IoT Alert: Samsung Snaps Up SmartThings and CES Redux: State of the Smart Home Wars.)
Not everyone is on board with open ecosystems, however. When EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) launches its Sage system later this year, it won't support any retail devices, only a select number of products for functions like door locks, lighting and thermostat control and video and motion sensor monitoring. Senior Marketing and Communications Manager Robert Leake emphasized in an interview that the company is being cautious about protecting consumer data in the smart home. In the future, he said that Echostar will likely offer different flavors of service with multiple options for how devices interact with each other. (See Echostar Preps 'Sage' Smart Home.)
On the privacy and security front, former Comcast engineer Jim Poder, who helped launch Xfinity Home, presented a paper at INTX showing how device fingerprinting can help smart home systems detect unauthorized activity when it occurs. The key is to build up a profile of each device from the first day it's activated. Then if behavioral patterns change -- like a connected scale starts sending data to a company in another country -- the system will recognize the anomaly and be able to take action.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading