Comcast Plans Voice-Control Hub – Report
After the success of its X1 voice remote (7 million shipped and counting), Comcast is reportedly now working on a separate voice-controlled device that would sit in the home and let subscribers command their X1 services without a remote.
According to an account by Bloomberg, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has developed a prototype voice-activated device, but is unwilling to share many details yet about the nature of the hardware, or even what it looks like. The device would reportedly be linked to TV services, but, given the integration between X1 TV and Comcast's Xfinity Home offering, it's a good bet the product would also plug into home security and automation services. (See Comcast, Alarm.com Swoop in on Icontrol.)
The combination of Comcast's voice-control technology and its role as a provider of home gateways means the cable company has an opportunity to take on Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) with its successful Echo product and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) with the forthcoming Google Home device. The Echo proved unexpectedly successful when it launched last year and is now supporting a rapidly developing ecosystem of software applications -- from voice-controlled lighting to response programs for music and traffic queries.
Google, meanwhile, has been laying relatively low on the smart home front, but recently announced it would debut its Google Home product later this year. Like the Echo, Google Home is being designed to combine smart home services with a natural-language, voice-controlled interface. (See The Race Is On to Give Entertainment a Voice.)
Related (if tangential) to development of a new home hub device, Comcast is also known to be working on improving the in-home wireless experience. The Bloomberg story references a product internally called Smart Internet that would give consumers more diagnostic control over their WiFi networks. This news supports earlier statements from Comcast, including a comment from CEO Brian Roberts back in March that "Giving you a better WiFi in your house is job one." (See Comcast Hints at New Home WiFi Plans.)
Comcast has also previously said it would incorporate WiFi monitoring-and-control technology into its gigabit gateways. The foundation for that technology comes from a startup called PowerCloud that Comcast acquired in 2014. PowerCloud launched its Skydog WiFi router and bandwidth-monitoring app in 2013. (See Cablecos Going Gaga Over Gigabit.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading