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Comcast's Progress Highlights Opportunity for Service Providers in the Smart Home
Amazon and Google are becoming household names with their respective digital assistant devices. But tech giants are not the only behemoths grappling for control over the home. Comcast has also made significant investments to be the central platform for device interaction in the smart home. The service provider is testing a program that would allow broadband-only customers to use their TVs as smart home hubs that can control connected devices like lights and security cameras with voice commands.
TVs as Smart Home Hubs
Comcast first introduced this strategy at CES in January 2018, when it unveiled its Works with Xfinity home automation partner program. This opened up home automation capabilities to all of its existing 15 million broadband customers (not just its 1 million Xfinity Home Security customers) by allowing them to control devices from partners such as Nest, Honeywell, August, and Philips via its X1 voice remote and mobile app. It expanded its network in August 2018 by adding integrations for Yale Smart Locks. This product, which is expected to be released as a set-top box, will do more than aggregate streaming apps. It will also allow internet-only customers to control devices with voice.
Comcast’s Smart Home Efforts
However, Comcast’s smart home journey began years ago. It introduced its Xfinity Home Control Service with EcoSaver in 2013, which offered home automation and energy management capability through smart thermostats. In 2017, Comcast completed its acquisition of iControl, which already managed the security sensors of Xfinity Home’s platform. Comcast also acquired Stringify to further support its portfolio of products and services within Xfinity Home, which has recently doubled-down by relaunching its app to have deeper integration with Comcast’s services.
While Comcast could arguably price these new offerings to introduce new revenue streams as its traditional business models are threatened by new services like video streaming, it is more focused on becoming an indispensable part of the home to reduce customer churn; the more a customer has to rely on the service provider to operate its home, the less likely they will be to leave. This is one strategy service providers can pursue in the smart home, as others like Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, and Verizon are doing.
What Can Service Providers Do?
Service providers have a unique opportunity to act as a central platform for the smart home. They have existing relationships with customers, and the infrastructure and resources to handle customer service for connected device troubleshooting and installation. Service providers also offer many of the complementary services to the smart home, such as connectivity or energy. This growing opportunity means service providers are likely to continue stepping up their game in the smart home alongside the tech giants we’ve come to know as leaders in the smart home.