Comcast may be expanding its home automation services beyond cameras, lights and motion sensors—also, the company may be changing the name of its automation service.
Over the past two years or so, major telecom and cable companies have been aggressively trying to get themselves deeper into the home control/monitoring/automation space traditionally occupied by custom installation brands. Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and others are all expending their services to offer consumers a variety of monitored and non-monitored security systems along with some basic home automation features, including IP-connected door locks and thermostats.
Now, as reported by Fiercecable, Comcast may be looking into automated window shades and garage door openers and may be offering it all under the banner of Homeware instead of or in addition to Xfinity Home. Among the long list of devices and services included under the Homeware trademark application we found:
Home automation equipment comprised of wireless and wired controlled devices and software for lighting, privacy, appliances, security, access control and monitoring, water detection and other home control applications; lighting controllers; automated lighting controllers consisting of on/off switches, sequencers and timers; electric and electronic light switches; electric and electronic light dimmers; electronic door locks; electronic thermostats; wire/wireless electric home appliance controller for home network; indoor and outdoor security cameras; motion sensors; entryway and window sensors; water detectors; carbon monoxide detectors; electronic garage door openers; electric window shade controls; electric window blind controls; Computer application software for mobile devices, mobile phones, smart phones, cell phones, tablet computers, handheld computers, computers and/or other portable computer devices, namely, software for remotely controlling and monitoring a garage door opener, window shade operating system, window blind operating system, carbon monoxide detector, video camera, motion sensor, electronic door lock, door and window sensor, electronic thermostat, water detector, lighting and home appliances
Comcast’s Xfinity Home system does not currently include powered garage door or window systems, but presumably these wouldn’t be too difficult for the company to bring into the fold as long as the wireless protocols are compatible. The company behind Somfy’s TaHoma automation system, which includes automated window shades, is Zonoff, and one of that company’s basic principle’s is to work with as many wireless protocols as possible. Currently Xfinity Home customers can select from a fairly standard list of devices including door and window contact sensors, IP cameras, glass-break sensors, water leak sensors, door locks, etc.
App-controlled garage door openers are currently available from Craftsman, LiftMaster and others, though it’s not known what products would be available from Comcast Homeware.
Back in June the company added wirelessly-controlled LED light bulbs from Osram Sylvania.
Nowhere in the trademark application (which can be viewed here) is there any mention of audio/video integration. That’s one of the major difference between the telecom offerings and the more traditional home automation companies such as AMX, Control4, Crestron, Elan, URC and others. For most customers, audio/video integration is the first taste they get of home automation. From there an integrator demonstrates how easy it is to add lighting control and other features.
In fact, it’s a little ironic that while Comcast’s primary business is television, the company’s own Xfinity Home app can’t even help a customer change a channel. A separate app is needed for that. Verizon, on the other hand, offers a My FiOS app that combines home automation with DVR control and channel listings.
For the telecom/cable company’s customers, home security seems to be the primary motivator (see Inside an AT&T Digital Home). Audio/video integration isn’t even an option in those systems because they’re based on very simple controllers and minimal installation or custom programming.
Better bridge systems, such as those shown by Revolv and Zonoff are promising in part because they potentially use multiple wireless protocols which should improve compatibility among a wide range of devices.
While it’s interesting that a Comcast Homeware system may allow users to open a garage door or close the blinds with iPad app, users will still need another system to operate their home theater or whole-house music products.
What about home automation most interests you? Is it the ability to control your lights and home temperature with one app, using contact sensors and cameras to monitor your home, or the ability to control multiple music and video sources in your home theater and other rooms?
Also check out:
Home Automation FAQs
Trends in Affordable Home Automation
Xfinity Home Control Offers Remote Features for $10/month
Verizon Automation and Monitoring Customers Voicing Concerns
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.