State of the state: Technology
The concept of the “smart” home is hardly a 21st century phenomenon, but Comcast aims to bring it mainstream with a service priced low enough to be bundled with cable bills. Xfinity Home Security allows users to keep tabs on their castle both at home and remotely to control temperature, lighting and alarms and to let them know who comes and goes through the use of video cameras.
Once the province of upscale homeowners, Comcast hopes a price point of $39.95 a month (plus an installation charge) will be tempting enough for customers to add the service to their cable, Internet and phone packages. The company also will be modifying the system for use by small businesses.
“About half of our installations today are for people who don’t have a security system because what they’re finding is value in the other things the system does,” said Mitch Bowling, senior vice president and general manager of new business for Comcast Cable. “Video is very popular with people, whether they’re watching their children, watching their pets. … We have a camera on our dog’s crate when we’re not there.”
Comcast, which has introduced the broadband-based service in several U.S. markets, has been developing the system for about five years, Bowling said, waiting for pricing to make the system commercially feasible.
“We need to let technology catch up to what we wanted to provide,” he said. “The lifestyle features this system provides have been available for several years but never at a price where it was open to a broad set of consumers. You could have had this functionality 10 years ago if you wanted to spend $10,000 or $20,000.”
The system is operated via a tablet-style touch screen that includes access to weather, news, traffic and sports scores. It can also be accessed and operated from iPhones. Users can create custom rules that send them email or text alerts about changes in their home. One of the most novel, Bowling says: “One customer put a door window sensor on the mailbox so when the mailbox door opens it sends them a text that their mail is there.”