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Home Automation & Control

Xfinity Expands Home Automation with Ecofactor Cloud-Enabled Thermostats

Ecofactor cloud-based energy-management solution learns thermal qualities of a home; Comcast/Xfinity Home to incorporate into next-gen home automation solution from iControl.


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Xfinity is easing consumers into the smart home. When it launched its home automation service in 2010, the cable company called it Comcast Home Security. Now Comcast is Xfinity and the service is called Xfinity Home. Period.

“We had planned the name change for quite some time,” says Mitch Bowling, SVP and general manager, new businesses, Comcast Cable. “When we launched the service in 2010 in Houston, consumers did not really understand what the smart home and home automation was, but security did resonate so we decided to go out with that.”

Indeed, the service is built around a professionally monitored ZigBee-enabled security system from uControl, which was acquired by iControl in 2010 and re-branded OpenHome Converge. (iControl’s original Z-Wave-enabled solution, which is used by ADT Pulse, is called OpenHome Connect.)

In addition to security, the system is used to manage and remotely monitor lights, appliances, cameras and thermostats.

And the thermostat just got smarter.

Xfinity announced last week it would incorporate technology from Ecofactor, a cloud-based energy management platform. Ecofactor does not sell thermostats, but provides technology that enables virtually any connected thermostat to learn the habits of a home and its residents … and adjust the temperature accordingly.

“It’s not the device that provides savings,” said Ecofactor co-founder Scott Hublou last year in an interview with CE Pro. “It’s the data that provides savings.”

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How Ecofactor works

During an initial “observation period,” Ecofactor takes measurements of a home’s environment every 60 seconds, and analyzes in the cloud such things as the local weather and the speed at which a home’s HVAC system warms up and cools down.

The technology considers “how effective is the building envelope at rejecting outside influences, and then how effective is the HVAC system in overcoming them,” Hublou says.

In other words, “How much energy is needed to make a change in temperature?”

He adds, “We’re doing what the homeowner would be doing if they cared and if they had a PhD in thermostatic dynamics.”

Hublou claims Ecofactor technology is saving homeowners an average of 17.1 percent on their utility (HVAC) bills nationwide.

“Psychologically, if someone is saving three to four times, they’re willing to pay,” he says. “If they’re saving $40 per month, they’ll pay $10 per month.”

Merging Ecofactor with iControl


Now the work begins. Ecofactor’s SaaS (software as a service) technology must be integrated into iControl’s own cloud-based platform for home control. Customers will be able to schedule energy events and automation scenes based on learnings from the home thermostat.

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Comcast/Xfinity Home ecosystem, powered by iControl and (soon) Ecofactor.( click to enlarge). Learn more at the roundtable discussion at EHX: Know Your Competition - Who Are They and How Can You Beat Them?
Bowling says Xfinity brought the Ecofactor relationship to iControl, but iControl is welcome to offer the service to its other customers including Time Warner Cable (Intelligent Home), ADT (Pulse) and DSC (C24)

Interestingly, iControl apparently has not launched its own thermostat-learning technology -- like competitor Alarm.com has done -- even though all of the elements are in place, including security sensors and thermostats.

Bowling says Xfinity has not determined the pricing on the smarter thermostat but it will indeed be offered as a “premium” service.

Currently, Xfinity charges a flat fee of $44.95 per month for professionally monitored security (with cellular back-up), as well as surveillance cameras (up to five) and automated lights, thermostats and other ZigBee-enabled devices.

By far, says Bowling, the most popular add-on to the basic security system is cameras.

“They bridge both sides – lifestyle and security,” he says. “They capture video if someone is breaking into the home. Or you might just want to check in on the kids and pets.”

Xfinity Home to Deploy Nationwide; SMB Solution in the Works


Bowling says his company is on the path to deploying Xfinity home “virtually everywhere.” Currently, the service is deployed to about one-third of the homes that Xfinity passes. The installations are performed by specially trained Xfinity technicians and long-time subcontractor partners, licensed according to local regulations, Bowling says.

He adds that Xfinity will push the Home service to the small-to-medium business (SMB) sector.

Currently, Xfinity has no plans to offer a standalone automation system that is not connected to a monitored security system (a la Verizon’s $9.99 package using technology from Motorola Mobility 4Home).

Consumers seem to hate their cable company, so do they really want to trust them with their home security system?

“We get asked that question a lot,” Bowling says. “But we don’t hear that from customers, and we don’t hear that from research. In fact, we found that [cable] is the logical choice for consumers.”

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Learn more at the roundtable discussion at EHX: Know Your Competition - Who Are They and How Can You Beat Them?
EHX 2012, March 15-17, Orlando, Fla.





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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Security · Energy Management · Icontrol · Zigbee · Xfinity · Comcast · Ecofactor · Xfinity Home · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

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