Control & Automation

Comcast Loves Integrators: Atmos, IP Control, High-Level Support, Remote Access

The brand that integrators love to hate -- Xfinity by Comcast -- is coming around with a strong commitment to the home-tech installation channel on both the product and service fronts.

Comcast Loves Integrators: Atmos, IP Control, High-Level Support, Remote Access
Neal Roberts, who leads Comcast/Xfinity's CXI integrator partner program, shows just how easy it is for dealers to enroll a new Comcast customer or service an existing user.

Photos & Slideshow

Julie Jacobson · May 9, 2016

If Comcast told you they care about custom installers and their clients … would you believe them? It happens to be true, judging by the new integrator-friendly products they’re launching, along with programs that give dealers much of the access and support that Comcast’s own techs enjoy.

At CEDIA Expo 2015 last October, Xfinity by Comcast demonstrated new features for the X1 DVR platform that integrators will love: rack-mount form factor, IP control and an architecture that is “100 percent ready for Dolby Atmos,” said Neal Roberts, director of Comcast Special Operations, back then.

Roberts is a former integrator who leads a team that includes other integrators to support the channel through a program called Custom Xfinity Integration (CXI). Launched in 2014, the CXI dealer program has upped its game, providing support that goes beyond hand-holding.

Nowadays, the group holds sway over product development, in addition to dealer services, pushing solutions that help integrators help their clients … and themselves.

Roberts works in the engineering group at Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia, while a team of about 80 people provide additional support through the company’s Denver office.

“When I say we’re committed,” Roberts says, “we’re committed.”

Integrator-Centric Product Improvements

Dolby Atmos

Recently, Roberts told CE Pro that Atmos support for the X1 box is nigh: “I have tested it on live-production and on-demand content, so it works. Anyone in Philly who wants to try it, come on in.”

Roberts explains that Comcast has not yet announced Atmos-enabled content (“Why would they do that if there’s not a box and the infrastructure?”) but the cable provider does include two Atmos clips in its On Demand lineup, “with more coming soon.”

The Atmos feature was no small feat, according to Roberts. Comcast had to accommodate the service on the back-end and make changes to the X1 user interface.

For example, there’s an “Advanced Audio” tab on the menu to enable bitstream pass-through to the receiver.

The cable provider claims to be the first MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor) to incorporate Atmos into the entertainment experience.

IP Control

Forget that it took this long … Comcast now has IP control for the X1, meaning a home automation system can control the box and the TV service just as well as Comcast’s own app, if not better. Savant is first out of the gate, but Roberts expects all major control systems manufacturers to take advantage of the new API.

“No more IR emitters, no more RS-232,” he proclaims. “The set-top boxes have Ethernet.”


Photo
Gallery

Custom Xfinity Integration (CXI)


There are discrete power commands and all DVR buttons can be mapped to a home-control system. There are “deeper links” to commands that could not be accessed before through a third-party automation system.

For example, users can get right to the DVR with a single button press on the home automation system. Better yet, pressing the DVR button might turn on the TV, dim the lights and get you straight to the DVR menu.

Here’s the catch: The IP communications is only one-way, so don’t expect to view a programming guide or Comcast content through your home-automation interface … at least not today.

“Our system is built in the cloud,” Roberts explains. “We need to protect that two-way stream.”

And, by the way, since recorded content resides in the ether, no massive hard drives are required on the set-top box, which consumes just 1U of rack space.

Rack-Mountable X1

The new rack-mountable X1 DVR (known as Arris XG1v1-RM, AX11RANM or simply Rackmount XG1 v.1) is now shipping.

The kicker is this: The box is only available to CXI partners. If you’re not a CXI partner, you can’t get the rack-mount version of the XG1 DVR.

4K with HDR Support?

No HDR support yet, according Roberts: "Right now, Comcast does not have a publicly available set-top that supports HDR, but we’re working hard on it!"

CXI Dealer Program: Unfathomable Service from Comcast

Remember when dealers had to jump through hoops to be able to act on their client’s behalf?

That and other exasperating cable experiences are a thing of the past, Roberts says.

He explains that each employee of a CXI dealer gets a unique ID. The installer simply calls a dedicated 800-number with a few bits of information about the client to become authorized to speak for that client. Then there is a “completely seamless transfer” to new-customer set-up … and away you go.

That same 800 number gets dealers “right into tier 3 support,” Roberts says. “Those are the same techs that our techs call.”

In fact, the folks that now supports CXI dealers through Roberts’ group “were the best tier 3, tier 4 and now tier 5 techs,” he says. “Hands down they’re the best people in the company.”

They are prepared for “even weird integration questions,” Roberts adds. “We’re ready for that call.”

In addition, three former integrators are available for more advanced support.

If all else fails, “They just look over the glass of the cubicle and ask me,” Roberts says. “We want to make sure that the integrator gets out of the house as soon as possible.”

A Better Platform for Remote Diagnostics

The tech-support team is bolstered by a platform that enables remote access to the customers’ networks to diagnose problems and fix them from afar. And that access is not limited to cable boxes and routers.

“If it touches our network, we see it,” Roberts says, noting that the X1 box, modems, smart home hubs and other black boxes – plus anything connected to them – can be viewed remotely.

Comcast can check out the ZigBee mesh, Wi-Fi signal strength, MoCA (coax) devices and more.

The Comcast “Einstein” dashboard displays at-a-glance the overall health of the account, and a separate “Watch Tower” tab provides an overall view of the neighborhood.

“We can even check for errors on any single channel,” Roberts says.

Comcast plans to expose many of these tools to integrators themselves so they can determine if cable service is down in the neighborhood, if the customer’s modem is offline, if Wi-Fi signal strength is weak at certain times of the day, if the ZigBee mesh network goes offline, and more.

Like Comcast can do today, integrators too will be able to reboot ZigBee and IP devices, among other things.

“We have heavy, heavy diagnostics,” Roberts says. “It’s never been better.”

So why all this love for integrators? "Comcast cares because they want to make sure we do right by the customers," Roberts says. "Their [integrators'] customers are sticky customers. They're influencers."

Integrators can sign up at CXIcentral.


Photo
Gallery

Custom Xfinity Integration (CXI)




  About the Author

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. Email Julie at jjacobson@ehpub.com

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Whole House Control · Audio/Video · Events · CEDIA · News · Products · Comcast · CXI · Dolby Atmos · HDR · Xfinity · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by enroberts on May 21, 2016

2cents, you’re all set!

Posted by 2cents on May 21, 2016

Done!

Posted by enroberts on May 21, 2016

Hi 2cents. I’m sorry but from your name here I can’t tell who you are. Can you email custom_xfinity@comcast.com and include “CEPro article comments” in the subject line?  If you include the email/company name you used to sign up we can quickly figure out what may have gone wrong. Thanks!

Posted by 2cents on May 21, 2016

Not sure whats up with this program.  I filled out paperwork the day the article came out.  I filled out the user form and have not heard a peep in over a week…

Posted by enroberts on May 16, 2016

TotalControlRemotes when you pair your cable cards, do you call 1-800-COMCAST?  We do a LOT of work for integrators installing TiVo every day!  If you interact with Comcast at ANY time on your jobs, CXI is very beneficial!

Posted by TotalControlRemotes on May 15, 2016

My company and home are centrally located in a Comcast service area.  For years we have been easily integrating our customers via Tivo.  The difference is that Comcast has allowed Tivo to access the on-demand that customers can’t stand losing when it comes to Tivo boxes.  So for our market this new strategy is not going to make that much of a difference to our Tivo customers.  As everyone knows, once you get a taste of Tivo it is hard to let go.  However, we feel this is a great thing and good news for the industry in general.  Hopefully it will raise awareness of how important it is to at least consider integration when you are developing products and services, particularly in this side of the business.  Would be great for other cable companies like Time Warner, Optimum, and all the other markets to realize the importance.  Thank you Comcast for staying in front once again!

Posted by dispatch421 on May 13, 2016

Comment Correction…...The box is not $19.95 per month as I had stated.  I have two DVR boxes and that is what caused the $19.95 charge….an additional DVR.  It will go back down to normal price once one DVR is returned.

Posted by 2cents on May 12, 2016

enroberts

Thank you for the info!!!  Look forward to getting setup…

Posted by enroberts on May 12, 2016

2cents, Meg is working hard to get all the NDA’s wrapped up.  You should hear something shortly with your tech ID and login information as well as follow up instructions to get access to the 800 #.  As for your showroom, Meg can give you details there as well!  Thanks for your interest in CXI!

Posted by 2cents on May 12, 2016

Filled out the NDA the other day and sent an email.  Any idea how long it takes for them to get back with you to set things up?  Additionally is there a way for us to get X1 in our showroom?

View all comments.

Posted by jmdon on May 9, 2016

My Savant development environment is fully updated running 8.0 and I have Absolutely zero IP control drivers for Comcast/Xfinity. 

I would love to see them.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on May 9, 2016

I’ll ask Neal to respond, thanks.

Posted by enroberts on May 9, 2016

Hi jmdon.  Thanks for asking about IP Control!  We are VERY close to launching this into the wild.  Right now, we’re waiting on final feedback from 3rd party manufacturers.  For updates on this and more head over to CXICentral.com and sign up for CXI!  Thanks and have a great day!

Posted by jmdon on May 9, 2016

I am already a member of CXI Central. There hasnt been a news article on the site that I can see since Feb 18th 2015(Purchase XR8 Aim Anywhere Adapters)and there’s only one other article from Dec 1 2014. (Sign up for the CXI Escalated Support Line December 01, 2014).  Perhaps someone has my settings wrong and I cant see all the updates?

Posted by enroberts on May 9, 2016

We are working on updating the site but we have sent several emails to all CXI partners in the last year. Please reach out to us at custom_xfinity@comcast.com to ensure you didn’t unsubscribe from those mailings. Updates to the site are being worked as we speak though. Thanks!

Posted by dispatch421 on May 10, 2016

The boxes are also $20 per month I think.

Posted by enroberts on May 10, 2016

Hi dispatch421. We do not charge a premium for the Rack Mount boxes. They are exactly the same charge as a standard DVR!  Thanks!

Posted by Vitel on May 11, 2016

We signed up to become an integrator at Cedia last year. One of the cool benifits explained to us about becoming certified with Xfinity was being able to have the service at our showroom to demo for our clients. We have had just basic business service, and this was huge for us. As of today I have yet to be able to speak to anyone who can hep with this. We call the speciall 855 number “Just for US” and are on hiold for 45 minutes to an hour before giving up each day. Xfinity needs to walk the walk or what is the point of this story or the program if none of it is realized for the integrators?

Posted by enroberts on May 11, 2016

Vitel please reach out to me directly at custom_xfinity@comcast.com.  You should not have been on hold for 45 minutes.  We’ve recently made some substantial changes to the way the 800# CXI hotline works and it’s much more efficient now.  As for your showroom, we can also discuss that when you reach out.  Thanks!

Posted by Vitel on May 11, 2016

In fairness after my comment Neal almost immediately reached out to us to address our issues. Thank you for your asistance. That is certainly walking the walk!!

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