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Is ZigBee the Right Choice for Xfinity Home Security?

ZigBee is a fine RF protocol for home control, but may not be the best solution today for the low-power, low-cost, aesthetic requirements of home security systems.

Xfinity Home Security in Houston and Elsewhere: Same hand models, different systems
Julie Jacobson · April 18, 2011

CE Pro speculates that Xfinity/Comcast has selected the ZigBee-based uControl platform for its remote home management system. Is that such a good idea?

Since announcing its new home security and automation system in 2010, Xfinity (formerly Comcast) has not declared a vendor partner.

The cable giant still isn’t saying, but the Web site points to uControl.

Originally, Xfinity showcased on its Home Security site a solution based on iControl, the same platform that powers ADT Pulse.

Recently, however, a former iControl rival called uControl showed up on the site.

uControl “merged” with iControl late last year (in a deal that was more likely an acquisition by the latter), ostensibly to win the Xfinity business, we speculated at the time.

Seems that it worked.

Cable Loves ZigBee

The cable operators have always been enamored of ZigBee, the RF protocol at the heart of the uControl system. iControl, on the other hand, currently employs the Z-Wave protocol for its home control solutions.

That’s one difference between the two home control platforms, but there’s a bigger one: uControl has a more integrated approach to security/home automation than does iControl in its current implementation.


Assuming Xfinity is adopting uControl as its home automation and security platform, the ecosystem would look like this (click to enlarge).

iControl blends a traditional security system with home automation with user interfaces via a separate hub (view iControl system architecture).

uControl, on the other hand, has all of the goodies in one smart touchscreen. The unit packs IP, GSM (for communicating with a security monitoring service) and ZigBee into a controller that doubles as a user interface.

There is no separate security system. uControl is the security system. ZigBee-enabled sensors and other alarm devices communicate directly with the self-contained uControl panel.

For this reason, Comcast technicians could install a uControl system much more easily than they could a solution like iControl’s, which currently has a lot more moving parts.

Does uControl’s All-ZigBee Architecture Make Sense?

uControl’s architecture is unusual and may not be the most sensible approach today—in the future, perhaps, when ZigBee proliferates—but not today.

Currently, no major manufacturer uses ZigBee (or Z-Wave, for that matter) for home security systems. The RF technology is used for the automation portion of a system, but not the security ecosystem.

  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

Security · News · Comcast · iControl · uControl · Xfinity · Z-Wave · ZigBee · All Topics
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