Xfinity Reveals Pricing, Rollout for Security and Home Automation
Comcast/Xfinity Home Security costs $45 per month for alarm monitoring, cellular communications, up to five WiFi cameras, ZigBee lights and thermostat, remote monitoring and control.
Today we learn a few things about Xfinity Home Security that we hadn’t reported before: The monthly cost for the security/home automation service is cheaper than most, but hardly free; six more cities will get the service after last year’s launch in Houston; and Xfinity will do its own security installations, rather than use a third-party provider.
And one more thing: Xfinity will use iControl SMA, the home-control platform formerly known as uControl. Just as we suspected.
Neither Xfinity nor iControl has made a formal announcement about the iControl deal, but Xfinity spokesperson Charlie Douglas confirmed the news in an interview with CE Pro today.
As previously reported, the new Xfinity Home Security service features a monitored alarm system, video cameras, and connected lights and thermostats—all of which can be monitored and controlled remotely via any Web browser or a smart phone.
The service was launched in Houston late in 2010, and Xfinity announced today that the program would be extended to “several U.S. market areas including parts of Philadelphia, Portland (Ore.), Jacksonville (Fla.), Sarasota/Naples (Fla.), Chattanooga (Tenn.) and Nashville (Tenn.).”
That bit about the new cities is the only interesting point in an Xfinity press release issued today, but we did learn some useful things from Douglas, including the price of the new service and how the security system is installed.
Most importantly, industry watchers worried that Comcast would undercut the established security and home automation industry with rock-bottom pricing. That is not the case. The $45 upper limit on Xfinity’s monthly service may be on the low end, but the relatively high price of its ZigBee hardware may negate any savings (see pricing, p. 2).
The Security & Automation System
If you have been reading CE Pro, you already know this: When Xfinity Home Security launched in Houston, it went to market with a system from iControl—the same platform that powers ADT Pulse and more recently DSC’s Connect24.
But iControl employs Z-Wave wireless technology for home automation, and cable companies apparently prefer the more robust ZigBee RF protocol. So iControl acquired a ZigBee-friendly competitor uControl in an effort to win the Comcast business (it worked).
HOW THE XFINITY HOME SECURITY SYSTEM WORKS
Check out CE Pro’s exclusive illustration of the Xfinity Home Security and Automation ecosystem powered by iControl SMA. Is ZigBee the right choice for a low-cost security system? (Click here for story - CE Pro Plus subscription required)
Houston customers will be grandfathered in at some point, says Douglas, “and there will be some customers there who stay with iControl, but the uControl equipment will be what’s used going forward and in other markets.”
Unlike the original iControl ecosystem used in Houston, the iControl SMA system is self-contained: A single touchscreen includes the user interface (obviously), wireless ZigBee technology for both security and automation functions, and WiFi for cameras and Internet connectivity. It also has a built-in cellular radio for communicating with a central monitoring station, and a back-up battery as required by UL for a security system.
There is no secondary security system; the iControl SMA touchscreen is the security system. ZigBee-enabled smoke detectors, door/window contacts and motion sensors communicate directly with the touchscreen.
Likewise, ZigBee-enabled lighting modules and thermostats connect directly with the touchscreen.
Currently, Xfinity is not offering in-wall light switches because an electrician is required, but Douglas says the company is working with Centralite on ZigBee lighting. The cable company will roll out a solution in the future: “It is something we would sell them and they would hire an electrician to install,” Douglas says.
Because the entire control system resides in a single box, it is so simple to install … even cable guys can install it. And they will.
Security Installation and Licensing
What has inhibited national service providers in the past is that every state, and sometimes local municipality, has its own set of security licensing laws – some (like Illinois) are vastly more onerous than others.
Even so, Comcast is going it alone, using its own techs to install the security and automation systems.
“Because this service is really adjacent to the expertise that we have as a broadband company,” says Douglas, “our installers who typically do voice, video and data are being trained in local markets.”
Each installer, he says, is licensed according to local codes, which is one reason “why we’re taking it market by market.”
In some cases, licensed installers are recruited to Xfinity for the Home Security cause, but the company is not using third-party dealers.
One thing Comcast isn’t doing is building out a central station. Instead, the company is using COPS, a large security monitoring firm.
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 [email protected]
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