Comcast Talks Next Steps After Icontrol Acquisition Becomes Official
Over the summer, Comcast announced it was part of a three-way deal with Alarm.com to purchase parts of IoT security firm Icontrol Networks. Icontrol, which played a major role in the launch of Xfinity Home in 2010, sold off its Connect and Piper platforms to Alarm.com, while Comcast acquired the Converge portion of the business.
The deal, which was held up over a legal challenge by Honeywell against the Alarm.com portion of the transaction, became official this week only when Honeywell and Alarm.com reached a settlement.
“It’s taken a few months to get through all necessary approvals, but the deal is official, final, signed, and inked,” Daniel Herscovici, Comcast’s Senior VP and General Manager of Xfinity Home and Comcast Cable, told Technology Integrator in a phone interview on Thursday.
Now that the deal is official, Herscovici explained, Comcast can begin to fully integrate Icontrol’s Austin-based team into the company. “The good news is we've been working with this team for four-plus years, since they were the team we used to found our business, and we're very familiar with them, and it's a very easy transition,” he said. “But still there's all of the logistics and operational stuff with getting that done. And then it's about consolidating and fine-tuning our roadmap and choosing where to invest.”
In the short-term, Herscovici said, Comcast customers and retail partners won’t notice much of a difference. Once you start looking ahead to the next six-to-eight months, though, that’s when new features might begin to roll out to end-users. “From a wholesale point of view,” he said, “I think you'll see a lot of scaling and architecture improvements, as well as operational benefits to deliver the service more economically.”
What Icontrol Brings to the Table
Though Comcast has worked with Icontrol’s Austin-based team for several years now, bringing the operation in-house has a number of obvious benefits. First, it gives Comcast full control over the research and development plans. The Converge platform helped get Comcast’s Xfinity Home services and solutions off the ground. But now, Comcast will be able to use the Converge platform exclusively, which Herscovici said will “dramatically accelerate innovation across the board and help our customers bring more IoT and automation” into the home.
Also, the acquisition gives Comcast a physical footprint in a city that, arguably, is a hotbed for tech talent. "We've never really had a presence in Austin, in terms of development,” said Herscovici. “We have a very strong development team in IoT in Philadelphia; we have a very strong team in Sunny Vale. … We identified Austin as a strong potential for engineering talent, and we intend to create an IoT Engineering Center of Excellence in the Austin area with the team that's there as the foundational core.”
Comcast also gets access to a wide-ranging network of partners that Icontrol was developing for in the home security space. “They were also the software engine behind other security solutions provided by Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Rogers in Canada, and some international players, Telstra in Australia, as well as iTSCOM in Japan,” Herscovici said. “We're taking on those customers, and we're investing in the wholesale platform overall and intend to expand that scope. Our hope is that as we architect the platform to better suit a growing wholesale business, we hope to see dealers and others start to adopt our wholesale platform as their platform of choice in home security.”
A Connected Comcast Experience
Comcast already has their Works With Xfinity program that lets consumers know what products integrate best with their Xfinity Home platform. But with the Icontrol acquisition it’s a good possibility that the connected services provider could play a bigger role in actual product development.
“There is a core portfolio of products that we have designed end-to-end and manufactured with partners,” Herscovici said. “Xfinity Home customers have been able to enjoy our dual window sensors, motion sensors, keypads, touchscreen security panels, cameras that we have wholly designed ourselves. With this acquisition, and as we start to roll out the first set of changes to our wholesale partners, they will have access to the same suite of products that we've designed for Comcast.”
Icontrol also its own “works with” program, so integrating the two and adding on Comcast’s own products, the ecosystem of Xfinity Home-friendly deices is set to expand rapidly, and quickly.
The goal for Comcast is to breathe new life into the home security space.
“If you think about home security from a user experience point of view, the concepts of arming and disarming haven't really changed in the past 30 years,” Herscovici said. “What you'll see is a focus on, how do we transform the user construct of security so that when you wake up in the middle of the night and you go downstairs to get a glass of water, instead of that being an anxiety-filled moment because you're terrified of setting off the alarm accidentally and waking up your whole family, it's a reassuring moment because you know you have a security system that's secured and is taking care of you.”
Mass Market Effect
With the acquisition and rapid expansion, it’s easy for us to draw some comparisons to another platform in the home security and automation space. Five years ago, mentioning a Control4 in the same breath as Comcast might’ve seemed absurd, but the moves both have made in the IoT space have brought them much closer together. Comcast provides its customers a way to interact with and control their in-home connected devices, which includes lighting, security cameras, shades, and more. The only major difference, on the surface, is that Comcast also happens to offer access to TV, phone, and internet services.
So how are they (Comcast) differentiating themselves while moving closer to becoming a whole-home automation platform?
“I think that we democratize these high-end home automation solutions, and by that I mean I think solutions from Comcast are lower out-of-pocket-cost,” Herscovici said. “You're able to create experiences that historically are left to the top 1 percent of households in the U.S. We understand what it means to operate at scale. For perspective, Comcast is 26-27 million internet subscribers; we have 25ish million video subscribers. … I think we understand how to deliver solutions at that scale even in the IoT and home security space.”