When I knocked on the door, two dogs started barking furiously. That was the old security system. Now this home in Arlington, VA, is a Comcast Xfinity “Extreme Home,” wired with the MSO’s latest tech, including smart home features.
It is one of about ten homes across the country that Comcast opened up (with the homeowners’ permission, of course) for a day of local media tours, offering a glimpse of how Xfinity Home works in real life—not in a sterile demo booth. As I stood at the door listening to barking, I noticed a small camera above me and a push-button lock.
As Comcast Xfinity Home vp Dennis Matthew walked me through some of the home’s features, including keyless door entry and how it has a 24-hour battery-back-up, I stopped him. “This area is famous for power outages that can last a week. What happens then? Are you locked out of your house?”
This is where the homeowner, who had been working in another room, came bounding out: “That’s the first question I asked!” He must also remember the Derecho of 2012. The good news for this homeowner, who admits he has completely stopped carrying a house key, is that the push buttons make the lock manual so power outages aren’t a problem. Soon, Comcast plans to introduce a feature that will let you unlock the door with your phone. This homeowner is pretty happy with the current system, which lets him give individual door lock codes to family members and others who enter his home. He can even give out a code for someone doing work in the home that will expire, so no worries about handing out your key.
His favorite feature? Being able to turn on the front porch lights with the Xfinity Home app on his phone. Looking around the living room at the tiny shoes and princess toys, I understood why. Nothing like trying to wrangle a 3-year-old into the house in the dark because you forgot to leave a light on. And inevitably, they’ll also desperately need to use the bathroom while you’re trying to do it! He said he’d looked at timers, but felt they required a bit of tech savvy and just didn’t integrate as seamlessly. For instance, a Comcast user can set up a command so that every time the front door opens, the foyer lights come on. Or anytime someone steps into the hallway and activates a motion sensor between 10pm and 6am, the lights turn on.
The smart home category is still very new, but Comcast is looking to add more services that it believes customers will find useful, Matthew said. One of those could be a way to make sure you’ve closed the garage door. The Arlington, VA, homeowner has a request—he wants video from the camera by the front door to pop up automatically on his phone whenever his doorbell rings. “We’re looking at that,” Matthew said. And a smart home really does have a level of intelligence to it. In Matthew’s house, he has two thermostats. He said he felt pretty good about his energy savings, which included dropping the downstairs thermostat to 65 in the winter when no one was in that part of the house. But his Xfinity Home-controlled system, equipped with Eco Saver, actually started lowering the downstairs to 55 when no one was around, which he estimated probably saves him 20-30 hours of runtime.
Just this week Comcast launched the Xfinity Home app in beta on the X1 platform. That means you can pull up video of who’s at the door while watching TV. Or as Comcast puts it: check that your house is locked while you’re watching a scary movie.
While I’ve read about several of these features or seen them explained in a demo, I have to give Comcast credit for the hands-on tour. It made me think about how these features could be applicable in my own life as I saw a family dealing with the same daily tasks as my own. The question is, given cable’s new entry status in home security and home monitoring, if it’ll be able to get the same message across to potential customers in marketing. There’s a huge business opportunity available if it can—but there’s also several other players, from traditional security companies like ADT to satellite competitor DirecTV, knocking on doors.