Comcast's Xfinity division has made some forays into the smart home world already: Xfinity Home started out as a home security product, but it now handles a number of common devices like locks, thermostats, lightbulbs and so on. However, the millions of people who subscribe just to Xfinity Internet haven't been able to take advantage of these features; you need to also have an Xfinity Home subscription. That's going to change this year: Comcast just announced that millions of its internet customers will be able to use their Xfinity Gateway routers as smart home automation hubs, free of charge.
Specifically, Comcast said that people using its two most recent Gateways will get these features. That's more than 15 million customers, or more than half of its 26 million internet subscribers. In comparison, Comcast says it only has about 1.3 million subscribers to its home-security service, so the company is opening up these feature to a vastly larger group.
Comcast's Dan Herscovici, senior VP of the home group, told Engadget that the notion is to expose home-automation controls to people who otherwise might not have considered using them. "At our scale and scope, you're talking about way more than early adopters into this tech," he said. "We wanted to find a way to unlock the opportunity of home automation to everyone, even those that might not be interested in home security."
Part of this new addition comes from Comcast's acquisition of Stringify in September. The company built a cloud-based smart home device platform that worked with about 500 different products, and that tech will all be integrated into Xfinity's offering. Additionally, Comcast is also pushing its Works with Xfinity program to get more hardware manufacturers on board. And naturally, you'll be able to see settings for your smart home setup on your TV through the Xfinity Home app and give voice commands to your devices through the voice-enabled Xfinity TV remote.
But the best part about this system goes back to the free price. It'll enable people who've only dabbled with smart home devices (a Nest thermostat here, a Philips Hue lightbulb there) to start stringing together multiple products and build true home-automation systems. That said, it'll be a little while before this launches: Comcast said that the rollout will start sometime in late spring and will take six to eight weeks to hit its whole customer base. Still, most modem-router combos that you rent from your ISP don't offer these kinds of features -- between Gigabit speeds and smart home controls, the Xfinity Gateway actually might be worth the monthly fee.
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