Xfinity Home finds security in new market

Oct. 25, 2016
Using its huge consumer base as its platform, Comcast advances reach in home security

When Comcast launched its Xfinity Home solution for home security and automation in 2011 it was looking to reinvent the way consumers approached their home security buying experience and ultimately an integrated roadmap for total home automation. While building its own smart home products, Xfinity Home has also established third-party partnerships via its Works With Xfinity Home Program.

SouthComm Security Media Group and (SIW) Editorial Director Steve Lasky spent some time with Dan Herscovici, senior vice president and general manager of Xfinity Home, this past week in New York at SIA’s Securing New Ground conference. Herscovici shared some insights into the current business picture and what the future holds for his group.

Lasky: What prompted Comcast’s move into the competitive market of consumer home security?

Herscovici: Looking at the market we saw opportunities on two fronts. First, we saw an unconnected security solution that would benefit deeply from the type of internet connection and a broadband solution we could provide. So when designing our solution and going to market we kept that in mind. We focused on a best in class, professionally monitored, 24/7 security solution, but also a security solution that could evolve and grow; adding automation features like cameras, door locks, doorbells and garage door openers and integrate those into the security experience.

We have 27 million household relationships, of which 24 million are Internet-related. So those tight ongoing relationships we have with all our customers allowed us to interact and speak with them as we introduced them to the concept of security. That provided great economics to launch the business.

We also did the research to try and understand whether or not consumers saw Comcast and Xfinity Home as a viable security alternative. Consumers translated our ability to deliver a secure internet connection with the ability to provide home security and home automation. When you combine those things and our 30,000 technician workforce, thousands of customer services reps and sales people who knock on doors every day, we certainly had the foundational infrastructure to launch this business in a very economical way, while bundling it with our other services.

It’s a very frictionless conversation. Since you’re already in my house installing my Internet, why not go ahead and add a security option. Our foot is already in the door. That is a huge advantage.

Lasky: How do you see the market and what are your company’s unique selling points?

Herscovici: I don’t see as much volatility in the market as some of our competitors might. We are in a pretty good position since we really don’t have a legacy base of millions of consumers that are unconnected, using old-school telephone systems that we have to figure out how to upgrade. We are coming into the market fresh and with next generation solutions from day one. We are able to integrate that solution across our other services that no one else in this market can deliver. This allows us to offer a unique experience.

We are seeing strong interest across the board and turn levels that are equal to or less than the industry typically sees. There is this large “jump ball” opportunity as people who already have security systems and value security say, "hey, your other features are also very interesting so when my contract is up I want to see what other capabilities are out there."  We are now in the consideration set and feel this is a very good opportunity for us to grab some of those “jump balls.”

Our technicians pride themselves on not only a great install but also working with the customers on how to use their systems. They are teaching their customers how to use their next X-One video system, and how to get into their broadband connection to log in and set up Wi-Fi. We are already setting up the wireless network in the home, so it is not that far afield to teach the consumer to use their security system and home automation systems. We think it is an easy and solid transition for the traditional home security customer.

Lasky: How do you work with preferred partners and build on those relationships to benefit the Xfinity Home brand along with benefitting your customer?

Herscovici: We design our life/safety and security solutions partnering with outside OEMs. But our door and window sensors, motion sensors, keypads and the Hub, which is the heart of the security system, along with our cameras are built from the ground up. But we realize we aren’t locksmiths or lighting designers. So we have created the Works With Xfinity Home Ecosystem – what we call a curated ecosystem. When you think about the automation industry and the Works With programs there are two ends of the spectrum. One is an open architecture. Anyone who integrates with me using a published SDK and we approve their integration, is now capable of using the system. That leaves you with hundreds – if not thousands – of devices to interact with your system.

The other extreme out there is systems that are 100 percent closed. They say look, in order for us to maintain what we think is the best customer experience; I’m going to design everything end-to-end. We fall a little bit to the left of that. We are open but we’re curated. We will select the top two of three door locks or lighting partners or the top garage door partner in Chamberlain. Then we test these solutions to not only see if those APIs integrate properly. But we want to make sure they are a great product and that they perform well in their core functions.

We have a test lab in New Jersey with the sole purpose of testing all our partner devices to ensure they perform as they were meant to function. Once they pass these tests we stand behind them and we will be the customer’s first phone call. When you call Comcast about your security system you reach a dedicated team that is not only trained on Xfinity Core Home, but also on all our other approved devices.

The Comcast approach is to be inclusive of our Core product groups like video, temperature controls, lighting and then chose best of breed so we can install and support them. The great thing is that when all these solutions are integrated, it is the same app on your phone, the same interaction on your TV and on the touchscreen we give you.  The customer controls all the devices and the solution allows them to engage with technology in a way they may never have thought possible.

Lasky: As technology advances for alarm customers, what makes their experience different and where is the future taking us?

Herscovici: Historically, you didn’t know an alarm was going off in your house until your central station called you. Today you know immediately when a house alarm goes off through a push notification on your phone app, which is usually a minute or two before the central station picks up the phone to tell you. You also have so many remote options to engage or disarm your systems that really enhance the customer experience. An interesting stat shows that 50 to 75 percent of our security customers are new to the category. Over half have never been security subscribers before. We feel it’s because we remove a lot of friction in the purchasing process and it is a convenience for the customer who can say, “hey, I always wanted a security system so while I’m getting my cable or internet installed from a trusted provider why not use that same three-hour window to put in home security?”

Over the next five years, I think we will see what we have seen in the mobile communication industry take place. If you recall in 2008 when the iPhone first launched there was this massive technology upgrade from flip phones to smartphones. I think we are in that same evolution cycle with home security. Seventy percent of the more than 30 million households that have security systems are still on antiquated and unconnected solutions. That transition presents a fascinating opportunity and I see a dramatic change in five years where everybody will have a connected home security solution.