September 12, 2013
The suburban kitchen had the typical touches: stainless-steel appliances, polished granite countertops. And there next to the phone was a shiny new piece of technology that in time might become yet another ubiquitous accessory of modern living. It was a touch-screen pad through which the homeowners, from home or anywhere in the world, can turn lights on and off, adjust temperatures up and down and keep a watchful eye over the swimming pool or the front porch. A few months from now, it will be able to unlock the door as well. On the horizon are new ways to help aging baby boomers live independently. After that, who knows?
"The possibilities are somewhat - they're not endless but there are a lot of ways to use this," said Mitch Bowling, Comcast senior vice president and general manager for Xfinity Home, a 3-year-old service that put the cable giant in the home security business while also expanding the definition of home monitoring. Comcast does not publicly discuss subscriber data, but Bowling said the foray has shown early success on at least two fronts.
First, he said, 54 percent of Xfinity Home customers are new to Comcast and 96 percent of those new customers have added at least two other Comcast services. (In addition to cable and home security, the company also provides Internet access and home-telephone service.) In a promotional appearance at customer Michelle Majors' home in Cypress on Monday, Bowling also said two-thirds of Xfinity Home customers did not previously use a home-security system. Traditionally, 21 percent of homeowners had some type of service. "Therefore, by definition, we're growing the pie," he said.
Comcast is not the only company in the multibillion-dollar home-security field with technology that lets people not only monitor their homes but also remotely adjust their appliances and watch their kids or pets on video. Traditional home-security companies such as ADT and Protection One offer similar services. Bowling, who'd flown in from Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia, grew most animated when talking about what lies ahead. He showed off a door handle that already allows keyless entry and said the company is working with the manufacturer to open the lock via Xfinity Home. That is expected to come online in early 2014, he said.
Major growth areas of the future include home-energy management - Xfinity Home already offers an "EcoSaver" thermostat to optimize usage - and the nation's aging population. Already, Xfinity Home can configure sensors to help grown sons or daughters keep an eye on their parents. If, for example, Dad always picks up the newspaper by 9 a.m., the system can be programmed to send the relative a text if his door has not been opened by then. The technology likely will be refined, Bowling said, to learn individual habits and issue alerts whenever something happens outside the ordinary. Xfinity Home services range in price from $9.95 to $49.95 per month. Houston
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