Over the past 20 years internet service evolved from Coax to ethernet to Wi-Fi. Today Comcast announced xFi with ZipKey®, extending internet service all the way to the devices themselves. This will transform connectivity for the internet of things.
What is xFi?
xFi is an extension of Comcast's XFINITY service that gives users better visibility and control over their home Wi-Fi. Any XFINITY internet subscriber with a compatible gateway (about 15 million homes today), can download the app for free and can then view and change home Wi-Fi name and password and troubleshoot connectivity issues without having to call customer service or log into the router admin page.
xFi also allows users to see what products are connected to the home network. The customer can nickname their devices for easy identification and see all their connected products in one view.
In addition to having a holistic view of all the devices on your home network, customers can create profiles and assign connected products to different members of the household. Whether you have children or roommates, grouping devices can come in handy, especially when you learn about the ability to pause Wi-Fi access for any device or profile.
Let's say that your daughter hasn’t finished her homework yet, but won’t put down her tablet, with xFi you could pause her Wi-Fi connection. (Neither Cirrent or Comcast take responsibility for the repercussions of trying this at home, especially if you have teenagers!) Pausing a connection for one profile or one device without having to switch off the Wi-Fi for the entire home is a very useful feature.
In addition, xFi has a feature called ‘Bedtime Mode’, which allows you to schedule times where Wi-Fi will automatically be paused for certain profiles. Customers also have access to Parental Controls, with which parents can designtate profiles that will only be allowed to access to content deemed appropriate for all ages.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, xFi will allow users to buy Wi-Fi mesh extenders to increase broadband performance and eliminate dead spots.
With these features, Comcast is extending their service from the Wi-Fi router to devices themselves. Allowing users to see and manage their devices, and to extend Wi-Fi to the furthest reaches of even the largest suburban home.
What does this mean for the connected products?
These changes have significant implications for companies making connected products. Product companies should be thinking about
- More consistent routers. The wide diversity of routers in people's homes is a problem for connected products -- one of our customers told us that they have so many problems with old routers that if people call the support line with Wi-Fi issues they offer to buy the customer a new Wi-Fi router! The diverse population of routers will slowly fade away as more and more users take the high-quality Wi-Fi solutions from their internet service providers.
- Better Wi-Fi coverage. Giving users an easy way to address Wi-Fi coverage issues is critical for the expansion of the smart home. Many smart home products are in places where the Wi-Fi coverage may not be good: a leak detector in the basement, a garage door opener in a detached garage, or a sprinkler controller in the back yard. With the easy availability of a good mesh solution users will have better Wi-Fi coverage making these IoT products more reliable and easier for mainstream users to set up. You can read about the impact of Wi-Fi mesh on connected product manufacturers here.
- Better Wi-Fi onboarding. ZipKey is a core part of Comcast's xFi offering, so it solves the Wi-Fi onboarding challenges for IoT products - eliminating the need for SoftAP. ZipKey makes the out-of-box user experience for smart home products really simple, addressing the #1 customer complaint: ease of use.
- Richer interaction between products and networks. Cirrent's work with network operators and product companies makes products and networks work better together. Comcast's xFi platform is a great step along that path, and you can expect to see more in terms of improving device security, reducing the complexity of setup and use, and improving products over their entire lifecycle.
Giving customers more control over their Smart Home is a savvy move by Comcast as consumers invest in more and more connected products for their homes. With xFi, Comcast has made the modern connected home easier to understand, personalize and manage. And with Comcast’s partnership with Cirrent, customers who are connecting their devices to Wi-Fi will have a fast, simple and delightful experience throughout the product’s lifecycle.
The move from Coax to Ethernet to Wi-Fi over the past 20 years has enabled us to evolve to the post-PC world. The introduction of xFi by Comcast is the logical next step: providing connectivity for people's devices. We here at Cirrent are delighted to be working with Comcast to usher in the next wave of innovation and accelerate the smart home and the internet of things!