Comcast Smart Home Expanding to Apartments, Condos

Some 45% of Americans own smart home technology or plan to invest in it in 2016, according to the Coldwell Banker Smart Home Marketplace Survey. The most prevalent smart technology among this group is the TV set, with 44% owning a smart TV or speaker system. Smart security follows with 31%.

When "home" is mentioned, the tendency might be to immediately think of single-family standalone residences. But families living in multi-dwelling units (MDUs), be they condos or apartments, are going "smart," too. Aside from the entertainment component, the lifestyle products, including security, thermostat and light control are "very compelling" in the multifamily space, said Michael Slovin, VP, Xfinity Communities, a division of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA).

If a child is scheduled to get off the bus at 3 p.m., the parents can receive a text when he or she comes through the door. This can even include a video, to make sure the child is safe and alone, Slovin explained. Alternatively, if the child is not home by 3:10, a reminder text can be sent to remind the parents to investigate.

"It is the interaction with mobility and the home that make it interesting for residents," Slovin said.

Xfinity Communities was launched late in 2014. On its one-year anniversary, Comcast announced that more than 1 million multifamily housing residents across 37 states were using Xfinity services delivered by the Advanced Communities Network (ACN). From an operator perspective, the unique component of the MDU environment is mainly interaction with the community management and ownership, many of whom are facing pressure to ensure their internal networks are capable of handling the increasing bandwidth traffic.

"Our job is to make sure we are not providing just enough bandwidth and support for a resident, but that we are providing backbone and infrastructure that supports the entire property," Slovin said, noting that Comcast is putting residents on the path to gigabit Internet speeds using either fiber-to-the building, fiber-to-the-unit, or DOCSIS technologies.

Another difference is the ability for an owner to select and buy packages for all residents, which from a data perspective could mean symmetrical gigabit speeds. "That is something unique to the community space. We can work on what the resident need is," Slovin said.

The agreements also include interaction with Community Account Representatives (CARs), who offer a type of concierge service for property managers, including technical and sales support as well as education and training for property staff.

As for challenges with the deployment of smart home technology, Slovin said the No. 1 issue is keeping up with demand. "We have to make sure we stay ahead of it from a network buildout, technology and integration perspective," he said. "Each new device brings a new level of complexity. (We want) to make it more seamless for residents."

Rounding out the survey information, Coldwell found that while entertainment was the most prevalent smart technology found today in the home, the majority of respondents said that a home is considered "smart" if it has smart security, temperature, lighting and safety. More than three-quarters said just having one category of smart technology in the home isn't enough for it to be considered smart.

Americans are recognizing the importance and value of smart technology, Coldwell said. More than half of homeowners would purchase or install products if selling their home.

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