Comcast Confirms Acquisition Of PowerCloud Systems

Comcast confirmed a report by TechCrunch on Monday that it has acquired PowerCloud Systems, a provider of technologies that manage WiFi and other networking services in a range of environments, including hotels, retail chains, restaurants, and managed care facilities.

Comcast did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but TechCrunch said the operator paid less than $50 million for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based WiFi-as-a-service and WiFi management  specialist.

“We're excited about [PowerCloud's] technology and their talent and their intellectual property, and we see this as a great consumer experience that we’ll be integrating into our existing platform for our Xfinity Internet customers sometime in the future,” a Comcast spokesman said.

He declined to specify a timeline or detail the product roadmap plans, but Tyson Marian, who works in strategic development at Comcast, told VentureBeat, that the operator expects to start integrating PowerCloud’s device management technologies into its products, including router/modem combos, sometime next year. That mix will allow users to securely track devices coming off and on of the home network, Marian told the publication.

Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) spun-out PowerCloud Systems in 2010. In addition to PARC, which began to incubate PowerCloud in early 2008, other investors in the startup include Qualcomm Ventures, Javelin Venture Partners, and Walden Venture Capital. PowerCloud’s products include Skydog, a software-based platform teamed with gateway/routing hardware created for service providers to deliver networking services to consumers, businesses and for public WiFi access. It has also been pitching a product called CloudCommand Instant Hotspot, a cloud-managed WiFi access point configuration platform.

TechCrunch reported that PowerCloud posted a cryptic message on its Web site last week that it had been acquired and that it would no longer sell its Skydog-branded routers, though it would continue to support current customers through the remainder of their subscriptions. That message has since been removed, but Comcast confirmed that it will honor the contracts of PowerCloud's existing customers.

The acquisition of PowerCloud comes into as Comcast continues to deploy WiFi technologies aggressively. In June, Comcast said its Xfinity WiFi footprint had expanded to about 3 million hotspots nationwide, getting it closer toward a goal of expanding that footprint to 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014. That number is comprised of hotspots deployed outdoor and commercial venues, as well as inside customer-supplied routers that emit a separate “XfinityWiFi” SSID that can be accessed by authenticated Comcast high-speed Internet subscribers. Elsewhere on that wireless front, Comcast Business is developing an “amenity” WiFi product for small business owners that enable them to provide access to a company-branded SSID alongside tailored usage rules, security mechanisms, and other specific terms of service.

The purchase and product focus of PowerCloud also plays up another trend at Comcast -- moving services and functionality into the proverbial cloud. For example, X1, Comcast's next-gen video platform, shifts the user interface and other elements of the service onto the network.