Why Comcast Is Buying Icontrol

Comcast says its move to acquire of a big piece of Icontrol will enable the MSO’s Xfinity Home division innovate faster, gain access to a talented group of engineers, and open up wholesale opportunities as other operators look to expand their home security and automation businesses, or enter that marketplace.

“We’re focused heavily on the connected home security market and disrupting that market,” Dan Herscovici, senior vice president and general manager of Xfinity Home, said Thursday, soon after Comcast and Icontrol announced the deal.

He said that disruption is about “creating innovative user experiences and capabilities supporting or evolving what people might consider traditional home security.”

He noted that the overall market is growing at 2% to 3.5% (Comcast has more than 500,000 Xfinity Home customers), but that there’s a big opportunity in front of Comcast as some customers upgrade their systems while others are ripe to switch providers or are looking to take a smart home service for the first time.

“The opportunity in front of us is that there's 25 to 30 million households that have a monitored home security system, and of those, 70% are on an older, antiquated home security system,” Herscovici said. “We think that the solution we’re creating and the one that Icontrol unlocks, will allow us to give  consumers an amazing new set of features that will do two things… convince traditional home security subs to switch and convince people to jump in we provide  a lot more value.”

Comcast is buying Icontrol’s “Converge” platform, the piece of Xfinity Home that provides the service’s fundamental security “state machine,” which supports the engines, rules and requirements for that component.

Icontrol’s ZigBee-based Converge platform (Alarm.com is buying Icontrol’s Connect platform, which leans on Z-wave, is more focused on dealer installs, and counts ADT as its biggest customer) has already been working in concert with home-grown Comcast’s platform that supports a broader set of smart  home products, including those developed by Comcast as well as third-party devices from partners such as Nest, Chamberlain (garage door controllers), August (door locks) and Lutron (wireless light controllers and dimmers).

When put together, those platforms provide Comcast with a unified user experience and one app to control all of security and automation elements, but Comcast felt that buying the Icontrol piece will enable it to go faster and deepen that integration.

Icontrol, Herscovici said, “does a lot of things really, really well…Building everything yourself doesn’t always make a lot of sense…especially when you have a talented group of engineers that have been thinking about this for ten-plus years.”

Beyond Comcast’s own Xfinity Home product, Herscovici said the company is also excited about the wholesale/white-label business that the Icontrol acquisition will open up.

“Our hope is to grow both businesses,” he said. “They should be generally complementary, but we are prepared to support unique requirements of each of our customers just like any platform provider would do.”

Cox Communications, Rogers Communications and two MSOs just acquired by Charter -- Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks – have been using Icontrol for both security and their larger home automation platforms. Charter said it is still mulling how home security and automation services will fit into its longer-term strategy.

Of that group, Cox is already syndicating/licensing Comcast’s X1 platform for its next-gen Contour video platform.