Comcast's new router could be a smart-home hub

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Internet service provider (ISP) Comcast has rolled out its xFi Advanced Gateway to all its markets in the US, bringing the high-performance router that packs in a number of smart home capabilities to a wide audience, reports ZDNet.

This latest step could presage a move by Comcast to expand its presence in the smart home market, either through an expansion of its Xfinity Home professionally installed smart home service, or by supporting various self-installed consumer devices.

The xFi Advanced Gateway supports Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds to allow fast in-network communication, but can also connect devices using smart home standards like ZigBee and Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE). The inclusion of these standards means that smart home devices like connected light bulbs, thermostats, and security cameras can use Comcast’s new router as a hub, eliminating the need for separate third-party hub.

This is similar to what Amazon is trying to accomplish with its Echo Plus smart speaker, which includes a similar smart home hub with connectivity. Both companies are looking to make it easier to set up and use smart home devices by eliminating a piece of hardware and a potential barrier.

Comcast is opening up a couple of potential routes to growth with its xFi Advanced Gateway and expanded smart home support:

  • It could look to strengthen its Xfinity Home professionally installed smart home product. The ISP’s smart home offering boasts 1.79 million subscribers, all of whom pay a monthly fee starting at $40 for the home security and automation service. Using a device like the xFi Advanced Gateway will allow customers to opt for a wider range of devices that Comcast personnel can install around the home, which could, in turn, make the service more versatile and attract more customers.
  • The ISP could also introduce support and management for consumer-grade self-installed smart home devices. There’s only a limited market for professionally installed smart home systems — BI Intelligence expects 13.5 million households will subscribe to those systems in 2021 — but a potentially larger market exists for stand-alone smart home devices. While some devices use just Wi-Fi and could connect to any router, many also use specialized standards like ZigBee, Z-Wave, or Bluetooth LE. Comcast could establish a marketplace of sorts, in a manner similar to what Vodafonedid for wireless IoT devices, by pairing devices with services to build up new revenue streams, thereby making it a central player in the smart home market.

Nicholas Shields, research associate for BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on the US smart home market that:

  • Analyzes current consumer demand for smart home devices based off results from BI Intelligence’s proprietary survey.
  • Forecasts future growth in the number of smart home devices installed in American homes.
  • Analyzes the factors influencing the proliferation of voice control devices in the homes.
  • Identifies and analyzes the market strategies of various companies that have integrated voice control into their smart home ecosystems.

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