The smart home revolution is still in its early days. Even with the programmable devices that exist already — the thermostats that learn your patterns, the voice-controlled assistants and the lighting that can be customized according to your needs and daily routines — there is still a large unexplored vista ahead of us with the connected home.
Some validation of all these new market participants would be helpful to consumers during their buying decisions. So as an integral part of the communications fabric tying all this technology together, Comcast has relaunched its partner program, which curates and integrates best-in-class smart home devices into the Xfinity Home platform.
Their point of view is that smart home IoT devices don’t really make sense unless the devices are truly connected, so they can talk to each other and create the ultimate smart experience for consumers when they are at home or away.
To do that, they created a curated program with several best-in-class partners including the recently added Philips Hue connected lighting system, Nest Learning thermostat, August door lock, Lutron Caséta wireless controller and dimmer, Chamberlain MyQ garage door controller, light bulbs Sengled and GE by Jasco
These partnerships allow Comcast’s Xfinity Home customers to manage and control all of these smart home devices from one platform – the Xfinity Home platform. Additionally, Xfinity Home customers have the ability to seamlessly troubleshoot issues with any of the partner products by simply calling the Xfinity customer service center without having to call individual partners for support or assistance.
As more companies integrate with Comcast’s partner platform, we sat down with two partners — Martin Heckmann, Director of Emerging Business at Chamberlain Group, Inc., and James McPhail, CEO of Zen Ecosystems — to find out what the certification process was like to join the Xfinity Home platform, the benefits of the partnership and what they have learned from it.
Readwrite: With all the channel opportunities out there, what led you to be a partner with Comcast’s Xfinity Home?
James McPhail: Our relationship with Comcast goes back many years. They were one of the original inspirations to build the Zen Thermostat. They shared our vision for a thermostat that was more attractive, simple and sleek – differentiating the Zen Ecosystems product from other connected devices on the market. Comcast actually encouraged us to start this adventure.
Martin Heckmann: We believed Comcast was doing great work to make the connected home a reality for consumers and we were proud to join their platform. It was a great opportunity for Chamberlain customers who have Xfinity Home to receive benefits such as alerts to their phones via the Xfinity Home mobile app every time their garage door opens or closes, which provides peace of mind.
RW: The selection criteria to be included in Comcast’s Xfinity home partner program is pretty rigorous — walk us through what you think of their expectations of you as a partner.
JM: The selection criteria are indeed rigorous, but absolutely make sense. Comcast tests every device with a dedicated engineering team. They have a platform with a vast configuration of various equipment that they continuously test, ensuring a more reliable device for their customers. The size and scale of their structured support is unmatched, allowing them to respond to and troubleshoot issues quickly and efficiently, making for happier customers. This helps us stay focused on improving our products.
MH: We were pleased to learn during the process that Comcast and Chamberlain are completely aligned in our expectations to provide the most advanced and secure connected devices and services to consumers.
RW: What did you have to do to prepare for this process? Was there anything unexpected?
JM: Comcast’s test team expressed their philosophy as “trust but verify.” While they wanted to review all the details of our product, they were also willing to collaborate on troubleshooting. It was never a pass/fail situation. They wanted us to be successful, but we needed to prove we could be! What surprised us initially was that many of their tests put the Zen Thermostat in very extreme conditions — well beyond those normally found in a customer’s home. While this initially felt excessive, through the process we learned about many of the atypical real-world situations that could potentially occur, and how our thermostat performed in those circumstances. As a result, we have a far better understanding of the ability of our product to perform in all kinds of conditions.
MH: Chamberlain had completed, or was in the process of completing, several other partner integrations during the integration with Comcast so there were really no surprises. That said, it was reassuring to see the rigor applied to the partner program at Comcast.
RW: Security issues are constantly a big factor in smart home deployments. What’s the relationship between your firm and Comcast on this critical issue to end customers?
JM: At Zen Ecosystems, the security of our devices is of the highest concern. We know from our engagement with Comcast that they are extremely diligent and rigorous on this issue. As a ZigBee device, connecting to the Xfinity Home hub, we are a member of the ZigBee Alliance, an organization whose members work to define a good balance between smart, usable devices and secure interactions between devices, and to certify that ZigBee devices are communicating according to protocol.
MH: Chamberlain and Comcast technical and customer support teams work very closely on an ongoing basis to monitor the technical integration and communication with customers.
RW: For other smart home technologies out there that are not part of the Xfinity Home program, what should they be thinking about if they’re considering it?
JM: There are a lot of benefits to engaging and working with Comcast. Daniel Herscovici, General Manager and Senior Vice President at Xfinity Home shared recently that the founding team, “are entrepreneurs at heart. We move quickly and pivot as needed to help us grow.” At the same time, Xfinity Home’s diligent testing process will absolutely help identify ways to improve your product that you may not have previously considered.
MH: As mentioned previously, the Comcast Xfinity Home partner program has high expectations of its partners. Any company considering joining the Xfinity Home partner program must be prepared to work collaboratively with Comcast to ensure the most secure technical integration and best in class consumer experience.
RW: How does this opportunity with Comcast’s Xfinity Home prepare you for the next channel launch? Did this process light a path towards “best practices” for this type of ecosystem building?
JM: Through working with Comcast, the Zen thermostat has evolved to be even better – while it was already simple, streamlined and attractively designed, we’ve been able to improve it even further. And, Comcast’s seal of approval absolutely carries weight and has already opened several doors for us. We look forward to expanding our network of world-class partners and adding our energy-saving thermostat to more home automation systems.
MH: This process reinforced Chamberlain’s plan to strategically partner with best in class connected-home solutions provider to offer consumers with the best experience and benefits that really matter in their everyday lives.
Many large companies seek partners especially those who are smaller and nimble as long as the quality of the product is intact. Partnering with a large company has many benefits as we learned from Martin and James – it makes sense to keep your options open as you find ways to bring your product to the masses. For those with a techy “smart” home device, feel free to check out Xfinity Home’s partner program to see if there are any opportunities to collaborate with Comcast.
This article was produced in partnership with Comcast.