Comcast's Xfinity Home Adds Voice Control, HD Security Cam

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Connected home enthusiasts have a conundrum: should you pick a platform and stick with it, or should you mix and match?

Comcast wants its Xfinity Home service to offer the best of both worlds. Today it added voice control and a new HD security camera to Xfinity Home's feature list, part of an overall strategy to please the set-it-and-forget-it crowd as well as home automation tinkerers.

The security camera, called xCam, will be available this summer and is one of Xfinity Home's core components—products sold by Comcast itself that come with professional installation and tech support. They complement third-party offerings certified to work with Xfinity, like the Nest thermostat. Many of the third-party products also work with competing platforms like Apple's HomeKit.

XCam can be installed indoors or outdoors, and features an ARM 9 processor, weather-resistant seal, 109-degree field of view, HD video, and infrared night vision. Its unique Wi-Fi antenna is located in the power brick, whose 12-foot cord will come in handy if you're installing the camera in an area with a weak Wi-Fi signal.

You can set the xCam to record video continuously or only when a certain sensor is tripped, like a motion detector or door alarm. In a demo at a San Francisco townhouse this week, the picture appeared very clear in the Xfinity Home apps for iPhone and Comcast's X1 TV platform, though there was quite a bit of video lag.

Voice control, which is already available on X1 TV remotes, is now compatible with xCam and the rest of the Xfinity Home suite. You can ask it to display a video feed or dim the lights just like you'd ask it to change the channel to ESPN.

There are already 7 million customers using the X1 voice-control platform, and 40,000 more devices are installed every day, according to Comcast Senior Vice President Sridhar Solur. It is this reach that is perhaps Xfinity's strongest asset when it comes to winning over connected home enthusiasts. Even if they're averse to giving Comcast more in monthly fees (the Xfinity Home automation package starts at $20 per month), there's something to be said for using one remote or app for everything, from changing the TV channel to opening the garage door.

In a sign that enthusiasts may be warming to the platform, 70 percent of support calls when Xfinity Home launched last year were for advice on what products to buy, not troubleshooting requests, according to the program's general manager Daniel Herscovici.

Still, Solur acknowledged that home security and automation are the epitome of a first-world problem. Winning over people who have never considered security cameras or smart lights before is one of Comcast's key challenges.

"These things will only get better," he said. "This is a start."

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