Comcast has acquired PowerCloud Systems, parent company to Skydog, developers of monitoring software for Wi-Fi management and manufacturers of router hardware to implement these solutions. The terms of the deal have not been publicly disclosed. Comcast is expecting to deploy this technology in 2015, though no details have been released.
This acquisition for Comcast clearly points to a strategy incorporating Smart Home functionality into the XFinity platform. The key element of a cohesive Smart Home consists of a robust home network, which now includes powerful Wi-Fi as a means to enable home management solutions, video distribution and portability of content. The Skydog cloud management platform acts as a catalyst for much of this functionality. Skydog had produced proprietary routers for its Wi-Fi management software, and though it has promised to honor support for three years, it is no longer pursuing this business model under Comcast. These legacy routers are equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi functionality, though 802.11ac will likely be the next specification utilized by Comcast.
The software suite allows for prioritization of Wi-Fi spectrum and requests by device and content, as well as access management of all devices on the home Wi-Fi network. Prioritization is vital to the integrity of video delivery over a medium such as Wi-Fi, and implementation of this allows for a higher quality of service for carrier grade HD video on any screen on the home network. The platform also manages every device on the home network, to include Smart Home hardware that transmits data over Wi-Fi to a central location. Comcast already employs the use of a multimedia home gateway (MHG) as a central pillar of home content management in its X1 deployments. Incorporating Wi-Fi management onboard the MHG could be a very important element of a suite of services to bring whole home network management into one visual space.
This acquisition underlines an established trend of service providers looking to avoid becoming the “dumb pipe,” or acting merely as a supplier of bandwidth, by instead focusing on smarter Internet and home networking strategies, with strong focus on analytics, management, and remote diagnosing of internet issues in order to improve quality of service and reduce call center pressure and truck rolls. A number of broadband CPE suppliers have also developed software network management interfaces, but Comcast’s investment into such technology represents a shift to operator-based solutions. The acquisition further highlights the growing importance of service provider hardware in the connected home, rather than its much speculated decline.
While it is possible that Comcast will keep this as an in-house technology, it is most likely that Comcast intends to incorporate it into the Reference Design Kit (RDK) software platform, and make it available to other RDK licensees. RDK Management LLC, a joint venture between Comcast Cable, Liberty Global and Time Warner Cable, has more than 140 licensees. The scalability of such a technology through three of the largest cable companies on the planet, as well as through all licensees, allows the software platform a massive potential market.