(Todd Ellermann is Head of Client Platforms for the Digital Home team at Comcast. In this Q&A he discusses his approach to getting the most out of technology teams, and the fast pace evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape)
Q: What do you do at Comcast?
A: First, let me say I’m truly excited to be a part of the Comcast family. I have been humbled and impressed by how great the teams are here and how committed everyone is to raising the bar on the customer experience. My role as head of client platforms in Digital Home has me focused on leading teams to build the best consumer applications, Android, iOS, Web, X1, and Voice to manage and automate the Digital Home.
Q: Can you say more about the customer experience?
A: I spent the last nine years at TripAdvisor, and my past experience has been very consumer oriented and data driven. In recent years, Comcast has been on a mission to deliver an exceptional customer experience at every interaction. I hope to leverage my background and experience in order to help us advance that mission. Specifically, I’m excited about the organization’s move towards NPS (Net Promoter Score) which enables companies to measure the consumer experience. It’s a critical part of goals we’re driving towards.
Q: What are your engineering priorities for this next 12 months?
A: In the IoT space, there’s tremendous explosion of growth happening. One of the critical issues I am working towards is having clearly focused metrics drive our feature and resource prioritizations. Comcast recently completed the acquisition of Icontrol networks, and is in the process establishing a new IoT Center of Excellence in Austin to support our XFINITY Home platform. I am focused on completing that integration and delivering the most value for customers with our teams. I have great engineers in Austin and Philadelphia building applications and want to make sure we work closely together. Also, we’re seeing tremendous results with the mid-year launch of XFi and I’m looking forward to sharing ideas across all different teams inside the Digital Home. I want us marching towards a similar goal, which is a great digital home consumer experience.
Q: Where do you see the digital home market heading over the next several years?
A: The smart home will require significant processing and computing. IoT is really a conversation about the sensors we’re going to put in the homes. Once we do that, we need to push computing power to the edge to ensure those sensors are providing timely feedback and experiences to the consumer.
There’s going to be an explosion of sensors and things happening around the home. There’s going to be radical improvement in the computing power and features available. It’s not too long before we will be thinking about our home as a member of our family that we communicate with and that communicates with us.
Q: Will it happen at once? Or is this a gradual progression?
A: Technology change continues to accelerate. We are in the infancy in the IoT space but I think the acceleration of cycle time is happening such that soon there will be compelling consumer experiences driving us towards more and more IoT devices in the home. Today, a lot of IoT is novelty or for the early adopters, not the general public. But we’re starting to see truly compelling consumer experiences that actually expand your security and peace of mind in ways that a door lock by itself doesn’t.
The other thing that’s going to be challenging as we have this explosion of devices in our home is dealing with consumers’ increasing questions around the value proposition of all this technology. We need to show that IoT technology can truly make people’s lives better, and do so in a way that’s intuitive and easy to use.
Q: What technology stacks and languages are primarily used in the Digital Home?
A: We have some incredibly talented engineers using Swift on the iOS platform space and Java and Kotlin in the Android space and we are big proponents of and players in the Polymer space. We’re building single page web applications and have a mix of native and hybrid experiences. We think that Hybrid and Polymer are really interesting ways to build and ship MVP products out the door quickly, to test them and see that they offer a compelling user experience to consumers.
Q: What are some of the biggest technology challenges your Digital Home teams face?
A: There are some real challenges for every company attempting to model an IoT world. That is, we must figure out how to identify and empower lots of different devices to enter into our home. Then we must make sure it’s easy for them to participate in our ecosystem. In many cases, we don’t yet know what that device is even going to be. That’s definitely a technical challenge for the industry.
Also, the security in the automation industry is changing. As it evolves beyond the traditional monitor-and-alarm system towards a continuous experience that broadly represents peace of mind, a key challenge will be identifying our customers expectations and exceeding them.