WebRTC World Feature Article

May 16, 2014

Details Emerge On Comcast's WebRTC-driven X1 Platform

It wasn't too long ago that Comcast's principal architect from the office of the CTO Chris Wendt first dropped word about how Comcast's new X1 platform would bring with it some Web-based real-time communications (WebRTC) capability when it became widely available in 2015. But now, further word has emerged to better note what those capabilities will bring to the user, and based on the current reports, Comcast's X1 is going to have quite a bit going for it when it arrives for the user.

Perhaps the biggest point that Comcast's X1 will bring with it is that any Comcast X1 user will be able to bring any wireless device the capability to present live video, essentially throwing a major boost to public access video by allowing for live streaming events. Comcast's example focused on a live streaming version of a little league game for out-of-town grandparents.

But there's also quite a bit on hand here for the television viewer, which isn't much of a surprise due to Comcast's offering. The TV guide channel will get some serious personalization capabilities, even bringing in a picture-in-picture display for the previous nine channels a user has viewed. The guide can also be navigated via voice command, and immediately after a show ends, it can be viewed via the on-demand menu, which is great for those with tight schedules.  The system can play back voicemail from any device, along with speech-to-text transcription functions and the ability to located the various devices owned by family members.

The data channel function of WebRTC also seems to be getting a workout, as there are a set of enhanced restrictions on kids' viewing as well as a means to patch in Comcast to home automation tools for remote operation of home systems. Both of these functions seem to be logical extensions of the data channel function that WebRTC boasts, one that some had wondered what the ultimate function of same would be when it first emerged. Now we have a better idea, of course, and Comcast's use seems to be just one of many possibilities.

Comcast made an appearance at Atlanta's WebRTC Expo in 2013, yet still managed to roll out the hardware and software platform for wide use in a little over a year's time from that exhibition. Though some also note some critical features seem missing in action as yet—particularly screen sharing and live video conferencing features—updates are expected to follow, as other cable operators start looking critically at Comcast X1 and prepare a similar operation to step in lest Comcast X1 prove a competitive advantage.

While Comcast has some issues that probably could have stood fixing before the lack of a powerful communications platform—Comcast's bandwidth caps are an issue for many, so too perceptions on pricing and service—there's likewise no denying that this is indeed a powerful communications platform. It's using some of the very latest technology to bring useful new features to the user base, and really opening up the floodgates in terms of future development, not just for Comcast but for a wider swath of the industry as well. WebRTC is likely to play a continuing role in these developments, not only for its connectivity capabilities but also for its data channel and similar functions. Comcast has a major property at work with the X1, one that may well give Comcast an edge in days to come.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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