Sept 28, 2012

How the Comcast Hardware Innovation Platform Powers Tomorrow's Technology

Innovation is central to Comcast's plans for the future — rapid, compelling and meaningful innovation that enhances the lives of our customers.

We have a number of initiatives underway to foster innovation, including the new Comcast Hardware Innovation Platform. Affectionately known by its acronym, CHIP was designed to make it faster and easier to deliver innovation to our customers. Engineers in Comcast Labs are using CHIP to test new innovative services that work with our Xfinity wireless gateway and could be rolled out to customers in the future. These services are being tested both in our labs and in trial participants' homes.

So, what is CHIP? Technically speaking, it's an application development platform based on the Bug Labs open, modular hardware system. Comcast partnered with Manhattan startup, Bug Labs, to create the CHIP platform and to provide curriculum materials and program support. Bug Labs' engineers worked closely with us to design and build the new, custom hardware and software modules for CHIP.

An easy way to think of CHIP is to picture it as a Lego-like hardware platform that lets us test out new hardware and software offerings, prior to making them widely available.

Here's how it works. The Bug Labs integrated development environment, called Dragonfly, supports more than 20 modular hardware extensions, including cordless phones, WiFi, 3G data, media streaming, cable modems and Zigbee wireless modules, to name just a few. Each of these modules are plug & play, meaning they can snap onto CHIP, to interact with Java-based applications written by our software developers. As a result, we're able to quickly and efficiently test new services and features. For example, we're looking at applications that could let customers control lighting in their homes or their thermostats remotely.

Comcast recently put CHIP through its paces by seeking out 10 high-potential college and graduate students for the summer of 2012. These students came from USC, Michigan, Villanova, Penn and Harvard. They worked together in two teams during the summer to create compelling, new and innovative applications using the CHIP hardware and software. Each group solved complex home automation problems, such as automated lighting, facial recognition and new consumer-facing applications on cable set top boxes using the platform. Stay tuned for more on these innovations. We'll be posting details about them soon.

In addition to the work we're doing with CHIP in Comcast Labs, we're working with select universities to introduce CHIP for use in research and senior design projects. CHIP allows students and researchers to rapidly create new hardware and software-based gateway applications and then to trial them in trial participants' homes, attached to the super fast, Comcast, 100+ Megabit Internet.

So what's the future for CHIP? Plans are underway for CHIP 2.0, upgrading the hardware platform to a more powerful processor, which will allow for even more solutions to be realized. One of the key areas of focus is called the "Internet of Things." Briefly, this technology allows small devices to communicate with each other. For example, the simple light bulb of today gets a wireless module added to it, in the future. On CHIP, a software developer will be able to write an application that controls these new light bulbs automatically, in response to certain events or conditions.

CHIP is one of many ways we're making innovation real though Comcast Labs. We're excited to be working on new features that will provide compelling services to our great customers. Stay tuned for updates and developments.

Tags : Bug Labs, CHIP, Comcast Hardware Innovation Platform, Comcast Labs

 
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