Comcast’s machineQ gets serious about the IoT

Fresh with a new website, expansion plans and a far more clearly defined pitch to potential customers, it’s apparent that Comcast’s machineQ is transitioning from a concept to an actual product that the cable giant is selling to real customers.

For example, Comcast’s machineQ is now promising customers it will build out a LoRa-based IoT network in other markets beyond its current 15, and is urging IoT shoppers to “bring us your connectivity needs and we’ll customize a coverage plan for your region and solution.” The company also offers guides and devices for customers wishing to build out a new IoT service—as well as a “conversion guide” that allows customers to switch from an existing IoT service to one that uses LoRa.

And machineQ’s new “Connectivity OnDemand” launches sometime this month and promises to allow customers to “use our e-commerce platform to purchase gateways that are provisioned to our network. Select the gateway type, quantity, and shipment location for your specific solution needs.”

Comcast said the product will work “anywhere in the U.S.,” which could indicate the future addition of either cellular or satellite options to machineQ’s current LoRa network, which is up and running in more than a dozen markets today including Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle and elsewhere.

And as part of its sales pitch, Comcast is highlighting a number of machineQ case studies, including a connected parking sensor, connected utility meters and connected rodent traps.

Further, a detailed white paper from the company (available at the end of this article) also laid out Comcast’s argument as to why potential IoT customers should pick its machineQ LoRa network over similar, cellular-based offerings from the likes of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

“Unlike cellular networks and the powerful endpoint devices (e.g., smartphones) they were designed to support, LPWANs were envisioned and designed for low-complexity endpoint devices,” the document read. “In publicly available cellular pricing, connectivity costs can exceed $25 per sensor per year. In contrast, LPWAN connectivity costs range from $1-$15 per sensor per year. This cost difference means that being able to choose an LPWAN for your IoT solution can garner two to five times the savings over cellular options.”

However, a Comcast spokesperson declined to provide specific machineQ service and device pricing, noting that it varies by customer. Comcast relies on LoRa suppliers including Semtech and Murata. He also explained that it’s still very early days for Comcast’s machineQ, and the business is still building out its operations.

Related: Editor’s Corner—The IoT’s startup LPWAN market is showing signs of stress

MachineQ’s new website, and its refined business pitch, indicate Comcast's hopes to be a major player in the nascent but potentially explosive market for IoT connections. That’s noteworthy considering Comcast faces no shortage of competition in the space: Providers ranging from Verizon to AT&T to Sigfox to Ingenu to Dish Network to Senet have all promised to build out their own IoT-focused low-power, wide-area wireless networks (LPWANs) in the United States, in the hopes of connected gadgets ranging from pet collars to tractor trailers.