Comcast's Werner: IoT services for aging Boomers will help drive cable network demand

New Orleans -- The growth of IoT devices will continue to place increasing demands on cable networks. Behind that growth will be a burgeoning array of connected monitoring, safety and security devices targeted to an aging Baby Boomer population.

So said Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) CTO Tony Werner, speaking during a wide-ranging General Session panel at the SCTE Cable-Tec trade show. "We have the same number of Baby Boomers right now as we do millennials," he said. With this aging populace will come all sorts of unforeseen IoT devices that will address what he calls "accessibility issues."

"It's why we will continue to invest heavily in cloud-based products," Werner added.

Speaking alongside Werner, CableLabs President and CEO Phil McKinney also said the "aging in place" of a relatively large population sector is an under-rated factor in projecting network demand growth. "I was recently asked how many connected devices I have in my home, and I ended up counting 41," he said. "In the future, we're going to have loads more sensors delivering data."

Panelist Balan Nair, CTO for Liberty Global, projected IoT to include 50 billion devices by 2020, with the overall market totaling $3 billion. "When there's complexity like that, there's opportunity," he said. 

One of the opportunities, Balan added, is the ability to collect large quantities of data. He said Liberty collects 30 terabytes a day on its customers' video viewing habits, far outstripping social.

Steering back onto generational issues, both Werner and panel operator Patrick Esser, president of Cox Communications, brought up the challenge of keeping the young technology talent working for them in the fold. Esser estimated that 60 percent of Charter's frontline employees are under the age of 35.

"We're trying to create an environment where we hire good people and make them stay so we're not a training ground," Werner said.

Nair said these younger engineering employees bring a fresh perspective to cable business that's working really hard to move technologically faster. "They come in and ask, 'You're pushing out software updates only three times this year? That's how you're doing this?'"

Nair also received applause from the packed auditorium when he noted that his younger charges lacked some basic social skills. "A lot of times, we also find ourselves saying, 'Really, mom and dad should have taught you this. Pick up the phone, be nice, and smile.'" 

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