One of the leading A/V switching vendors in the installed high-end electronics world, Key Digital, is branching out into home automation. With the new system, called Compass Control, Key Digital joins URC and Somfy as another company offering intuitive home automation to customers looking for more modest control solutions.
Once upon a time, traditional home control companies focused on the staples – lights, thermostats, home theaters, for example—and mostly left A/V switching to the specialty manufacturers. But that changed in the past few years.
While the customer sees the interface—the touchpanel or keypad—as the most important part of a home control systems, the system’s ability to quickly and reliably manage connections and switching that makes the difference between system success and failure. No matter how good it looks, the system has to work.
Compass Control was built from the ground up with A/V switching and iOS devices in mind.
Key Digital president Mike Tsinberg notes, “We see control as a natural growth on top of connectivity. We know what displays and sources need to work because of our connectivity background. That’s what makes us different from other iPad-based control manufacturers.”
Leading with A/V Switches
Not surprisingly, the core of the solution is Key Digital’s own switching devices. The company believes many sales begin with whole-house audio and video; why not add lighting control and energy management on top of that?
Key Digital national sales manager Dan O’Donnell says A/V switchers can be one of the more complicated pieces to integrate into a whole-house solution.
“A lot of dealers who do matrixes are either doing super high-end,” he says, “or they’re buying third-party switchers and using RF controllers so they’re not getting feedback and full interaction. Often, two-way communications is the hardest part.”
Currently, Compass is being beta-tested with Lutron’s Radio Ra 2 suite, including thermostat, lighting and shade control. Thus, says Gentilin, Key Digital brings two major ingredients to the Lutron ecosystem—multiroom audio and video.
“There are a lot of loyal Lutron dealers installing Radio Ra,” he says, “but there really is no simple way to add A/V switching to the mix without investing in a bigger system that may be overkill.”
With Compass, dealers need only a Key Digital A/V switcher, such as the KD-HDMS4X4 Hercules, and a forthcoming MC2500 Master Controller for integration. Those two pieces and the Radio Ra simply plug into the home network shared by iPads, iPhones and other iOS devices for integrated control of the subsystems.
Meanwhile, Key Digital is working with other vendors in its newly coined Compass Alliance Partner (CAP) program. Next up will be Aprilaire, Boston Acoustics, ClearOne, Denon, Furman, ICRealtime, iPort, LG, Lutron, Luxul, Marantz, MechoSystems, Onkyo, Panamax, Primeview, Russound, SurgeX, and Wolfvision.
Compass Pricing and Specs
Compared to other higher-end control systems, Compass is 30 percent to 50 percent “more affordable,” says VP of sales Michael Lakhter.
The MC2500 will have an MSRP of $2,500. Key digital does not yet have a timeline for the Android platform.
The system, which will be demonstrated publicly for the first time at Infocomm in June, is expected to be released in September during CEDIA Expo 2012.
The MC2500 Master Controller features:
• LAN port (1)
• Mini-plug connectors for control of sources, displays and subsystems via IR or RS-232 or sensors (8)
• Contacts for relay control (2)
• RS-232 port for two-way control with feedback (1)
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.
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