Key Digital Launches Compass Home Automation System

Compass Control builds on Key Digital's A/V switchers to control lights, shades, thermostats and other smart home subsystems.

Key Digital Launches Compass Home Automation System
Key Digital Compass Control for iOS devices
Julie Jacobson · May 9, 2012

Key Digital, one of the leading A/V switching vendors in the custom electronics channel, is branching out into home automation. The company is launching its first system this year called Compass Control.

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.

“All the control companies started to get into matrix switching,” says Glen Gentilin, national training manager. “Rather than sending customers to a [control] company that was getting into our business, we thought we should go ahead and create our own control system.”

Compass Control was built from the ground up with A/V switching and iOS devices in mind.

“We looked at what the iPad and iPhone could do and then we built a system around that,” Gentilin explains.

Key Digital president Mike Tsinberg adds, “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.”

Dan O’Donnell demonstrates Compass Control at the recent HTSA meeting

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.

Dealers program the system using Compass Control Navigator, which has a built-in “Intellibuilder” function to make all the connections automatically once the integrator has dropped equipment into the project.

A four-zone, two-source system will automatically configure in about three minutes using Intellibuilder, the company says.

Compass Pricing and Specs

Compared to other higher-end control systems, Compass is 30 percent to 50 percent “more affordable to the dealer,” says VP of sales Michael Lakhter.

He also believes that the architecture—along with Key Digital’s wide range of A/V switchers put the company in a unique position to “hit any market: high-end/low-end/middle commercial and residential.”

The MC2500 will have an MSRP of $2,500 with “traditional dealer margins.” The iOS apps can be downloaded for free, but there is a $300 retail licensing fee per interface (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch). Key digital does not yet have a timeline for the Android platform.

Key Digital is launching Compass Control through AVAD, and is currently training AVAD branches on the system. The company recently added three more tech-support positions for Compass, bringing the total to eight.

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.

Next year, Key Digital will release the MC5000 for large commercial building automation.

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)

Other configurations up to 256 zones will follow.

MC2500 Master Controller

Sample Compass Configuration (Click to enlarge)

Compass Control Navigator configuration software




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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics

News · Compass Control · Key Digital · All Topics
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