Key Digital Introduces Compass Control
Home and commercial control system developed specifically for iOS devicesMay 7, 2012 By Jeff O'Heir
Key Digital's new Compass Control system, scheduled for a roll out this summer at InfoComm, is the first developed specifically on Apple's iOS 5-based devices, giving it what company executives say is an advantage over other systems currently sold through custom installers and specialty dealers.
Some of those advantages include iOS 5 devices' (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) natural capacity as controllers, the proven software platform, and the rigorous testing process all Apple-related apps go through, said Mike Tsingberg, founder and president of Key Digital, based in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
"The iPad is such a comfortable, well-working product, and it has all the elements people are looking for in a controller," he said, adding that the system is designed to use iPads as the main controller and iPhones and iPod touch devices as secondary controllers.
As a developer and manufacturer of digital A/V switchers, processors, cables, and HDMI connectivity products, Key Digital's other advantages is that the company has a long history of manufacturing products compatible with control systems, Tsingberg said.
"When two products are made in the same place, the user has more confidence in them," he said. "The products will probably work better together when they are tested together. One brand doesn't always test well with another, that's why testing is so important in the control market."
Key Digital recently increased its tech support staff to eight people, from five. They sit next to and train with the company's eight engineers. The technical support staff can quickly put them on the phone if a dealer has a question or problem in the field, Tsingberg said.
The two main hardware products Tsingberg referred to are the KD-MC2500 master controller (SRP $2,500) and the KD-HD8XBT HDMI matrix switcher, which is designed to greatly expand the capabilities and reach of the controller. Other key components of Compass Control include the Compass Navigator programming system, and the KD-WPCB and WPCW wallplates (due in September), for in-wall iPad mounting and charging.
Key Digital charges $300 for each iOS device license. The Compass Control app is free from the Apple App Store. Dealers are required to undergo free Web-based and/or face-to-face training. Glenn Gentilin, Key Digital's national training manager, said he and his team recently held trainings for about 100 dealers. "The easier we make it (the programming and installation process) for dealers, the better," he said.
The company will sell the system direct to dealers and through AVAD. Compass Control is also suitable for the commercial market. Key Digital plans to make the higher-end MC5000 master controller available for that market later this fall.
The Compass Alliance Partners (CAP) Program includes driver support for control/HVAC from Aprilaire, Lutron and MechoShade Home Solutions; power conditioning from Furman, Panamax and SurgeX; audio from Boston Acoustics, Denon, Integra, iPort, Marantz, Onkyo and Russound; conferencing from ClearOne; networking from Luxul and Pakedge; surveillance from ICRealtime; video from Key Digital, LG, Primeview, and WolfVision.
Key Digital has no immediate plans to launch an Android-based version of Compass Control, saying the platform is not yet ready to support a full-blown control system.
"Android is not there yet. I don't know when they will, but they do have to be there," he said, adding that Key Digital will seriously think of using the platform when it's ready. "But iOS is ready. It's a good, quality infrastructure."
The secret sauce is the interface to the system, Tsingberg said, which is the fully customizable and includes pre-set and customizable templates. "If you don't make (the entire system) plug-and-play, the dealers will be stuck at the (customer's house) for three weeks," he said.