Key Digital Enters Control System Market by Lindsey Adler
Taking the plunge into the already-crowded control system market, Key Digital introduced its Compass Control product line to press at its Mount Vernon, NY headquarters this week.
Tsinberg, founder and president of Key Digital, said that his company’s
investment in control technology started around 2010, and he “sees it
as a natural growth to connectivity,” which Key Digital is already
known for, also noting that “our customers demanded it” in both the
residential and commercial markets.
Key Digital's Compass Control system's iPad app.
demand was more a result of product complexity and the level of tech
support Key Digital offers than any fault in the existing control
system offerings. Tsinberg said users that are comfortable with the
brand wanted to extend their positive experiences into control.
major influence in the decision to launch Compass Control was the
“tsunami” that occurred in the control market when Apple’s iOS mobile
devices entered the playing field. Viewing the iPad as a game-changer,
Tsinberg jump-started the investment in control system technology. “We
want to ride the tsunami, not be swept by it,” he said.
Control is distinguished in part because it was built from the ground
up to use iOS devices as its backbone with Key Digital’s established
digital video hardware supporting the system; for the initial release,
this comes as the MC2500 driver, which is the brain or master
controller of the system. Additional drivers and accessories, including
an in-wall charging plate, are scheduled for an extended launch in line
with CEDIA EXPO in the fall.
The system works via
bi-directional IR, two-way RS-232 with feedback, and two-way TCP/IP, as
well as relays and sensors. Three different database managers are
available to installers for programming, and they can also edit command
code sets for individual customization.
Tested driver support
for a wide range of hardware is provided from Compass Alliance Partners
(CAP). Thus far, CAP includes Aprilaire, Boston Acoustics, ClearOne,
Denon, Furman, ICRealtime Security Solutions, iPort, LG, Lutron, Luxul,
Marantz, MechoSystems, Onkyo, Panamax, Primeview, Russound, SurgeX, and
WolfVision. This network allows Compass Control to extend its reach
beyond the scope of audiovisual technology to “everything that lives on
the network,” noted Jonathon Ferry, technical group manager for Key
Ferry demonstrated the intuitive functionality of the
app, employing standard flick and slide function, as well as a pop-up
remote feature to control selected video displays.
system works with any third-party hardware, the advantage of the CAP
alliance is that the partners have provided support from engineering
teams and command code sets for control to Key Digital’s engineering,
allowing them to test the products in-house and provide direct
Front and back views of Key Digital's MC2500 driver, the brain of the Compass Control System.
preparation for such a major product release, the digital video
connectivity provider amped up tech support 30 percent in the last few
months. The tech support staff works directly with Key Digital’s
in-house engineering team, providing customers instant access to
designers. Tsinberg described his engineers as extensions of technical
Compass Control was also beta tested internationally
from Singapore to Russia and Norway, acknowledging the different
methods of installation employed by dealers and integrators in
The MC2500 has an MSRP of $2,500, and
individual licenses must also be purchased for each iOS device used, at
$300 per license. All other technical support and apps will be free.
Compass Control will be distributed by AVAD, and there are no plans for
the system to become available via traditional retail channels.
conceptual development of Compass Control was heavily influenced by
Apple’s mobile device platforms, so the natural progression would be to
offer Android compatibility as well; however, Tsinberg doesn’t feel the
Android environment works well enough in terms of reliability for such
an extensive control system as Compass. He noted that for commodity
consumers, Android works very well, but pointed to the variations in
the operating system between different devices as a challenge to
broader use. “Android is not yet at the level of reliability for our
customers,” he said. Eventually, “they probably will be there,” he
continued. “We’re watching [Android] and will try to integrate with
them when we feel that it’s ready.”
Glenn Gentilin, national
training manager, ran through the Navigator software for attending
press, citing some programming details and how Apple is a strong
control partner. Key Digital is a licensed MFI (made for iPhone)
developer and distributor; this affords them deeper access to Apple
resources, he said, while they are not constrained by any limits of
Aside from the software’s apparent
simplicity, the most groundbreaking feature stressed is an artificial
intelligence interface that is built in. This “intelli-builder” auto
creates pages, actions, and buttons, among other elements. The feature
works off an algorithm that basically does most of the programming work
for installers by applying IR codes from basic information that dealers
Dan O’Donnell, national sales manager, has previewed
the process for dealers in a video and, “their jaws just drop,” he
said. “I can’t wait to show it at InfoComm.”
Key Digital will have dealer sign-up and training courses for Compass Control at InfoComm 2012 in Las Vegas.