Control system maker Control4 has announced its support for the KNX communication platform, promoting greater interoperability options for dealers. Paul Skelton reports.
Back in December 2017, Standards Australia announced it was ready to adopt ISO/IEC 14543.3 (Parts 1-6) Communication layers – Network-based control as Australian Technical Specifications.
ISO/IEC 14543.3 is best known as the backbone of KNX.
At the time, Ian Richardson, the chairman of KNX National Group Australia, and product training and technical specialist for the Electrification Products Division of ABB, spoke to Connected Home+Business about the decision.
“Integrators now have a choice of technical features and competitive offers from multiple vendors, with guaranteed interoperability between products. They can optimise their criteria for features, aesthetic appeal, capacity and price to suit the desired outcome of the project,” he said.
In what appears to be a case of fortuitous timing, less than 12 months later, control system giant Control4 announced the availability of a new solution that included KNX support within the Control4 OS and a new KNX product line.
At the 2018 CEDIA Expo in San Diego, California, Control4 announced the launch of more than 100 Control4 KNX products (a number that has since grown to be in excess of 200). These include new keypads, lighting, HVAC, blinds and rollers, and bus management products.
Then in February, at ISE 2019, the company further expanded on its initial KNX offering by adding native import capabilities for popular keypads from suppliers including Basalte, CJC Systems, Ekinex, Gira, Jung, Tense and Vitrium.
The new integration enabled home automation integrators to quickly add KNX keypads and create customised programming for a Control4 smart home project.
“KNX is a popular choice for lighting and HVAC integration by Control4 dealers, but it has been notoriously difficult to extend control to voice, audio and video entertainment,” says Control4 chairman and chief executive officer Martin Plaehn.
“By deeply integrating KNX products with Control4, we are bringing the power of Control4 AV entertainment, smart lighting, comfort and more to a breadth of new customers.”
Adam Merlino is director of Southern Asia and South Africa for Control4.
“The main focus here is the deep interoperability between KNX and Control4. It’s not like we have a ‘magic’ KNX product as such; it’s about delivering all of the conventional items necessary to deliver a complete, controlled lighting experience,” he says.
“We’re not reinventing anything with this range. At least, not yet…”
The new range allows C4 dealers to integrate adaptive phase dimmers, shadow relays, DALI interfaces, and fan and HVAC controllers, among others, with KNX.
“We haven’t gone into the building management side of things yet, though. For automation and programming, our dealers typically do all that in the Control4 environment,” Adam says.
The new Control4 KNX Network driver, supported in the latest Control4 OS release, natively connects to existing KNX devices within the home without requiring third-party integration. This new support for KNX enables interoperability with the entire Control4 ecosystem, including support for Amazon Alexa voice control, where available, and over 12,000 other connected products.
For home owners, the new Control4 KNX solution provides the full breadth of the Control4 experience, including intuitive ways to control and interact with a home through a mobile app, touch screens, handheld remote and voice control. Additionally, home owners now have the ability to directly fine-tune their smart home automation using When >> Then, a distinctive approach to home owner automation personalisation, not available in most KNX systems.
“When Control4 first announced its relationship with KNX at the 2018 CEDIA Expo, the initial focus was obviously the European market,” Adam says.
“Luckily, the new range benefits Australia too. It’s actually really good timing for our market; KNX is starting to build more momentum here.
“The fact the KNX is an open platform was a major draw for us. Control4 is also an open platform. We’re not proprietary. Other suppliers can choose to work with us and we will provide them with our API.”
Adam describes the situation as being “pretty good synergy”.
“We have a couple of really cool things in the Control4 KNX range, and they’re compatible with every other KNX product available globally.
“Control4 is now in the KNX ETS database as well. Dealers will need access to the ETS software to program these products.”
This integration makes it simple to tie programming—such as streaming audio—to a KNX keypad button-press or add Amazon Alexa voice control to lighting scenes where available.
“If we were going to add another lighting solution, we needed to make sure there was an easy way to keep our dealers efficient.”
When integrators use third-party lighting solutions, they have to program them in whatever language a supplier dictates. Then, the must manually enter every group address into the control system, which is very time-consuming.
“What we do, and it’s pretty amazing, is enable projects designed in ETS to automatically be pulled into our software,” Adam says.
“We can actually instantly import the whole ETS file into a Control4 project and then scan for changes, update and build automatically. This saves our dealers multiple hours.
“This functionality is also exclusive to Control4. It’s not available to every KNX product. It’s a solution that is purely for our dealers.
“Of course, they still need to be trained in KNX.”
Control4 does not currently offer KNX training.
“We’ll have a few more devices later this year for KNX. It’s now very much an inherent part of our international lighting offering at Control4.”