Control4 and Card Access components are found under “My Devices,” while other components are added by searching Control4’s online library. Searching is generally straightforward, but definitely works better with the model number, rather than the brand name. “There’s an app for that” was Apple’s catchy way of kicking off all of the cool stuff you could do on an iPhone back in 2009. And while that was an over-ambitious statement back then, today there truly is an app for virtually everything. So it’s no real surprise that automation companies would embrace app-based programming, a trend definitely front-and-center at this year’s CEDIA EXPO. This is exactly what Control4 has done with its new Composer Express app for iOS and Android. While Control4’s reputation is already that it’s easier to program, Composer Express takes this notion even further.
Control4 developed a six-module online training course explaining Express. The videos step viewers through the app-based programming process, from setting-up new customers, to registering new accounts and controllers, to designing and identifying systems, to making bindings and connections. Recognizing the largest barrier to dealer growth has been finding enough skilled labor to support job demand, Control4 designed the app and training to get new techs and novice programmers up and running more quickly. By simplifying initial system set-up via Express, dealers can reserve high-level programmers for more complex jobs where they are needed most.
Only Control4 dealers with a certified programmer on staff and a Composer Pro account can use the app, thus any accounts created via Express are automatically added to the dealer’s main account. Composer Express only connects to controllers running Control4’s OS 2.6 and requires an active internet connection and being on the same LAN as the controller.
When the app first opens, you are given the option of adding a new customer account or connecting to a local system that displays all controllers running Director on the network. Systems can also be manually added by IP address if they don’t appear automatically for some reason.
Once connected you are presented with four choices: Settings, Design, Tools, and Info. Under “Settings” the project is named, time and location (using zip code look-up for Lat/Long coordinates for astronomic timeclock) are set, lighting defaults and information–like owner address and email and dealer contact and programming notes–are entered. “Tools” allows checking status of devices–what is online and what isn’t–seeing if any system updates are available and initiating updates, refreshing Navigators, and clearing the project. (Wisely, clearing a project requires typing “YES” and hitting, “OK, Clear Project,” to help prevent any accidental clicks.) “Info” displays whom the account is registered to, the controller’s IP, MAC, and UUID, and the versions of Director, Navigator Media Manager, and Control4 API.
“Design” is where rooms and devices are added and where the brunt of work is performed. While not difficult to begin with, Control4 has simplified the process of adding Zigbee and SDDP (Simple Device Discovery Protocol) devices even further in Express. For Zigbee devices, simply tap the device–dimmers or keypads, for example–four times. The system recognizes and automatically adds the correct driver, meaning no more looking at a dimmer and wondering if its forward phase, phase adaptive, LED, or regular; just tap and the system adds the right one. SDDP Certified devices appear in a discovered list with a “+” next to them, letting you easily add them to the correct rooms of a project.
Control4 and Card Access components are found under “My Devices,” while other components are added by searching Control4’s online library. Searching is generally straight forward, but definitely works better with the model number, rather than the brand name. For instance searching “Kaleidescape” showed 0 drivers, but “M500” displayed the movie player I wanted…along with 97 other things. You can use the iPhone’s microphone to speak into any text entry window, useful for naming devices like “Fireplace Left Keypad.”
SDDP Certified devices appear in a discovered list with a “+” next to them, letting you easily add them to the correct rooms of a project. Composer Express only connects to controllers running Control4’s OS 2.6 and requires an active internet connection and being on the same LAN as the controller. After adding devices, connection bindings (ie. Blu-ray HDMI out to receiver Blu-ray HDMI in; Blu-ray IR connected to HC-250 IR out 2) are made. With a phone’s portability, it’s natural to do this part while sitting behind a rack, making bindings as you go. Keypad buttons can be assigned to individual light loads or assigned to any scenes that have been created in Composer.
While there’s a “Control” tab, it is hit and miss for testing. For instance, lights responded correctly, but my Marantz pre-pro wouldn’t respond to on or off or adjust volume, even though the driver performs perfectly in normal use.
All advanced configuring like creating Agents such Variables, Custom Buttons, Lighting Scenes, Timers or Scheduler events and Programming features must be done in Composer Pro.
After installing the app on my iPad and iPhone, I connected to Control4 systems at my home, my showroom, and a client’s house, and very quickly realized that the app is another great tool in the installer’s tool bag. While it doesn’t replace Composer Pro, it definitely augments and complements it. For instance, checking if a device was online, it was natural to whip out my phone instead of walking over to my laptop. A wireless power outlet that fell off my system following an update to 2.6 was easily disconnected and re-identified using the app, saving me from having to pull out and boot-up a laptop.
For initial set up and commissioning, Express can offer significant time savings. Not to mention it adds the convenience of walking around a jobsite adding and configuring devices. Plus it helps train-up new techs and brings them up-to-speed with Control4 much quicker, improving your workforce. To top it off, Composer Express is available to all Control4 dealers totally free. It’s a full-circle win and there’s absolutely no reason not to give it a try.
Kudos Completely free to dealers; simplified set-up of systems; online tutorial helpful for novice programmers
Concerns Device searching and controlling devices can be spotty
Product Specs • Available at no charge for iOS and Android mobile devices • 2.6 megs (iOS), 1.9 megs (Android) • Requires Control4 controller (HC-800, HC-250, HC-1000) to be running OS 2.6 or later • Supports adding devices via Zigbee, SDDP, or via Control4’s online database • Create, and edit device connections and bindings • Can check software versions and initiate updates as needed • Must be connected to Internet and same LAN as controller to function