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Savant Conference Report

"Savant" comes from the French word for "knowing." While waiting for the coffee to kick in this morning, I realized that this etymology anchored Savant Systems' Dealer Conference, held May 2-4 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts -- the tranquil island where the company is based.

“Savant” comes from the French word for “knowing.” While waiting for the coffee to kick in this morning, I realized that this etymology anchored Savant Systems’ Dealer Conference, held May 2-4 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts — the tranquil island where the company is based.

While Savant is a relatively new name in the control, automation, and switching industry, it will celebrate its third CEDIA this year, and is proud of its numerous alliances with major diverse manufacturers through its Excellence in AV Program.

It considers itself the most “open” of its peers, an electronics manufacturer with a radically new concept, said Jim Carroll, company president. What makes it so different? Its products are open architecture and open standards-based. What’s more, many of its new products leverage Apple end-programming and automation technology. Included in Mac OS X, Apple’s Automator operating system helps create or edit automated workflows of computing tasks.

The quote behind Savant president Jim Carroll: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” PHOTOS BY: Joseph Tabacca Photography

Savant’s Apple-friendliness caught the attention of system integrator Aaron Andrew. “I install AppleTV, which clients like,” he said, “and clients used to iTunes can use this system easily. Clients appreciate it.”

Andrew, president of the successful Mission Viejo firm Audio Video Design, was one of the 100 custom integrators who joined the conference this year. Sixty percent of the attendees were already Savant dealers, while the remainder traveled to scenic Cape Cod to explore new products and meet Savant engineers. There are about half a dozen major manufacturers jockeying for market share in the residential control systems category. According to recent figures from CEDIA and the CEA, there are approximately 6,000 custom dealers in the U.S., and related sales topped $8 million last year. Savant says that its typical integrator averages $2 million in sales per annum.

Company executives consider their products nothing less than “game changing” because of the convergence of IT, AV, and interactivity. “We are trying to change an industry,” said Bob Madonna, Savant CEO. “Our mission is to program complex AV systems without writing code.”

Madonna also extolled the virtues of Racepoint Blueprint, which is the heart of Savant’s software. Racepoint Blueprint is an open, multi-layered graphically based operating system that impacts every aspect of a custom installer’s business, from operations, labor, procedures and methods, to billing. It supports Savant’s expanding hardware portfolio as well as third-party components and subsystems, Madonna explained.

More than half of this year’s 80 attendees were authorized Savant dealers.During the Dealer Conference, Sal Soghoian, product manager of Automation Technologies for Apple Inc., gave a riveting presentation on why people use automation, and how the classic benefits of automation apply to Savant’s innovative approach for the home. He closed his talk with a demonstration of converting a story posted on a website to a spoken audio file stored on an iPhone. Then Soghoian showed how to create workflows on the fly.

In the classic Socratic sense, “asking” is integral to “knowing.” Perhaps that is why Savant asked dealers to give their feedback on each product in the live, interactive vignettes. Marketing director Craig Spinner explained that the feedback from last year’s conference was not only helpful, but it also assisted engineers in developing six new “Rosie” products, including multi-room audio/video controllers and high-definition LCD Touch TVs with built-in IP connectivity.

Savant’s sleek new touchscreen keypads with customizable interfaces. The new Savant-branded keypads were handsome and easy to use, and there were also new streaming video components and a multi-room AV switching component via the Rosie 12, a new thin, behind-the-TV box introduced to drive the OSD onscreen display. Last but not least was the “candy dish” remote, a real conversation piece that put Savant on the map when it first entered the market. The hand-held jog-wheel remote features satisfying weight and tactile control, which is a god-send for iPod-enthusiasts. All of the new products are now available.

The Rosie Coffee Table created a stir last year when it debuted. It is equipped with a 40-inch touch surface and can download music, movies, and photos instantly. It syncs iTunes libraries, IP-networked digital cameras, and business card readers from the graphical user interface. Savant says that the Coffee Industry veterans like Randy Massey, Bill Skaer, and Randy Presley were invited to Cape Cod for a closer look at Savant’s line of Rosie touchscreen products.Table is the next stage of interactive technology as it brings the converged functionality of a touchpanel to an interactive surface that’s exciting for the whole family. Mainstream media ate up the Apple-based Coffee Table, which slightly resembles the Microsoft Surface Technology Table that launched a year after Rosie.

While the Coffee Table is a sleek glass surface, it isn’t a crystal ball. Savant can’t predict the future, but it says it can ensure future business stability with scaleable and robust solutions. Open-standards and code-free programming can help dealers move as the market moves and grow as the market grows. “It’s evolution,” Carroll added. To Savant, “knowing” is a verb, noun, and adjective, but it’s also a state of mind.

Spinner added that this year’s conference saw a 75-percent growth in attendance over last year, and that the network of Savant-authorized integrators grows every day.