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Savant: Join the Apple Feeding Frenzy

Savant's opening night cocktail reception featured the famous NYC skyline. During the opening keynote for Savant’s fourth-annual dealer event, held June 23-25 in the SoHo section on New York City, company CEO Bob Madonna

Savant’s opening night cocktail reception featured the famous NYC skyline.
During the opening keynote for Savant’s fourth-annual dealer event, held June 23-25 in the SoHo section on New York City, company CEO Bob Madonna encouraged dealers and reps in attendance to “join the Apple feeding frenzy,” by selling home automation based around the Apple iPad, which, he said, is a format consumers around the world already understand and embrace.

Savant has been completely Apple based since 2005, when Bob Madonna and Jim Carroll co-founded the company based on a business model from their previous telecomm company. The idea was to eliminate the need to write programming code to automate and control a home. The introduction of the iPad, Madonna said, practically fell into Savant’s lap, no pun intended, bringing even more functionality and acceptance to the integration platform.

 Savant CEO Bob Madonna opens the company’s dealer conference with new product news (above) then explains more about them at Savant’s NYC Experience Center in SoHo.

Savant utilized the New York City setting of its annual Dealer Conference to showcase its evolving Experience Center, which is located in the SoHo neighborhood. Inside, dealers, reps, and press were guided through luxurious residential spaces, including fully appointed bedrooms and home offices, as well as a full executive boardroom, a telepresence suite, and a new training room. Throughout the space were iPads controlling it all.

“Being 100-percent Apple-based is a huge asset for us,” he said. “I believe [the iPad] will revolutionize automation and control. It’s already accepted by the end users, which is critically import.”

The company is so bullish on the iPad, in fact, that it is replacing its 5-, 7-, 9-, and 12-inch touchpanels with it. “They will be discontinued over the next few months, because the iPad greatly exceeds the functionality of the line and increases the market footprint across the entire industry,” Madonna said.

 A docked iPad (top) and a dealer audience (bottom) inside Savant’s massive Experience Center in the SoHo district of New York City.
Madonna noted that although the CEDIA channel has been “reasonably successful” selling touchpanels, it’s nothing compared with the recent popularity of the iPad. He pointed out that while the CEDIA channel can boast of one million touchpanels sold in 40 years, Apple has already recorded sales of three million iPads in just 80 days, not to mention 51 million iPhones in four years.”

“This provides a huge opportunity for all of us, but we need to do it together,” Madonna said. “It creates market demand for more home automation across the whole industry. I don’t believe the legacy touchpanels of our industry can compete, including our own.”

Priced at $9.99, Savant has sold 800-900 iPad app downloads so far, according to Madonna, who said he was extremely pleased with the graphics on the company’s app and its ability to respond quickly and to rotate to either landscape or portrait for different control scenarios.

“We’re 100-percent native on the iPad, which allows us to take advantage of swipes and dropdowns, and the service dock,” Madonna explained. “The client already knows how to use these features, and we can take advantage of the comfort level.”

And yet, Madonna added, Savant dealers also can completely customize the iPad app using the company’s RacePoint BluePrint software, without writing any custom code. “That’s a huge differentiator for us and huge advantage for the industry,” he said.

Changes to Come for iPhone and iPad Apps
According to Madonna, the company is currently overhauling its iPhone app to “mimic” iPad functions, such as the landscape mode and the “swipable” nav bar, for instance.

Savant also plans to add a “Rosie on the Road” feature to its apps for mobile home control via WiFi and 3G, with SSL encryption to ensure security.

TrueImage, the company’s virtual control interface technology, also is coming soon for the iPad. With it, clients will be able to virtually control a light on the iPad screen, which, in turn, switches on or dims a light in the actual room.

Other features to come are Squeezebox integration and “Guest Access,” which enables a houseguest to control their friend’s system with their own iPad, as long as they are given the system’s password. This feature is also intended for homeowners with multiple residences with systems, but only one iPad that they carry with them from home to home.

Multitasking and New iPad and iPod Docks
Savant is also developing a multitasking feature that allows a client to work on an iPad and control lighting, media, HVAC, etc., without closing other applications to do so.

The company’s previously announced new iPad docks include one for inwall that is designed to charge the device and lock it down for security. Both it and the new desktop charging dock will feature interchangeable bezel designs and can work in either landscape or portrait modes. The desktop dock also will include port access on the back.

Madonna noted that the inwall dock can run on a wired network, as well, which is important in areas in the house where a secure connection is required or where WiFi might drop. This feature is not intended to replace the WiFi interface, but to serve as a backup to communicate with Rosie. Apple’s protocols, in turns out, does not allow metadata feedback or streaming media unless it’s connected wirelessly the WiFi network.

Also on the horizon are new iPod touch docks, which help a system designer replace a five-inch touchpanel with an inwall iPod that can be locked down.

Remote Control Update
Savant is also redesigning the handheld remote control for is on-screen display (OSD). The remotes will be designed for one-way control for OSD in white or black designs, but another version will have full two-way feedback. According to Madonna, an iPod touch serves as the brains of the remotes, providing the feedback inside. The advantage of the handheld remote, he said, is that they combine the tactical feedback of buttons with the “swipe” functionality and “state feedback” of a touchscreen.

As a side note, Savant is developing Hulu, Boxee, and Plex integration on its OSD, as well.

Touch TV and Matrix Switcher Plans
Madonna announced that Savant is developing 18.5- and 24-inch Touch TV models with capacitive touch technologies. OSD video processors drive the TVs, which combine animated Mac Mini graphics menus with a superimposed 1080p live video stream.

The company’s new 24-port matrix control switcher will be available later in the year in the same form factor as the System12.

Madonna noted that hard drive, fan trays, and power supplies are always weak points in matrix switchers. Therefore the MSC-24SE will feature two redundant power supplies that can be hot swapped in case of failure.

The product features 24 inputs to 24 outputs, and can be expanded to 48 x 48 for audio distribution. It will drive 12 OSDs or 12 video processing modules, features removable fan trays, fully supports HDMI 1.3, and architecturally supports 1.4, according to Madonna.

The company also announced new a video processing module to enable OSD scaling, and new HDMI extenders: one extended HDMI on a single Cat-5 up to 330 ft. with built-in IR and Ethernet and the other fiber-based option designed to send a signal up to 1,000 ft and supporting 1.3, with HDMI, IR, and RS232 over one cable.

MSRP prices for Savant’s New Products

1) HDMI Extenders $700 each
2) Fiber Extenders $1,700 each
3) Video Processing Module $2,400
4) Video Processing Module with OSD $3,600
5) MSC-24SE $10,000
6) Touch TV 18” $8,000
7) Touch TV 24” $10,000
8) In-wall docks for iPod touch $200
9) In-wall wired dock for iPad with wired connectivity $750