Training with Savant

Being part of the Smart Homee Group and having been in the smart home industry for over 12 years, I am in a very fortunate position to not only review the products that find their way to me but also to get hands-on experience and a real understanding of the fundamentals behind the smart home systems themselves. When I was contacted by the team at RGB Comms and given the opportunity to spend a few days on the Savant training course at their headquarters in Hungerford, UK, I was positively giddy.

For those of you who haven’t been formally introduced to Savant let me give you a little on the back story of this Apple friendly, chic looking system. Savant was founded back in 2005 with the goal of providing the best experience in home automation. Savant works on the basic principles of smart home tech “the four pillars of automation” – climate, lighting, entertainment and security. Savant is probably recognised as the premium brand in residential automation with one of, if not the sexiest remotes out there delivering the premiere experience prime residences seek.

So, as with most of these training sessions, it usually involves travelling to another city and provides me with an excuse to meet up with fellow Smart Homees. Being in Hungerford meant I was close enough to visit CEDIA award winners, Owen Maddocks (Cinema Works) and Matthew Zachrisson-Smith (Total Solutions). As an integrator and business owner I love nothing more than to hang out with like-minded, hardworking individuals who make me laugh, and these boys check all boxes. Keep an eye on these guys as they are doing some special things within the industry.

Training day one
RGB is not an unfamiliar place to us at Inspire AV; having completed Lutron courses here in the past I know the venue well. You are always welcomed with smiles and coffee which is exactly how I like to be greeted incidentally, especially after a night out in Bristol. We were introduced to our very knowledgeable Savant trainer Rob Thompson who was a cross between an international rock star and Savant overlord. An engaging, experienced and comedic instructor who makes learning easy going when getting down to the nitty gritty of programming. 

We were introduced to the product family; what, why and who to specify with your projects to make your life stress-free and profitable, win win! Next was the simple procedure of setting up and connecting to the main host/processor. What I really enjoyed about this course was that RGB had setup Savant demo racks and, working in pairs, we had to physically cable the system as well as program it. This hands-on approach really gave you a full understanding of not only how but why a Savant system is programmed the way it is. 

Having experience of a few control systems under my belt, getting to grips with a new one is always a little daunting, but with Savant, the major learning curve was getting back onto a Mac as this smart home system can only be configured using the fruity little number that is Apple. I must admit I did feel like one of those uber cool designers in Starbucks when I snapped open my MacBook Pro on day one, only to then have to turn to my training colleague at my side and ask, “how do I join the Wi-Fi then?” And with that my street cred went flying out the window. 

Blueprint is the software used to configure everything Savant and after the first day, Rob had done a fantastic job at making us all confident and fairly conversant in Blueprint. 

Day one over, I retired to my hotel room to ponder my control systems in the bath and a thought occurred to me… “can your brain ever hit maximum capacity?”

Training day two
Feeling a million times better than day one, after an alcohol-free and toddler-free evening in a hotel room, I was almost fighting to get through the door to take in more content. I was lucky as today was much more hands-on with adding lighting, audio and video matrixing elements to the base programming we achieved on day one. The way in which the course was delivered meant we added an element to our base project each time, much like how you would build a project on site. 

Rob also took us through some of the “glossy” customer friendly touches to Savant, like “scenes”, which is a powerful tool onsite for both integrators and customers. In essence “scenes” is a really easy way to build macros for the client to execute, like house off or exterior sunset, giving the customer a really personal yet simple way to build home automation actions for their property without the integrator having to be present. Personally, I love these touches as a smart home should be adjustable by the homeowner as only they know how and what works for them. 

Finally, we witnessed the powerful integration from KNX which, from an outsider’s point of view, we are seeing more and more in residential properties and follows on from both Crestron and Control4’s native integration into the same platform. 

So how do I feel about Savant following my training? Well, there is no denying they make not only a beautiful remote control, but their app isn’t bad either, and if we’re honest this is 50 per cent of the battle with home owners these days. Working in high-end residential homes, clients expect their smart home to match their supercar or luxury watch and I honestly think this is where Savant has hit the proverbial nail on the head. 

From an integrators point of view, the software isn’t the easiest I’ve worked with and definitely has its quirks but in all honesty, if I was working with the platform daily, I’m sure it would become second nature. The guys at RGB sure do know their onions when it comes to the platform which gives me that comfortable warm feeling of security that you need when specifying and integrating smart homes. 

Do I see any down sides you ask? Well the only one I can see – the position within the market. Crestron have the heritage and Control4 have the marketing prowess and currently I’m not seeing a huge push for Savant projects in Europe, but is this all to come in 2020? We’ll see.

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