In-depth: The Savant Experience Show Home

posted on Wednesday, 8th May 2013 by David Slater

Home automation  RGB Communications  Savant 

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Central London is a hive of property development, and the symbiotic relationship between building work in the Capital and digital technology industries continues to deepen. With this in mind Inside CI headed off to South Kensington to visit a luxury apartment which has had some very special toys installed to engage potential buyers. Tucked away in a basement is the Savant Experience Show Home, a joint venture between WILKO Developments and RGB Communications. 

I've followed Savant Systems with interest. It was founded in 2005 by a core group of technology pioneers headed by Bob Madonna (Madonna previously founded a telecommunication business called Excel which quickly became the market leader in open-programmable switches). The Savant system is built on a Unix platform and is now a world leader in Apple based control systems.

Outstanding response
The Kensington apartment has been designed around the usual setup of media storage, lighting control and AV. Primary system control was via an iPad, iPad Mini and a selection of wireless remote controls.The first thing I noticed when I began to explore was the responsiveness of the system; it reacts at lightning speed to the touch of a button on the iPad screens. Switching between sources on the Samsung LED TV was instant. The processing backbone is a Savant SmartHost system with two Apple Mac Minis in a dual redundant configuration. Three further Savant SmartHosts provide the graphics for the on-TV menu overlays. 

Of course, you don't have to use an iOS device as controller. When I watch TV at home I prefer not to use touch screens, as I like the feel of a small traditional remote zapper. Why make things complex when all you want to do is watch Sky and change the volume? The RTR 1000 Traditional Control is perfect for such everyday use - it's small, weighty and convenient. Anyone familiar with Control4 and navigating an on screen GUI, will be at ease with this setup; the icons scroll along the bottom of the screen and are very similar to the iTunes interface used on iPods. Just select what you want to watch and away you go.

One great feature that stands out from the iPad docked in the wall is the TrueImage user interface. This provides a photo overlay of the room in question; when you touch the image of a light, lighting comes on. The iPad has taken this concept to a higher level than I have seen before as the gestures worked like any other Apple application; you can zoom and pinch to your heart's delight. The bedrooms are equipped with Lutron blinds and operated in the same way; a swish of the finger down brought the blinds down, no more having to remember which button does what! Another new addition to the Savant family is what's called Savant SmartView; this allows up to nine HD video sources to be displayed on a single screen. The technology is powered by TrueControl and has the familiar gesture controls allowing you to expand which window you want to watch.

Easy to program
When I quizzed the RGB team on how difficult the programming was, I was given a crash course on how to setup a single room system. The software is based on an Apple platform and is built around a database of remote control codes. In simple terms, you tell the software what kit you are using, drag it into your project and then make your virtual connections - gone are the days of heavy coding. Once you have your project uploaded, you obtain the control App from the Apple store free of charge and you have a working control system. The immense power behind the software becomes more apparent when you delve deeper- it is obvious this system can compete with the best that's already out there.

So how do you jump onto the Savant bandwagon? RGB, exclusive distributor for the brand,  offers two courses, Level 1 and Level 2, both of which run over two days. To become a Savant dealer you must attend at least one. Like any programming software you will only get better by knowing the program inside out, thankfully RGB offers a high level of technical support. If you are out of your depth on some of the larger systems, there's a paid service of programming at your disposal.

Verdict
I have to say I love the way the Savant system performs. I've seen many control systems and grand installs in my time, but I like the intuitive way this platform works. As soon as you get hold of the controllers you become a virtual expert in seconds. This appeals as most clients are scared off by complex operating systems, which are often deemed unusable. Overall, we give this Savant proposition two thumbs up.

The Savant Experience show home is located at 35 Queen's Gate, South Kensington,Central London, and is open to view by appointment only for all  RGB Communications dealers. It's well well worth a visit. 

For more contact Neil Howes at RGB on  +44 (0) 1488 73366.

For more on RGB Communications products and services, visit our partrner page here.

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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Posted by Darren Shear on 6th May 2013, 5:47 PM
I have seen Savant in action in New York and looks by far the best control system on the market

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