Savant Systems 2019

Savant is beloved as a smarthome platform for one crucial reason: It is incredibly simple to use.

It takes complex tasks across un-connected devices, and brings them into a simple interface with a barely noticeable learning curve.

That learning curve is around two items: The handheld remote and the App.

Handheld (The Savant Pro Remote)

The handheld remote is an example of refined design. It has the dedicated buttons of a classic remote, a touch screen for more advanced features, and voice control built in. Yet, it doesn’t overwhelm. There are fewer than 20 buttons on it. Hold it in your hand and you’ll immediately notice the weight, button placement and tactile experience just feel right.

Meanwhile, the touch screen on top (also ergonomically where you would expect it to be) floats your most commonly-viewed channels to the top for easy access. With one swipe you can adjust your other available features (music, lighting, shading, thermostat, etc.)

A central voice control button offers yet another way to order up channels, turn on lights, and activate scenes.

The Savant Pro is, without exaggeration, the cleanest and simplest way to wrangle all of your devices (Apple TV, Roku, etc.) into the same interface.

The App (The Savant Pro App)

Beyond TV, most Savant users will reach for the Savant Pro App on their phone or iPad to control the rest of their home. The quality and layout of the interface is drop dead gorgeous. It’s also the same no matter which integrator you hire (this is important for users with multiple homes.)

Savant’s App accomplishes personalization by using photos of each room to identify them. This lets you scroll through and select rooms without thinking, but more importantly lets you adjust the room by tapping elements in the photograph. For example, tapping a lamp in a rooms photo will turn it on right in front of you.

Smarthome platforms used to require a professional to physically come to your house whenever you wanted to change your favorites, or “scenes.” Savant changed this by letting users easily adjust a room’s settings, name it as a scene, and call it up later. You can even schedule its occurrence based on a wide array of circumstances.

Integration

Of course, a lot of Savant’s power comes from the programming behind the scenes. Their constant and painstaking generation of drivers to make 3rd party devices compatible is impressive. Their deeper integration with leading brands like Sonos, Lutron and Nest make controlling them through Savant feel as powerful as if you were using the brand’s native controller.

They’ve also integrated with Amazon Alexa, letting you control your home with any Alexa enabled device.

Climate

Nest is great for simple homes, but falls short when trying to control multiple styles of heating and cooling systems (i.e. radiant floors with a mini split system.) This requires separate thermostats and more wall acne… Savant is different. They make it simple to bring many zones across multiple systems into one clean system.

Video

Video matrixing (or sending one video source to any number of TVs) used to require big expensive switchers, which were typically limited to 16 inputs and 16 outputs. Savant, along with Video-over-IP technology, now allows as many inputs and outputs as you need, scaling infinitely over your network. (The same for audio.)

For most of our clients, this means that instead of having one cable box and one Apple TV for each room, they can have one for the parents and another for the kids. Anyone can then pull up any device onto any screen in the house.

Oh, and Savant absolutely slays it with video tiling. Their ability to turn one screen into a quad screen or picture-in-picture is as simple as dragging and dropping in the Savant App. They do this very, very well.

Camera Integration

Security cameras integrate smoothly into the Savant App via IP. The end user sees a little camera icon, bringing them into a live feed of all of their cameras in one clean space.

But how do you limit access to camera feeds so that not every guest will find them?…

Profiles

Savant makes it easy to assign different profiles for different users. You wouldn’t want your kids to be able to randomly turn on music in the master suite. You may not want a guest of housekeeper to have access to every camera. Savant makes it easy to assign different levels of access to different profiles, then sign into different profiles on different iPads, and distribute accordingly.

The Savant Approach

Savant does most thing exceptionally well. They look at user experience with the understanding that 99% of the time people are likely to control their home in a similar way. Rather than labor over the 1% that requires deep custom programming, they’ve decided to perfect the 99% and say “no” to the 1%.

It’s a similar approach to Apple, who limits both their product line, and the menu options within their software, down to a “don’t make me think” experience. Clearly Savant admires the Apple approach, seeing how they use the Apple ecosystem. The actual brain for a Savant system is a Mac Mini, and Savant programming can’t even take place on a PC. Every Savant programmer uses a Mac.

Network

Savant requires network communication for all of its devices. Consequently, a weak network equals a weak experience. Two important elements a Savant-ready network must have are:

  1. Wireless access points strategically placed across the home to blanket coverage.
  2. The ability to prioritize traffic so that more important tasks don’t get interrupted by less important tasks (i.e. YouTube streaming.) 

We like Packedge BakPak for homes and Cisco Meraki but businesses. The key takeaway, however, is that the typical router provided by your ISP won’t suffice for this demanding a system. Ensure you have a strong network, as your network is the backbone for your smarthome.

Other questions?

Get in touch.

Our 3rd Annual AIA CEU Summit

Yesterday we were thrilled to have hosted over 100 members of the Architecture & Design community at the Savant Experience Center in Soho for a day of education, entertainment and networking. With courses by Lutron, Savant, Seura, Leon, Sonos and Seura we were able to issue 223 CEUs to the A&D community in a relaxed and engaging environment. A big thanks to all of the presenters and attendees. Looking forward to next year’s AIA Summit

Explained: LED Lighting

When we sat down with lighting expert Gary Gordon, he pointed out 3 common issues in homes and offices:

1. The wrong quantity of light.
2. The space is over-fixtured.
3. There is too much glare.
Here are some important concepts to be aware of before designing your next space:

 


 

Watts vs Lumens

Watts measure power consumption. Lumens measure brightness.

After phasing out power-hungry incandescent bulbs, the two popular choices are compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED.) LEDs can put out more lumens using fewer watts. They also last longer and emit less heat. 

 


 

Color Temperature

The warmness or coolness of white light, measured in Kelvin.
  • Warm Light: Anything below 3,500K begins to have a yellowish appearance. This has a calming effect, likely due to our evolutionary attraction to fire.
  • Cool light: Anything above 3,500K begins to have a bluish appearance. Great for focus but terrible for rest, as it controls your circadian clock by reducing melatonin.
CFLs used to provide a warmer, more natural temperature than LED. This is no longer the case as LEDs can be tuned to simulate CFLs, and even adjust throughout the day for a natural feel at all times. 

 


 

Illuminance vs Luminance

Illuminance measures how much light falls onto a surface. Luminance measures how brightly that light reflects off of the surface.

Lighting designers measure lumens per square foot (often referred to as lux or foot-candles) to determine ideal brightness around a room. Ideal illuminance is determined by a space’s purpose, while attention to luminance can help avoid glare and its debilitating effects. 

 


 

Color Rendering

How accurately a light reveals the various colors around the room. Comparing how colors are perceived when illuminated by your light source versus a natural light source like the sun, accuracy is rated on a scale of 1 – 100. This is called the Color Rendering Index (CRI.)

Both fluorescent and LED bulbs vary in CRI from low 60s to high 90s. Lights closer to 60 can appear different from each other even out of the same box. We recommend using lights with a CRI above 90.

 


 

Our Visit to Ketra

With dozens of patents and a remarkable approach to LED lighting, we wanted to check out Ketra as soon as possible to see what all the hype was about. Watch the video to see our experience.

 


 

Other Questions?

Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.

New Hire: Michael Dye

This month we’re thrilled to announce the addition of Michael Dye to our team as our new Architect Specialist. Michael has racked up over a decade of experience with Magnolia as a Project Manager, System Designer and Consultation Agent for end users and trade professionals.

Our Architect Specialist role demands a tricky combination of technical prowess and relationship management; A resource who can add real tangible value to the Architects and Designers we interface with on our projects. After meeting Michael it was clear that his passion for the industry, sharpness and absence of ego made him a fit for our culture. However it was his mock AIA Presentation that affirmed Architect Specialist as the ideal role in which to apply his talents.

Michael is well-versed and formally trained in many of our key brand partners (Lutron, McIntosh Labs, Bowers & Wilkins, Control4.) More importantly, he shares Cloud9’s philosophy on technology: Excitement over it’s potential, balanced with a healthy dose of practicality; A bridge between the bleeding edge and everyday life.

Also, we can nerd out with him on speakers and control interfaces. He’ll fit right in.

Conversation: Reddymade

We had the pleasure of chatting with Suchi Reddy of Reddymade Architecture & Design recently. She’s a risk-taker in the A&D field, and of particular interest to us was her drive to push new materials and their properties on projects. Her team in SoHo has conceived of and executed a wide gamut of projects across continents. Take a look at the highlights of our interview in the below video.

Explained: Your Network

Both the most boring and most important part of the connected home. There are three ways to go:

  • Default: Whatever your Internet service provider gives you. All all-in-one box for wired and wireless Internet.
  • Mesh: A collection of small boxes that plug in around your home for stronger, more intelligent coverage.
  • Wired Mesh: A collection of small boxes each hard-wired to your Internet for even stronger more reliable coverage.

Default

least tailored, weakest performance

  • Benefits: Easiest to set up and a single point of troubleshooting.
  • Challenges: A single broadcast point means weaker Wi-Fi the farther away you are. They typically run on default bandwidths, causing competition between neighbors.
  • Conclusion: Adequate for small spaces with one or two devices and no interference (we’ll cover interference later.)

 


 

Mesh

medium tailored, medium performance

  • Benefits: Reasonably DIY, and most decisions happen seamlessly in the background (best frequencies to be on, hand-offs between nodes, etc.)
  • Challenges: Wireless repeaters only repeat the signal that makes it to them, so signal weakens with distance. Also, tech support tends to be very limited.
  • Conclusion: An impressively customizable solution for small to medium-sized homes with a modest number of connected devices.

 


 

Two of the most popular mesh network systems are Google Wifi and Eero. Both offer pretty advanced network settings, grant guest access without sharing your password, let you set bandwidth priority and parental controls. Both are easy to set up and use a really simple App. With a cheaper price and slightly more reliable performance, our preference goes to Google Wifi

 


 

Wired Mesh

  • Benefits: Wiring your access points gives each the strongest connection to broadcast, no matter location. More advanced controls handle large numbers of devices elegantly, as well as the ability to log into each device individually for troubleshooting.
  • Challenges: Wiring takes away the ability to tweak locations later, calling for heat mapping ahead of time to determine where to place access points.
  • Conclusion: The most powerful and reliable approach to home networking. Also the most expensive. Ideal for users with many connected devices or an intolerance for signal drops.

 


Frequency

The two standards for wireless are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz:
  • 2.4 GHz: Longer distance but slower speeds.
  • 5 GHz: Faster speeds but shorter distances.

2.4 GHz has been a standard for longer. The benefit is backward compatibility. The downside is it tends to get crowded (only 11 channels vs 23 on the 5 GHz range.)

The flaw with 5 GHz is that the higher frequency has trouble going through solid objects like walls and flooring.

The ideal setup is to make sure there are enough access points and run 5 GHz on all of them, while running 2.4 GHz separately for older devices.

 


 

Interference

Microwaves, baby monitors and cordless phones all run on the 2.4 GHz spectrum and can cause interference. Concrete, metal and mirror can cause major interference as well. Finally, nearby Wi-Fi networks on the same spectrum will be competing for bandwidth.

The ideal setup is to test your space ahead of time for potential issues and spread your access points strategically. Once installed, the system should scan and use the least populated spectrum.

 


 

All-in-one Devices

Putting a router, repeater and wireless access point into the same chassis is convenient but flawed, as interference can occur within its own crowded internal components.

Think audio – Separate components (pre-amp, amplifier, turntable) can isolate vibrations and deliver cleaner sound than an all-in-one box. We find the all-in-one solution is sufficient for around 70% of homes.

 


 

Our Preferences

For residences, we like Pakedge for its ability to group and prioritize categories of devices, and remedy issues remotely before they are noticed.

For commercial, we like Cisco Meraki for its granular control packaged in a clean interface, and for Cisco’s extremely fast reaction time to the last Wi-Fi breach.

We also prefer wireless access points that are powered over Ethernet, as running both power and Ethernet to each device can end up looking cluttered.

 


 

Other Questions?

Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.