Thursday, October 1, 2020
 A Trailblazer in

 Promoting the Connected Home 

At the time nearly 10 years ago when we attended the opening of the Savant Experience Center in the heart of New York City’s SoHo district, it was clear that this facility would be a benchmark for custom installers. It was designed by cable TV personality and interior designer Thom Filicia to be a place that showcased the cutting edge in automation, where potential clients could be wowed by the latest technologies yet at the same time remain unintimidated by them, as they saw, firsthand, how easy they could be to use in this multi-room home setting.

Fast forward to 2019, and while connected-home products have evolved along with the skills and expertise of integrators, the basic premise of this facility has remained the same: to highlight technologies that allow homeowners the opportunity to learn about the joys of total, worry-free, easy environmental control of audio, video, lighting and security and more.

In fact, this facility’s utility as a way to introduce potential clients and also today’s architect, designer and builder communities to what’s possible with simple-to-use whole-home technology while preserving design aesthetics has only strengthened over the years.

Clients can quickly see their integrator’s vision for their project – and architects and designers can now envision ideas they didn’t know were possible.

—Tim McInerney

The Center also features the products of other brands such as McIntosh, which are integrated into the total tech experience, as it shines a spotlight on the best examples of a fully tech integrated conference room, bedroom, bar area, bathroom, kitchen and home theater – the latter, having been designed by renowned custom integrator Theo Kalomirakis, also the principal of Rayva Home Theaters.

Savant’s Tim McInerney, director of product marketing, guided us through the Experience Center, explaining the importance of the facility as an element in the company’s close communication with its integrators.

“Being able to show a functional, elegant space that is a fully automated smart home and commercial space has been a great asset. Marrying it with a sophisticated interior design where the technology is everywhere but is never in your face has been transformational,” McInerney said. “For many people, their idea of a smart home or building is a connected light switch or thermostat, and it’s great to see their eyes light up when they can see an entire space transform with a single button press or voice command. Clients can quickly see their integrator’s vision for their project – and architects and designers can now envision ideas they didn’t know were possible.”

Savant’s practice of hosting AIA tours at the Center augments all the other integrator supports Savant provides, including holding Integrator Summits such as the one it was readying for New Orleans at the end of January.

McInerney also discussed some categories – lighting, in particular – that are increasingly being appended to installs as design elements, and that Savant has been on the bleeding edge of promoting, since it acquired LiteTouch and its lighting control expertise years earlier.

“Lighting has been around for 30 or 40 years,” McInerney said. “It used to be that the light was one or two wires, and a filament. Doing color lighting was tricky, expensive, and the results often didn’t look good. That’s changing now. LED technology is so good and control systems are so fine. And to do lighting doesn’t require a giant amount of space, because the technology is in the light – the communication is with the light fixture.”

A recent partnership was forged between Savant and USAI Lighting so that Savant integrators can avail themselves of USAI’s technologies as well as their dealer education initiatives in this nascent but growing category.

“Lighting technology has taken great leaps forward in the past few years, with next-generation LED fixtures bringing new opportunities for designers with WRGB lighting, and for client wellness with concepts such as circadian rhythm lighting,” McInerney reflected. “Savant has always been an innovator in the lighting control area with intuitive lighting control interfaces such as TrueImage, where an image of the light on your mobile device is the control interface, with that image updating in real time. Adding control for premium LED color and white temperature technology with partners such as USAI was a clear win for everyone, integrators and clients alike. We’ve integrated Infinite Color+ recessed in-ceiling fixtures from USAI into the Experience Center to show everyone what their space can be like when premium color lighting fixtures are combined with the magic of Savant lighting controls.”

Savant also has an interactive Fixture Designer tool available to integrators to help them understand the variety of options available, and once they select appropriate solutions, can provide them all they need to execute the job. To complement this tool, Savant offers a five-module online training series that includes a get-started guide. And the company also recently introduced an array of architectural LED lighting strips that are compatible with its TrueImage technology. Also in the plans for the Center, he said, is the eventual addition of partner Racepoint Energy’s products – energy management solutions that were introduced at last fall’s CEDIA.

 A Hub for Education 

Our visit to the Experience Center this time happened to follow a prescheduled morning session and tour by AIA architect members, who were taken through the facility for learning as well as for earning CEU credits. The morning session was conducted by integrator Cloud9 Smart’s architect specialist, Michael Dye.

“We are an AIA CEU provider,” Dye explained. “It’s continuing education for them.” He explained what’s really eye-opening for the attendees at these learning events. “There’s the preconception that the type of gear we use is going to be kind of plastic-y and cheesy, and will get in the way of making things look beautiful. And we want to dispel them of that illusion. And that’s such a great venue. We explain that it’s much smarter than most people’s homes would be – and that you don’t need that many tablets on the wall to make a smart home work properly. There, we can make the point to them that you can have a beautiful space with this stuff – and it can actually help their things look better. We say, ‘We can light your designs well, make sure that materials turn out the way you want them to, reduce the number of light switches on the walls, hide the TVs with lifts, put projectors in closets. We can show all the different ways you can blend the technology into your design.’ And it has a much bigger impact when they see it in person.”

Mostly, the architects express “a lot of surprise – they see it and they get psyched about it.”

Of course, architects are familiar these days with all the high-profile standalone voice control devices flooding the market. And that is a starting point for talking with them about what else is possible.

“Something the architects in the session brought up was that they were now excited that they could have that conversation with clients, in a fuller way,” Dye said. “And they are happy just to have a contact in the industry who wants to work with them, and won’t get in the way of making their designs look good.

“They were also asking about what other classes we had. It demonstrated that they saw real value in it. And no one asked how many CEU points they’d get. They were surprised that it was all there, in the Experience Center, and that this place existed, and they could come and see things and bring their clients to a functional, walkable, working space.”