Ce Pro Europe had an exclusive chat with JC Murphy, executive vice president of Savant, to get the full story on the platform’s recent V8.8 software announcement.
“This release was, more than any other we have made, based on specific responses to feedback from dealers and end-users on what was most important to them”, JC explains.
“The foundation of our platform was already very solid, but we wanted make things easier for installers and end user by giving access all around the home to the most often used functions like volume. We also wanted to flatten the UI right down so users can get to what they want with the fewest button presses as possible.”
JC adds, “Another key ability with V8.8 is delivering a customised UI no matter what the source is. We felt the interface was already attractive and sleek, but we wanted more personalisation and so its now possible to add new services and sources with customised graphics making control more intuitive and instant.”
“Volume access is not the only audio enhancement, we now have an equalisation function built into the Savant Pro 8 App providing installers and end users to enhance and tune for specific areas.”
Savant has also increased customisation within the UI so installers and also end users can create and customise specific scenes and functions adding more personality and bespoke touches.
A key aim for the company right across the up-date has been to provide the end user with the ability to tweak the system with extra levels of personalisation as they settle in and get used to the platform.
Supporting both Alexa and now Google Home with V8.8, bespoke scenes can be activated by using that’s scenes specific name, ‘Alexa, turn on chill out’ etc.
Voice control can still be a touchy subject for some installers with functionality and reliability not at the point for some where they want to get involved.
However, JC is optimistic about its future and argues there are some surprises in who really enjoys control in this way.
“We have seen feedback showing that many older clients who you may think would be less attracted to this type of control really embrace it. They actually find it more convenient that using the UI. So yes, whilst as expected the young are already dialled in, keep an open mind as to who this technology will suit.”
As hinted at the last big Apple announcement, the constant listening aspect of voice control is causing issues with clients worried about their privacy. JC reveals that Savant is working on this and hopes to deliver a function where voice control is switched off until its called for. Most likely through the use of a dedicated icon.
Image is everything
The company released its TrueImage functionality some time back which offers the ability to use interactive real images of the environment to control anything within that image, touch the lamp, the lamp becomes active, touch the TV, the same applies.
JC enthuses, “TrueImage is front and centre in the UI as you would expect, but we have added some really exciting new abilities. This feature is now able to drive human centric lighting control so installers and users can control the environment like never before creating schemes which promote not just special moods, but health and well being too.”
With the initial V 8.8 release users are able to control white and some colour temperature from 2700K to 6000k. The up-date also offers control of favourite colour pre-sets and combinations for easier recall as well as an enhanced colour selection tool for Savant’s own Smart Bulbs and Strips.
However, JC is very keen to state that this is just the start of Savant’s journey into enhanced lighting.
“We understand lighting and its relationship to wellness in a way we never have before, says JC, “It really is the right time for us to be beginning a journey where we are able to deliver experiences that are not only attractive, but complement the circadian rhythms in all of us.
“At the up-coming CEDIA Expo show in San Diego (September 4-8) we will have some very exciting announcements concerning enhanced control of RGB and DMX lighting opening up a completely new world. At the show we will announce a new partnership for the US market with a company called USAI a specialist in LED lighting which will deliver precise control over a huge range of coloured light direct from TrueImage within Savant.”
It’s a relatively straight-forward project to develop other drivers for other manufacturers so JC is clear that this is just the start, look out for more announcements concerning other makers and the European market.
Another development for TrueImage has been pushing it through onto the screen of the company’s dedicated remote. The hi-res screen is large enough and has enough brightness to make control from here possible and JC argues that control from this point will become more and more important as the system develops.
JC is also excited about Savant embracing IP delivery and control, “We wanted to push audio and video delivery all over IP including new surround sound technologies like Dolby Atmos. Our difference is that we use a 10GB infrastructure giving us plenty of headroom now and for the future.”
Savant is now offering a choice of network switches including a 96 port 10Gb Netgear switch. A new modular chassis allows for a mix of fiber and copper as well as 1Gb, 10Gb and 40Gb ports for potential future scalability. This solution can support up to 95 video inputs or outputs. In addition, larger 12 and 24 port AVB switches from Extreme Networks are also available to Savant Integrators via the Savant Store, allowing for large scale IP Audio distribution.
The company is also adhering to Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) standard here to promote quality and a positive end user experience over IP structure.
JC underlines, “The approach we are taking means there is no digital to audio conversion happening in our signal path, the digital music signal goes un-changed direct to the speakers for a higher quality result.”
The Savant IP Video delivery platform brings 4K/60 4:4:4 resolution and now offers onboard audio processing, available with either four or eight ports of inputs. Two-channel is automatically extracted and down mixed off of most popular surround modes and distributed over the network to be picked up by any IP Audio device.
Savant has also launched single input and output boxes for the IP Video line, which represent a lower cost solution to accommodate single-source video inputs and outputs for one TV.
For audio connections over extended distances, a new IP Audio box is available with 16-channels (8 zones) of balanced outputs, which are designed to maintain strong quality even in remote zones despite longer cable runs. The Balanced IP Audio device receives audio signal over the AVB network from any Savant IP Audio enabled device, such as the new IP Audio Music Server or the IP Video Input Transmitter with Audio Processing.
The enhanced audio capabilities of the company’s approach makes its acquisition of speaker manufacturer Artison last year really snap into focus.
JC explains, “We purchased Artison for two very good reasons. One, they have huge experience in creating great speakers and we wanted to marry up our new fully digital signal delivery with speakers we had total confidence in. Our installers can now get the complete audio package from us.”
Talking of music, the up-date also includes the launch of Savant Music 2.0, an all-new music server offering within Savant 8.8. The new software music suite delivers improved reliability, speed, easier navigation, pre-set recall and song queues. It also features redesigned app control screens, making it easier for users to navigate.
Artison is not the only brand Savant has been involved with of late. Wanting to enhance its door entry offering, Savant will be bringing to market products developed in partnership with entry control specialist 2N. Branded as a Savant product, door entry stations will deliver in person and remote control over access to the client’s property.
Native KNX connectivity
JC explains another major move especially relevant for the UK and Europe is the development of native integration with KNX.
JC states, “We are hopeful of being able to announce this officially at the CEDIA show. We feel with our custom protocols we have a great engine to simply integration between Savant and KNX. The Savant Europe team has been absolutely key in moving this forward.”
Speaking of Savant Europe, JC says, “Our relationships are like family, we are all about delivering added value with our partnerships and the Savant Europe team based in the UK are absolutely key. They don’t just deliver the product, but provide the training, demonstration facilities and everything else dealers need.”
Savant Europe holds monthly dealer training at its HQ in Hungerford and maintains the Savant Demo Apartment in Kensington, London, which is about to get a full Savant V 8.8 makeover. Training is also enhanced with on-line video modules.
So, a busy, busy time for Savant, with Control4 and Crestron looking strong currently, competition is stiff, however there are enough enhancements here to please Savant dealers and also maybe entice a few new ones to take a look.