Crestron vs Savant – Comparing Control Systems
I also would like to preface this blog with the disclaimer that technology changes extremely rapidly, and both Crestron and Savant are doing a great job of keeping up right now. However, at any given moment, a slight shift or advancement in the control systems field may cause either brand to fumble.
My second disclaimer is that I have experience with Crestron since 2004, and I know the product line in much more detail than Savant. My only exposure to Savant programming has been at trade shows, and my only experience with the user interface has been a few visits to dealer showrooms. I like to think that I have a fairly extensive knowledge of the electronics industry, but if anyone has issues with what I’ve written below, or think that I am not being accurate, please leave a comment. I WILL be editing this blog in the future to make clarifications and this may be the first of many comparison blogs as new developments come up.
Crestron vs Savant – Their History
To kick off the comparison, one first needs to look at the history of both companies. Companies with a long track record of success in the technology world are typically built on solid core values and are able to weather the storms that disruptive technology creates. Younger tech companies and startups are the ones who create these storms and shake up the industry, as they bring fresh perspective and don’t have to carry the weight associated with maintaining the longevity of their older products.
Crestron has been around since 1969, when its founder created and then started selling wireless controllers for slide projectors. Over the years, there have been several generations of control processors, touchpanels, keypads, and recent integration into third party touchpanel systems such as the iPhone and Android tablets. Mr. George Feldstein, who has been the sole owner of Crestron since the beginning, has a strong engineering background, and to this day continues to tinker with electronics and think up new ideas. To have evolved since that point to become one of the leaders in control systems technology is no small feat, and his vision and passion in engineering is what drives this. I see this ability to evolve as a huge plus when choosing a control system to invest in.
Savant was founded in 2005, making them one of the younger companies in the control system world. Pivotal to their success in such a short period is a combination of (A) – the guidance of their engineer-minded founder, Robert Madonna, who has proven his ability to lead a business to success, and (B) – Savant’s strong alliance with Apple products. At this time, it is too soon to know how Savant will react to technological developments to come. Having a product line tied so closely to another company’s product is a risky proposition, as Savant’s success long term may trend with Apple’s success or failure in the next decade. As we move into 2013, at a time when Apple is seemingly on top of the world, and iPhones/iPads are close to having half of the market share for smart phones and tablets, trending with Apple is not a bad thing at all.
Crestron vs Savant – Hardware and Software
Crestron – Kings of Hardware, Open-Ended Software
Crestron has done a terrific job over the years at selecting the top hardware in the industry, improving it, and integrating it into their line. What has always amazed me about Crestron is their ‘planned non-obsolescence’ Very few brands in the industry allow for a touchpanel which was created 20 years ago to integrate with all the latest technologies. I have seen in the past how brands typically ‘re-invent’ themselves and don’t spend the money to ensure that their new products still work with their old product lines. I understand there is a cost associated to ensuring this ‘backwards compatibility’, which is an easy cost to cut when a manufacturer is trying to reach a certain price point. However, this ends up hurting the end user, who constantly has to re-invest during upgrade cycles if they want the latest and greatest.
Crestron’s hardware is not only backwards compatible with almost all previous generations of their gear, but it is also mainly bulletproof. I’m sure they will admit to a few product failures in the past, and I can name a few myself from experience, but their core product line consists of products that are stable enough to run government and space station command centers for decades without failing.
Crestron currently employs over 350 full time engineers who work on developing their own hardware. These engineers work day and night to create new products from scratch and innovate, which is an expensive but fruitful endeavor. In the control system industry, there are few other companies that even come close to this level of dedication to hardware engineering, which is why I strongly feel Crestron hardware will remain as the number one or number two hardware manufacturer in the industry for years to come.
Crestron’s software is where the debate really is. Anyone who has had a bad experience with a Crestron system has really only been burned by the integration company who programmed it. Crestron’s platform is so open-ended that it allows programmers the ultimate freedom in creativity. For those truly gifted programmers who understand user interfaces, user experience, and usability, Crestron is the portal to control anything in the world through any method you can think of (I won’t get technical here, but I could go on for days). For those programmers who don’t get it, the road to failure is very short. I always tell clients that Crestron’s open-ended programming platform is both their blessing and their curse.
The combination of rock solid hardware and open-ended programming are 2 of the main factors which make Crestron the preferred platform for tech-saavy programmers and clients.
Savant – Software Heavy, Working on Getting the Right Hardware
Savant is currently in my mind, still a software company. They developed the first ‘serious’ native iPhone application that tied into their home automation platform. Their programming tools are up to date, and honestly are what I expected Crestron programming to be like when I first starting learning about control systems. (I do think that SOME of Crestron’s programming tools are out-dated, although they are heading in the right direction these days.) I think Crestron could probably learn something from Savant development tools, although I also feel that there is some value in having Crestron be more difficult to program. If it were easier to program, then more inexperienced integrators would have the opportunity to design, sell, and program systems, which would lead to more poorly executed system installations.
When it comes to hardware, Savant is still new at the game. They chose to have a Mac Mini be their main processor, which is a bold move, putting the core of your system in the hands of another company. I fully respect Apple, and think they are an incredible company who makes great (and revolutionary) products, but I think that there is more horsepower and complexity in their Mac Mini than is needed for an automation system. It will be years before Savant catches up to Crestron in the hardware field, which is only going to be shortened if they continue their acquisition of existing brands. We should wait to see how Savant’s acquisition and integration of Lite-touch pans out before we pass judgement.
Conclusion – Crestron vs Savant
In the end, I am glad that both Crestron and Savant are healthy competitors in the automation world. Savant is the newcomer who has the resources and intelligence it needs to jockey for one of the top slots in their market. I’m sure they will slip and fall on some product launches, but it will be how they recover from these rare cases and treat their partners that will lead to their success.
Crestron remains the leader across many of their markets. It is tried and true, and won’t let you down, provided you choose the right integration company to design, program, and maintain your system. They will remain a leader as long as they take care of their partners and clients as they have done over the years.
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