Savant Acquires LiteTouch: Home Automation Meets Lighting Control

Apple-based home automation manufacturer Savant no longer 'last major control player without its own lighting control,' thanks to acquisition of LiteTouch.

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By Julie Jacobson
February 21, 2012
Savant Systems, best known for its high-end Apple-based home automation systems, has acquired LiteTouch, maker of lighting control solutions for residential and commercial venues.

Savant bought LiteTouch from Nortek Inc. (Nasdaq: NTK), which had acquired the lighting company in 2007 and blended it into Panamax, maker of power management solutions.

"We were the last major control player without its own lighting control," said Savant general manager Jim Carroll in an interview with CE Pro on Tuesday.

Savant already offers its own automation systems (naturally) as well as its own audio/video distribution and control products. Lighting control, he says, "is the last big missing piece."

And what better way to enter the field than with the acquisition of a 30-year-old company that, Carroll says, created the first solid-state lighting control system? "As a lighting control company, it has a very strong programming platform that's easy to configure, which really attracted us to them."

Carroll says Savant wasn't just surveying LiteTouch's lighting-control products, but its entire portfolio including designer keypads, sensors and load control for energy management.

"We pick up this whole family of keypads, which aesthetically is a tremendous asset," Carroll notes. "There are a lot of jobs we do that don't have lighting control, but that still need keypads."

Beyond products, though, LiteTouch reaches channels that Savant does not, including electrical contractors and lighting specifiers. "The channels line up very well," he says.

Savant already integrates with several lighting control systems – including LiteTouch, Lutron, Powerline Control Systems (PCS), Rako (Europe) and Vantage Controls, a Legrand company – enjoying a particularly cozy relationship with Lutron, the overwhelming leader in the category with a 38 percent market share among home systems integrators.

Carroll says Savant will continue its aggressive support of these and other vendors. The company puts considerable effort into the integration with third-party subsystems, allowing integrators to basically push a button to migrate programming into the Savant platform, according to Carroll.

Savant, as well as its dealers, appreciates the variety of subsystems in the partner program and the Massachusetts-based company has no plans to pull back its development in lighting-control integration, Carroll says.

The sentiment echoes that of other established home-control brands, many of which have built their own high-end lighting-control businesses organically: AMX and Crestron have offered their own lighting systems for several years, with great success. Last year, mainstream provider Control4 began shipping its own hardwired solution, which was first shown in 2008 (article).

Each of these companies, like LiteTouch, offers hardwired (“panelized” or “distributed”) lighting controls, as well as proprietary wireless systems and hybrid solutions.

Likewise, the big lighting-control firms have built their own home-control ecosystems: Lutron recently launched an energy management suite to complement its lighting and shading control solutions; Vantage Controls built out an entire audio/video/automation platform years ago; Powerline Control Systems (PCS), developer of the relatively inexpensive powerline-based technology Universal Powerline Bus (UPB), has been expanding its line in recent years to control audio, video, energy management and other subsystems; LiteTouch itself has tread more gently into the home-control space, but does offer a suite of energy management and monitoring products.

Analyzing the Brands


Savant is an up-and-comer in high-end home control – often considered to be the first viable competitor to long-time leaders AMX and Crestron, as well as Vantage and Nortek-owned Elan Home Systems.

Founded in 2005, Savant began shipping products in 2008.

In 2011, 11 percent of residential integrators surveyed by CE Pro said they had used Savant within the past two years, up from 5 percent in 2010 and 2 percent in 2009.

In 2011, 3 percent of CE pros said Savant was their most-used home automation brand, up from zero in previous years.

The numbers are even rosier for Savant among higher-end integrators, which make up the bulk of CE Pro 100 dealers. Among that group that are willing to reveal their brand usage, 24 percent said they used Savant in 2011, the No. 3 brand behind Crestron (64%) and Control4 (55%).

The previous year, only 10 percent of CE Pro 100 dealers were using Savant, then the No. 5 brand. As a caveat, the survey asks integrators to name their top three brands in each product category; thus, there is a high likelihood more integrators are using the brand than the survey indicates.

CE Pro research also indicates that many integrators have LiteTouch in their arsenal. Between 2005 and 2011, 6 percent to 8 percent of dealers surveyed said they had used LiteTouch products in the last two years.

What LiteTouch Brings to the Table


Carroll is very high on LiteTouch's technology and innovation, and its strong engineering staff. He appreciates LiteTouch's elegant keypad selection, of which there is nothing equivalent in the Savant line. He also sees LiteTouch's sensors and other accessories giving Savant a quick path to additional home automation control points.

As for the integration of LiteTouch and Savant, Carroll says that LiteTouch dealers will be Savant dealers starting today, and that the company has called all of the related parties -- distribution partners, reps, specifiers, etc.

"We will continue to support all of our partners, he says. "We enjoy a great relationship with them, and we hope to continue that."

Carroll adds that LiteTouch employees will be kept in place at the Salt Lake City facility, though the branding itself will begin to transition.

"It will probably be something like 'Savant Smart Lighting Control powered by LiteTouch," he says of the newly acquired offerings. "Obviously we'll want to move away from the LiteTouch brand, but it's still a very valuable brand [during the transitional phase]."


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