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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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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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Article Topics

News · Product News · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Lighting · Energy Management · Mergers and Acquisitions · Litetouch · Savant · Nortek · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

13 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Harald Steindl  on  02/21  at  01:18 PM

I am not too positive that they will indeed keep on supporting all the other platforms as well as Lutron will not be very interested either..

Posted by Jonathan Jordan  on  02/21  at  02:39 PM

Is this a joke? Savant has ( had ) a good reputation with dealers because their products work. Throw LiteTouch in the mix and now there are problems Savant can’t fix. Hell, LiteTouch couldn’t even fix them. Anyone see Tommy Boy? Do you know what a guarantee is? If you have ever programmed LiteTouch, you know what I mean! It is no wonder they are in last place. If there was a worse place than last place, that is where LiteTouch would be. Maybe the problem is Savant listened, or was sold on this purchase. Had to be! Now Savant is going to be taken down to “just a me too” company. They should keep buying companies that don’t matter in our space, and they can expect the same results as AMX! It was a good ride, time to take another look at C4.

Posted by Jonathan Jordan  on  02/21  at  02:56 PM

Really? Is this a joke? Is Savant trying to be AMX? Buying a bunch of small worthless companies? Savant has (Had) a good reputation with their dealers because they weren’t trying to be all things to all people. Sound like anyone you know? Now all of the LiteTouch dealers are now Savant dealers? Being a LiteTouch cert. dealer make him/her a perfect candidate for Savant? We all know that LiteTouch was the bottom of the barrel. The guarantee? Have you seen Tommy Boy? I wonder what comes next, Hunter Douglas?

Posted by Michael LaGrone  on  02/21  at  06:56 PM

Yes I agree, Why did savant buy litetouch?
I am a Savant dealer and it does not seem fair that I (we) have to pay a tremendous amount of $$ to be a savant dealer and go through a certification process just to be a dealer. And now all of the litetouch guys are now Savant dealers? WOW not fair at all!!

Posted by Paul Makia  on  02/21  at  07:47 PM

@John -
I don’t think so.  Sounds like they are going to still have a close relationship with Lutron.  To me it sounds like a really smart move.  They wanted to have their own lighting control just like every other major player in the Automation industry.  Instead of starting with nothing, they at least have a baseline.

And then unlike Crestron who screwed their dealers badly when they came out with their Crestron lighting, Savant is going to still let the higher end keep the Lutron devices.

So they lose no control or interface with Crestron, but gain an in-house, already installed lighting control company.  I don’t see a loss there. 

And my guess is that they will keep two types of dealers, those who just have access to the lights, and those that do both lights and Control.  I think it was smart.  Surprising and risky for sure, but overall a good idea.

Posted by Mactacular  on  02/21  at  09:04 PM

This is a bold move.  There is lots of business to go around.  While Lutron is the top dog when it comes to lighting control there are lots of dealers that want to participate in wired lighting that can not get access to Homeworks.  I would be surprised if every litetouch dealer instantly has access to Savant. But, that is easily answered with a call to your Savant rep.

This also has to be seen as a move for future product development vs. todays product offering from Litetouch.  I am sure there are products in the works that will make more sense in the near future.  For today it is a win for all the Savant dealers to have an integrated offering from Savant if needed.  While, maintaining the strong support for others products.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  02/22  at  01:34 AM

Current LiteTouch dealers only have access to Savant. They still have to go through all the training and certifications.

Posted by harry connick jr  on  02/22  at  07:37 AM

Hey guys, if you haven’t heard yet, super premium brands are on the way out for more value oriented offerings.  Niether Savant nor LiteTouch offer anything of value.  LiteTouch was expundged from Nortek for obvious monetary reasons and Savant is so hapless they took the bait and committed to a purchase.  I do not have hope for either brand as “elite” is essentially dead in favor of value.  The TV panel business is a correlary example.  (ELITE is dead there for better value options from competitors.)

Posted by Hugh Damrite  on  02/24  at  12:44 PM

Jonathan Jordan… You are an imbecile.  Have you ever even used the Litetouch product?  Obviously not, because if you had you would know that it’s the most dependable, longest lasting, nearly bulletproof lighting system out there.  There are systems in that have been working for nearly twenty years.  I know because I have been a Litetouch dealer for fifteen.  Bottom of the barrel?... Please… You have no idea what you are talking about.  I hate to hear this.

Posted by Jonathan Jordan  on  02/27  at  10:44 AM

Going personal? Cool, I won’t stoop to your level, but I will say this. I guess if you have never experienced a Lutron installation, you would think LiteTouch is a good solution. I guess when you are used to installing X10, LiteTouch looks like a winner. I have used LiteTouch, Vantage, & Lutron. There is no comparison . Lutron is the best. LiteWare? Joke! What happened to HomeTouch? That’s right, LiteTouch thought they could make PLC work. LiteTouch went BK how many times? And by the way, when you use the word bulletproof, nearly shouldn’t accompany it.
If you have been a dealer for 15 years, what are you going to do when Savant shuts them down? Look for another line? Lutron? Oh, that’s right, you haven’t supported Lutron in the past. The rep probably will say no way. I guess, maybe, there is always Vantage. Good luck, your LiteTouch product is going bye bye.

Posted by gary  on  11/01  at  07:08 AM

Here we are several months later. Litetouch dealers only have access to lighting. If they want to venture into AV, they need to pay the corresponding fees and satisfy all of the requirements already in place to be so. One of those is being approved by the same rep who reps Lutron in this area, ALR (or some arm of theirs ANSR.
Rather than rant about any aspect of this, time will tell. I too think that Savant is making a prudent move. Imagine if/when Lutron opts into complete home automation, all those AV companies that have hitched their wagon to Lutron and heavily relied on them will probably have some issues. Do companies ever tell their employees far in advance they are closing a location? Hardly. If Lutron joins the “complete automation” group, the same will happen, we will read about it the next day.

Posted by Larry  on  07/17  at  09:02 AM

Oh, guys.. the way they are treating LiteTouch is a travesty.  Savant promised the world when they were coming in to support and integrate LiteTouch.  It has come to pass the exact opposite!  Savant refuses to support LiteTouch products and therefore customers.  They made the LiteTouch warranty void (understandable) but also REFUSE to support customers.  A customer who has a damaged CCU is out of luck.  Savant does not offer to repair or help in any way.  Savant tells dealers to sell them a completely new Savant CCU and appropriate interface modules, and install the new products and programming.  This is truly a RAW deal for the end user and puts the integrator in a horrible position.  I for one will stick to Crestron.

Posted by Loaded response  on  07/17  at  09:39 AM

Larry

You mentioned a travesty.  So, Savant has engineered the new products to be backwards compatible to allow an old LiteTouch customer simply replace their processor if it no longer functions.  The new processors and less expensive in most cases vs. purchasing parts.  How is this a bad thing?  The client gets a new product more supportive of the future vs. making a now defunct company product work. 

Speaking of what is a actual travesty…  2 year old remote controls that you can’t get batteries for is a travesty.  I for one will stick with Savant.

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