Home Automation Podcast Episode #62: An Industry Q&A With Alex Capecelatro
The Future of Voice Control
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Alex Capecelatro. Recorded live on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
About Alex Capecelatro
Alex Capecelatro is the Founder and CEO of Josh.ai, a voice-controlled home automation system with a focus on artificial intelligence. Josh.ai utilizes a proprietary natural language understanding (NLU) engine with state-of-the-art home control integrations for a powerful smart home experience.
Alex started his career as a research scientist for NASA, the Naval Research Lab, and later Sandia National Laboratory. He then ventured into consumer technology first with electric car manufacturer Fisker Automotive, then through founding two social software products "At The Pool" and "Yeti" with members in more than 120 countries.
Alex's focus is at the intersection of elegant design, cutting-edge software, and purposeful hardware to offer transformational experiences. Alex received his engineering degree from UCLA and currently splits his time between LA and Denver.
Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Michael:
- AI and automation
- The future of voice control
- The value of privacy and security to the Josh.ai customer
- Designing new CI technology
Ron: Hello everybody. Ron Callis with another episode of Automation Unplugged. This is episode number 62 automation unplugged as always, is brought to you by my day job over at One Firefly. I keep looking this way cause I actually see the thing that you guys see on Facebook when I look over here and we have an awesome guests lined up today. Alex Capecelatro. I probably said that wrong. He'll, he'll correct me here shortly as soon as we bring him on. But it's been a little bit since we have had a show maybe a longer gap than normal. I apologize for that. The holidays happened, the first of the year had some travel in there and so I just wanted to give you watch if you're watching live or if you're watching this in you know, post live. So you want you to recording or you're listening cause soon we'll be sending this content out the podcast. Just wanted to give you an update.
"One of our core values that One Firefly has is innovation and so you guys and gals have known us to create new ideas and put things up. Well, we've got some stuff in store for this year. We're going to bring a lot of new ideas, new products, new solutions to the space to help integrators grow their businesses."
What's been going on in the life of Ron and the life of One Firefly. A lot's been happening. We have an exciting year, 2019. There's just so much we have cooking for you. This is a big one of our tenants, one of our core values that One Firefly has is innovation and so you guys and gals have known us to create new ideas and put things up. Well I tell you what, we've got some stuff in store for this year. We're going to bring a lot of new ideas, new products, new solutions to the space to help integrators grow their businesses. And you know, I've been rolling, I rolled my sleeves up and I've been down with my team as we've been moving a lot of those products through. So I've been very involved with that and such to the extent that I delayed some of the Automation Unplugged content, sadly. What else has been going on? I was voted onto the Azione board of directors, which is kind of gnarly. Didn't see that coming. That is a process where the existing board nominates and actually maybe the Azione membership. I'm not sure exactly, I should know this, but I'm not sure exactly how that happened. But I was nominated on, and then there was a voting process and I was asked to join the Azione board of directors and I did that and I'm honored to be serving. I've had my first meeting and all as well. And what else? Let's see here. Oh, one last thing. Then I'm going to get onto our awesome guest. Um this is kinda cool. So just had their national sales meeting maybe last week, week or two ago, and they announced their partnership with One Firefly, which is pretty cool. So they have a class of dealer called the ambassador and the ambassadors are now getting certain benefits with One Firefly. Maybe most notably all of our training video product that we call user or UIU user interface university. Our full library of 30 plus Savant custom branded videos, which are branded with the integrators logo, phone number and website on every single video and put on their website. All of the ambassadors are now getting that as a free benefit. So that's kinda cool. So anyway, enough about that boring stuff. Let's get onto our exciting. Let's, why are you here? Because I know you guys want to talk to Alex. So let me go ahead and bring him on there. You know who I am. Let's bring Alex on thing. There he is. And that's I Alex, how badly did I mess up your last name?
Alex: No, you got it right the second time. Capecelatro you nailed it.
Ron: Capecelatro. Awesome. So I'm in Florida and it's rather warmish here. I think it's going to make it up into the 70s. Where are you hailing from right now, Alex?
Alex: I'm actually home in LA. It's probably mid sixties, little overcast, but I can't complain. It's always nice here.
Ron: Yeah, it is always nicer. I love Southern California and right. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is probably hating on us right now because the polar vortex is circling the United States. Right. So all right, we already got some comments here. Oh, look at this. Let's see if I can, there you go, Troy. Josh.ai is so cool. Can't wait for this. Awesome. Thanks Troy. If you are out there in the ether and you're watching this, whether you're watching this live or you're watching this recording please go down to your notes our comment section of the video and let us know where you're coming from. You know, tell us what part of the country and just for the fun of it, tell, tell us how cold it is outside so then you can, you know be jealous of Alex and I being in nice warm locations while the rest of you freeze. That wasn't very nice. Was it Alex? That was terrible.
Alex: Not the nicest. We like the people that are watching.
Ron: Oh yeah. We love the people that are watching. So Alex you know, I want to get into the latest with your company. You're doing super exciting things. And by the way, you just did a training for my staff last month or actually earlier this month and it was, it was really superior. The team really enjoyed it. But I always with automation and plug to get into some of the background of where you come from. Right. So you came onto the scene you are out there. It almost seems like you are your company is quite the rage and I see you at industry events everywhere. But where did you come from? What was your background for those watching or listening that may not know that you mind sharing?
Alex: Yeah, so I'm relatively new to the industry. We started this company about four years ago. Actually March is going to be our fourth anniversary, which is kind of exciting. But prior to that I really wasn't in the CI industry. I guess to give you a a long story or at least a little bit more detail, grew up in upstate New York. I'm pretty sort of a middle class upbringing, not very sort of technical household or family. There was really no automation that we had at home, but when I was, I think it was 11, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes and very quickly I went through this whole change of having to deal with insulin, eventually an insulin pump, lots of technology that was impacting my daily life and I didn't realize it then, but later I think that was the spark that got me really excited about science and technology. Just the idea of what was enabling me to live a good normal life. And you know, at this point the diabetes really has no negative impact. But from that I started building websites and playing around with different technologies. Ended up launching a bike company when I was probably 13 or 14 and that really took me down a very technical route. I was welding and building stuff. We were kind of chatting earlier about mechanical engineering. I actually got really into the physics of it and ultimately the chemistry, dropped out of high school when I was, I think 16. I was recruited by the government, moved down to DC to work for the Naval research lab. Ended up joining a NASA division first in Ohio than Los Angeles. And I spent probably five or six years working in research labs, usually defense contractors, folks liked to send me to a national lab at Los Alamos, places like that. And it was exciting. It was the forefront of, you know, really the latest and greatest. We were trying to make some really cool cutting edge stuff, but it was very private, very secretive. I couldn't talk about it. We couldn't patent it.
Ron: So without giving me any secrets of top secret chemicals you invented, like give me a, for example, if for example, such a material existed, it might do something like X, Y or Z.
Alex: I'll just say Cold Fusion and leave it at that
Ron: Holy bananas. That's now you were working for the government before you went to, you went to college first, right? Or no?
Alex: So I was working for the government first.
Ron: Before you went to college?
Alex: Correct. Yep. And along the way I started getting a little bit frustrated because I was doing work that was contracted. It was, you know, not always being used for applications that were serving the better. Good in terms of, you know. We'll just leave at the Department of Defense, does a lot of research that's important but not always the most fun in terms of what I want to really spend my time doing. And I had an idea for a company that I thought would be really interesting. I partnered up with a guy in Los Angeles and ended up enrolling at UCLA specifically so I could move out to Los Angeles, build this company. And and that really got me into school during college. I was just kind of doing a little bit of everything I was, I was going to school, but I was always working on jobs and started weird companies. I tried starting a tablet company before the iPad came out. That was a disaster, but also really kind of cool being, you know, right at that space as the technology was emerging. And I ended up joining an electric car company. Basically as I was finishing college at the time, we had maybe a dozen people, ended up raising over $1 billion, hired a thousand people. It was a huge, huge undertaking. The company was called Fisker Automotive and that was kind of my first foray into a really big scalable business. You know, I learned a lot, but ultimately the business
Ron: What was your role at Fisker? Raising $1 billion as a startup and a thousand employees? What was your, what was Alex's job there?
Alex: I was, I was quite junior. So what happened was our, our CEO is a designer. Henrik Fisker, the former designer for us and Martin. He liked designing James Bond cars, stuff like the VA Vantage and the DB9. So when he started Fisker, the idea was that it was going to be a design led company, make really cool electric cars. And at the time, really the only electric or hybrids that you saw in the roads were Prius's and that's not exactly a cool, sexy car. So he was trying to build the design company where the overlap from design to engineering was really kind of weak to say say the least. I got hired into the design department as the liaison between design and engineering. But as we grew I ended up wearing many hats. I was building our two and a half million square foot plant in Delaware. I was in charge of all of our sustainability initiatives, all the materials in the car. You know, there's a lot that I kind of had my hands in, but automotive is very traditional. You know, we had 50 year veterans in the automotive industry that were our VPs and sort of running the business. And I think part of my frustration was I was this 20 year old kid that had ideas, but I didn't really feel like I was being listened to. So I actually left in 2010 to start my former company. 12 months after leaving the CEO was fired and 12 months after that the company filed bankruptcy. So I feel like I dodged a bullet.
Ron: That was rather fortuitous. That's amazing. That's good timing.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, I still love what they're all about. Awesome cars. Really cool stuff. And also for me, I love playing out that intersection of design hardware and just really sexy emotional product, stuff that gets people excited. And that's kind of been my focus ever since. And sort of what we're trying to do with Josh, it's the idea that technology by itself is not that useful if it's not wrapped into an easy to use app or voice interface, you know, delightful experience that makes people happy. Stuff people want to show off. And for me, playing at the intersection of software, AI hardware, that's really where I get excited. And so I left Fisker to start a software company, ran for about five years. Ultimately, I'm looking over here with my show notes. So that was that at the pool or Yeti? So it was a parent company called Hyphos that had both Yeti and At the Pool. So for those of you who don't know At the Pool was started off as a product aiming to connect people. It was not a dating site, but the idea is if you were looking for roommates, looking for people to go to the gym with, maybe you're a foreign speaking citizen, looking for other people who speak your nationality or language. And we were building a really interesting mobile platform for connecting people, grew that into a hundred countries kind of learned a lot. And that morphed into this product called Yeti, which was all about local recommendations. What we found was people oftentimes were connecting. We had really interesting algorithms that we're trying to hire the right data, the right connections, and people ultimately were looking for the best curated recommendations of where to go and what to do. And that's really what Yeti was. So At the Pool took us about a year to grow into a hundred countries when we launched Yeti. We did that in a week. It just blew up. It grew very, very fast. But certainly it was one of these Silicon Valley companies that had no revenue, was VC backed. I was constantly raising capital. It was, it was fun, but it was also a very challenging time because we weren't, you know, Snapchat. We never grew to have hundreds of millions of users and financing over the years that we were running it. There were ups and downs in the economy and the market, ultimately an opportunity to sell came and a lot, sort of all happened at once. Basically I was in the process of building a home here in Beverly Hills, an advisor of mine who sold his former company for a ton of money. He was building a home in Denver when we had an acquisition offer on the table. I started exploring what does it look like to sell a tech company. And often when you sell a tech company, if it's going to sell to a Google or an Apple or a Facebook, you end up having to join the company for about four years. It's usually sort of one of the contingencies. And so I was spending time at these big tech companies just really thinking about what would I do here, what I enjoy, what team would I work on? And I was basically complaining to my now business partner at the time advisor Tim, that I just, I love Google as a business. But the idea of working there felt soul crushing. It just didn't feel like it was where I wanted to be. And Tim started bringing up the idea of, well, what if we did something together? Now Tim's one of these people who's just a pure genius. He built his last company out of his garage, sold it for basically $1 billion. He's a programmer. He doesn't like to run companies. And so his idea of retirement was just writing code. He built a voice engine, which is now what sits behind Josh. Built it for fun. You know, that was kind of his, I don't need to work. What am I going to do for fun project? While he was doing that, we were having lots of conversations around applications. You know, at the time, Alexa hadn't launched. Google Assistant wasn't live. Siri was actually live that basically no one liked it. It had lots of complaints and we started talking about how voice among other things introduced into the home could really transform that experience. And so the launch of Josh.ai was actually a really kind of easy, comfortable transition of us just really thinking about what is what did Tim build, what did I been building, where were we kind of living in terms of our homes? And then both of us were constantly meeting with integrators, exploring options in terms of technology in the home. And the universal thing we kept coming back to was the experience just felt dated. It felt like we both were these, you know, software, Silicon Valley type folks that have an eye on the future. Why isn't the home that way? Why is it, you know, utilizing AI and machine learning, why isn't it smart? And at the time voice control was very controversial, but we knew that the signs were there, that voice was really about to be enabled and to take off. And that's really how we got started. And since then it's been 100% focused on the CI channel. We don't sell direct to customers. That all goes through integrators and we've just really loved being part of this community. It's been awesome.
Ron: How did you, when did you become aware that the CI industry existed? Right. So at what point did you know that this voice thing could be attached or vectored towards the CI industry and thus a business can be born?
Alex: So there were a few things that happened when I was building my home and when Tim was building his, we both were working with integrators. It turns out he was working with a really good integrator. I didn't know it at the time, but I was not working with the best integrator, you know, for us it was the referral from the neighbor, you know, it was often how these things happen and the guy was basically introducing a number of systems and a number of products in a way that just felt like I wasn't seeing the value. I wasn't seeing the use case, but I was getting exposed to this industry and I was getting exposed to how integrators work. When we started the company, the first probably six months, we bought every DIY product to integrate with. We bought Phillips hue light bulbs. We bought, you know, Nest thermostats.We bought a Sonos Play One and the idea at the time was these were just easy to get products that actually had API's, which has been an evolving trend but more and more products. Now do you have APIs? But we just wanted to build a proof of concept. We wants to figure out in the beginning, can we turn on lights? Can we play music? Can we control TVs? As we started doing that and we were investigating what the go to market strategy could be, we realized that the value of Josh goes up exponentially when there are more devices in a home. If all you have is music, there's only so much you want to do with voice, but when you have music, shades, thermostats, lights, TVs, security systems, et cetera, the concept of what we wanted to build gets much more valuable. The other thing is there's this channel that we all know about where integrators are, you know, local. They've got their clients, they're doing the installs, they're doing the service, and as a new business, the idea of trying to take all that on just is not practical. You know, we're not going to be doing the installs, servicing our clients directly at the scale that we wanted to get to. And so it made a lot of sense. We started the company in March of '15 that CEDIA was the first CEDIA that I attended and by that point we were 100% committed to the channel and haven't looked back. It just with such an obvious direction to go
Ron: Within, for those that may not be fully immersed in the Josh architecture, can you talk or highlight kind of what a tip, what are the pieces and parts that are required to make a Josh system come to life?
Alex: Yeah, so there are a few things that are worth noting and one of the first ones is there isn't really a company doing what we do or rather we don't do the same thing that another company does for a long time. We've been struggling with that pigeon hole of, well are you competing with Crestron? No, we work with Crestron. Are you competing with Alexa? At one point we actually worked with Amazon and we were a partner of theirs. The reality is we're trying to build what you can think of as the brain of the home that talks to everything that's connected. We're not trying to build any hard work. We can help it. Meaning, we don't want to make TVs and speakers and lights and all that stuff, but we do want to make a multi-sensor product with a Parkfield microphone or rather we have built that with the notion of this is how you interface into the homeSo when we think about what we're building, really at the end of the day, it's the interface into the home as well as the brain and the intelligence behind it. So to put that in sort of more simple terms, we have a hub, the hub connects to the network, discovers everything on the network. So talks well to Lutron and Crestron, Control4, and Savant. We talked directly to Sonos. You're kind of scrolling you up a little bit. You got some of the partners there on the page. But we basically discover and talk directly to lots of these products and companies and it's just a small list of them here. And then we essentially download all that automatically into our UI. And from the UI there's a voice engine that is able to utilize it contextually. So rather than having hard-coded voice commands based on activating scenes or giving specific names of devices, our system essentially says the house has a variety of floors within floors. You have rooms within rooms, you have devices and devices have capabilities. So what we allow them is any string of voice commands that utilize those capabilities. For example, you could say turn on the TV and the lights in the kitchen. We understand that the TV and the lights have a capability of turn on. We're able to send those commands out. The kitchen designates which ones, and that all works in a very natural way just to kind of show on the screen really briefly. If you scroll down a little bit, you've got the app there. A lot of people know us for voice control. It's one of the things that sets us apart, but the app does a lot more, which is really interesting. Most of our clients have multiple homes. They want to remotely be able to access and see what's going on. We know this, you know, the other control systems have apps as well. But what we did is we built an interface that allows you to control everything in the home with or without voice from the app. There's a voice button. That's what that animation is kind of showing. It's giving a voice command, but you can also check on cameras. You can also build scenes right in the app. We made it really simple to use and the idea again is that we just want to make a product that the end client finds delightful and simple and powerful.
Ron: What has most surprised you over the last four years of this adventure launching Josh?
"Every home is custom. It's unique. We're integrating products that from one home to the next, are not necessarily going to be consistent."
Alex: There've been a lot of surprises. The first one that comes to mind is that prior to launching there was no such thing as Amazon or Google really playing in this space. When those guys came out, there was initially this kind of fear of well, how are we going to compete with these giant tech companies and aren't they just going to solve all the problems and basically be the be all end all? And what we found were, were a couple of reasons that that hasn't happened. The first thing is the big mass market companies really, from my perspective, don't understand the CI channel. You know, every home is custom. It's unique. We're integrating products that you know, from one home to the next are not necessarily going to be consistent. And what we need to do is we need to build tools that allow it to be just really easy for the integrator to configure, setup, deploy. No matter what the setup is. And Amazon, Google, those guys really aren't focused on this channel. It's also relatively small for them. You know, Amazon reportedly sold 100 million Echos last year, which is a huge number. You're never going to hit that volume in the CI channel. But what we have are, you know, the huge projects, you know, luxury projects. We've got the clients who are really wanting the best, and so we ended up going down a different route. The other thing is when we started the company, we didn't look at privacy and security as a huge advantage to what we're doing. We just figured naturally it's what you build into a luxury product. I don't want my voice commands going out to the cloud, serving ads being, you know, sent all around. I want my commands to be locked down. I want it to be local and I wanna be able to trust the system so I can put it in my bedroom and put it in my living room. Well, that's not the approach that the big mass market companies have taken. And so we've actually gotten a lot of business and a lot of interests from folks saying, I need a super secure system. I need a system that is never going to target ads at me. It's never going to send my stuff out to the cloud. And part of that, which is kind of cool, is we built some new features that really exacerbate that. For example, we have a feature that internally we call the Snapchat feature, which is a femoral voice commands. You give a command, the action happens and poof, it's gone. There's nothing recorded, nothing tracked. It's like that idea of Snapchat photos that disappear. And that feature is a really cool feature to be able to offer clients that might be CEOs or celebrities that really want to make sure their data can't get out there. So it's been interesting just learning that doubling down on this market, partnering with integrators, really having a very hands on sort of interaction with our integrator partners. We've been able to build a product that really is competing with the big mass-market players because we're just looking at it different.
Ron: Is that data or privacy piece? A core driver as to, you know, I'm sure people are still poking and prodding and just trying to figure out who you guys are and when to apply the Josh solution versus Alexa or you know the Google pod or you know any of these other players. Is the idea that you keep their recordings private and or you don't sell those or share those. Have you found that to be important to the CI space?
Alex: Absolutely. I would argue almost 100% of the client interactions that we have without us even mentioning it, they bring up privacy and security. What happened was Amazon is as far back as I think 2014 or 15 it was buying Superbowl ads and really getting the idea of voice control in the mainstream. They were promoting this, people were seeing it and that that really pushed voice control, you know, to the forefront and made it viable in terms of customer adoption, consumer adoption. But then people tried it, and they started getting scared. They started reading headlines and seeing things that you know, got them a little bit worried like Facebook portal. It's a screen that has Alexa built in that you can use for doing video calls with all the Facebook security issues that came up in the last year. People are really concerned about using that as their smart home voice assistant. So what we find is we have a number of folks that come to us saying, honestly, I'm happy with Amazon but I don't trust them or I don't like the privacy aspect, if you guys have a better stance on privacy, my client's ready for it. And as a result we doubled down on it. We're building more features, we're building more in terms of security and that's opening up doors in terms of, you know, exploring hotels where security is a huge opportunity as well. Conference rooms. If you're a venture capital firm or a law firm, you don't want an always listening microphone that's sending data out to Amazon or Google's cloud. And so what we're finding is while we are focused just on resi today, privacy is seeming to be the number one value proposition that will allow us, allow us to really grow, as we get bigger.
"I've heard lots of stories where people have said some word or some place and then magically they see that Facebook ad on their phone or in their feed. They see a banner ad and yet they had never been to such a website. Somewhere in the ether, voice is picking that up."
Ron: But to take that topic a little bit further, is his voice so new that the consumer has concerns about it, but do they know to then ask for Josh as the solution that will keep them protected as opposed to Google or Facebook or Apple or Amazon? You know these other places where voices where they probably are recorded? I know I've heard lots of stories. I'll say this where people have said some word or some place and then magically they see that Facebook ad on their phone or in their feed. They see a banner ad and yet they had never been to such a website. So I mean somewhere in the ether, voice is picking that up and presenting you with information and with you, with Josh, that doesn't happen. But how does the consumer know that? I mean, how did they get educated that there's a way they can do this and be, you know, their privacy can be kept in check.
Alex: Yeah. So there are a few things. We've been surprised as a startup that clients have actually directly been asking their integrators about us. And I think it might be a matter of them kind of Googling for, you know, a CI based voice control system or more secure voice control system. But that does come up sometimes where clients directly say to their dealer, Hey, I'm interested in this Josh thing. And many times those are dealers that we don't yet work with that give us a call and we kind of go through and get them trained up and get them certified. In other cases, clients will go to their dealers and they'll say, is there a more secure version of voice control? And I really want to voice control my home but I don't want Amazon or I don't want, you know, X or Y brand. And in that case, if the dealer is familiar with us or they know about us, if they're certified to sell us, you know, they become a great brand advocate. But we had a case not too long ago where a very well known public company executive went to his integrator and said, I love the voice control and my Comcast remote, why can't I control the rest of my home this way? And the integrator said, well, you can, you just need Josh. And that started him off on basically getting Josh in his homes. So it's kind of nice in that even if people don't know us by brand, they are asking about voice. It's becoming more of a you know, request that's happening and we offer remind dealers as well. I don't see any reason to push voice as an option to your clients. It's the type of thing that your clients who want it are going to ask you for it and having a good responsive, here's what we can do and here's what's available is really the way to go. But once you start pushing voice control, I think you end up dealing sometimes with misaligned expectations because while voice is pretty amazing, it is still day one, you know, it's not as natural as we would like it to be. It still has some issues and so I'm a big fan of underselling over delivering and when the client is directly asking for voice and you can introduce them to Josh, it's wonderful. The other thing though is beyond just the voice piece, we see a lot of projects where they're wanting to use the app that we've built. You know, it's a lightweight control system essentially that's able to reach out and discover. And what's cool about it is we work across multiple brands, so we see homes that have Lutron Homeworks QS as well as some Lutron Casada. We'll work with all of that work to the user. It just looks like one lighting system or Crestron Paying and Crestron Simple or Crestron and Lutron. What we're seeing is we basically ingest that to the end user. It just looks like a light. We don't really care what the brand is in terms of how we display that data. So beyond just voice making a really easy to use app interface has been critical for the success of the company.
Ron: What's your vision of the future in the home and what role does voice play? Does it ever overtake other interfaces or is it always an auxiliary method of interacting with the tech in the house?
"Today we're really big believers that voice is an "and" technology. It's not to replace your switches, your remote's, your, you know, touchscreens. It really supplements it."
Alex: So today we're really big believers that voice is an "and" technology. It's not to replace your switches, your remote's, your, you know, touchscreens. It really supplements it. We're huge fans and giving users multiple options. You know, right now I'm in this kind of kitchen area in my house. I can open the app, I can hit a light switch on the wall or I can give a voice command. And the reality is, depending on the situation, I'll do all three. You know, when I first walk in the room, if I've passed the light switch, I'll just press the button. If I'm sitting here at the desk kind of working, I'll give a voice command because I don't want to get up. And if I'm here on the call with you, if I have guests, rather than interrupting the flow of things, I'll discreetly open the app and control things without them even knowing I'm doing it. So today we're really big believers that voice supplements the other interfaces that we have. That being said, we're seeing more and more clients of ours that are 65 and up that really struggle to use apps. They prefer in their minds what they consider an easier experience and deploying voice. Well, they're getting so used to it that we had an integrator recently reach out saying their clients forgot they could control their lights anyway but voice because they use it all the time. And so it's kind of cool seeing for certain applications and certain clients that voice is really the way to go. You know, I have a TV in the room behind me. I have no idea where the remote is. I haven't used it in I don't know how many months because I'm just voice controlling my TV for me that makes perfect sense. In terms of the future, we're really big believers in the idea that we don't speak with as much precision and detail as these systems today require. And so we need to build more of an AI platform that can fill in the gaps. So examples of that would mean right now if you walk into a room and say, turn on the lights, we already know that we're in this room, we know that we don't want to turn all the lights in the house on. So we turn just the room or just the lights in the room that I'm in on. And more than that. We have a light sensor and we're essentially looking at historical database on time of day, to know should we turn them onto a 100% or 20% and that's all data that if the user had to say turn on the lights in the kitchen to 100%, it's a lot worse than just lights on. We're looking at doing the same thing across the board. You know, you walk into your home gym and you say, you know, Josh, I'm going to work out for an hour. Well Josh should know that when you're in that room for an hour, you like to listen to certain music. Maybe you like to have the fan on. You know there's certain things that you like to do. And so what we're doing is essentially internally, and this is all processed local in the home, we're beginning to learn the habits and the patterns that take place in the home so that when someone gives a very brief command, we can fill in the gaps. And an example I love to bring up is if you walk into a room and say, play some music. Our system is trying to figure out who's given the command, what time of day is the command given? What room is the command given and what historical data do we have? So play some music in the dining room in the evening. My play classical were placed some music in the bedroom in the morning might play, your good morning scene. Or your good morning music.
Ron: Is it picking up the voice intonation so that it knows who in the household is saying that command is voice there yet or is it just hearing the comment and just interpreting the words is where we're at.
Alex: The technology is there in a non-secure way. Meaning we can likely figure out who it is, but not enough. If it needed to be known for security purposes, we believe by the end of the year that's going to be different. We believe that we'll be able to know that if Ron says unlock the front door, it will work and if anyone else tries to say it, it won't. That sort of unique voice fingerprinting is getting really, really good. So that's sort of a partial future partial present.
Ron: What keeps it from someone from playing a bad guy from playing a recording of the good guy saying unlock the door? Right. And then maybe that's a silly example.
Alex: Yeah, no, I mean there are no silly examples. There are so many unknowns as we explore where this is going. The reality is a recording does have a different audio signature than natural voice that's spoken from a human. You know, you basically have downgrading downsampling, that kind of stuff. And so potentially we'll be able to disambiguate a real human voice versus a recorded voice, but that's not here today. And we need to be careful before we launch these features that we know that they're, you know, tamper-proof and foolproof.
Ron: Now where, where for those that are watching or listening and they want to see you guys out on the road. Where is Josh gonna be at here in the upcoming, say, three to six months?
Alex: In terms of physical location?
Ron: Yeah. In terms of events, what sort of events or shows or, or activities will you guys be showing out in interacting with, with your customers or prospects?
Alex: Yeah, so we decided about two years ago to really focus on the North American market. We used to go to ISC, which is taking place next week, but we decided that really going beyond North America is not the place for us right now. So we're focused very much domestically. That being said, we are branching out into some of the design, interior design and architecture communities. So for example, in about I think two weeks, maybe three weeks, we're going to be in Vegas speaking at the KABAS conference so that's the kitchen and bath show. And it's just really fun seeing the interaction and intersection between the design communities and the tech communities. And at CEDIA this year, for example, there was actually a really cool design tour where the interior designers got shown our booth and other booths to really try to merge these two worlds. So K Biz is coming up pretty soon. I want to say we're going to be at the ISC events. We're just at CES, which in the past historically we've been to a lot of the buying group events and so Azione, Pro Source you know, we tend to go to those, we're not officially members though, so we get, we've historically been asked to speak about the, you know, the latest and greatest with voice control and AI. So we'll probably be at that, but other than that, my business development team, they're on the road basically five days a week in terms of, you know, Monday through Friday we have about 200 certified dealers around the country. And that's growing. Part of our process by the way, is when a dealer comes on, we actually fly to the dealer and we do the training in their showroom because we want to make sure that they've got a full demo set up. They know how it works, they can kind of play around with it. And so on any given week, we have members of our team that are visiting Chicago, Florida, New York, San Francisco. And so if anyone is interested in getting together, it's kind of amazing. But we probably have someone coming to your area in the next, you know, four to six weeks.
Ron: Awesome. So completely abstract from shoptalk. What do you do when you're designing a new tech or running your company? What do you do for fun?
Alex: Yeah, this season is all about skiing for me. I grew up skiing. I took about 10 years off when I moved to LA and just had all this crazy work going on. But this company, we actually started on a ski trip. My business partner has a place in Aspen and we try to make sure that we basically as an annual, you know, a pilgrimage if you will go back and get some skiing and so this weekend my company's doing a little ski trip right in Denver or sort of near Denver in March, doing a little trip to Aspen, meeting up with some of our integrator partners. So for me it's great that it's totally non-work and I love it, but yet it blends. Like last year I went to Jackson Hole for the first time and I got to hang out with some locals that are integrators that knew the mountain. Like it's a really fun, you know, hybrid. Other than that, I'm kind of a camera geek. I really love drones and cameras. My staff for my birthday this year got me a little DGI Osmo, which is like their little steady cam. It's tiny, but it's amazing. So if anyone's into cameras, definitely check out the Osmo. It's pretty cool.
Ron: And is that the one that follows you around if you're walking or running? Is that, that camera?
Alex: So this is actually a handheld device. That's got a brilliant steady cam. And so if you're holding it and you're jittery and you know, fidgeting and all that, the camera stays perfectly level. And so it's really cool for, you know, using while skiing and stuff like that. But it's also just cool to show like projects. If you want to, you know, film one of your projects in a home, walking around with this thing. It is just like, it's classy. It looks great. So the Osmo is a cool product.
Ron: All right. So now I'm gonna bring that up on the screen. Cause now I'm super curious. So if I, what would I Google?
Alex: DGI Osmo.
Ron: Oops. This thing?
Alex: That's it. Yeah. So if you're in a cameras, that's cool. And again, if you want to film any of your projects, kind of show it off. Walking around the house with this. It's just amazing. It's super, super level.
Ron: Yeah. Well I've been going around with a GoPro when I travel with my family or going to events and it's let's just say the opposite of a steady cam. So it sounds like maybe this is the the better alternative.
Alex: Yeah. That's cool. I brought it to CEDIA. It was great.
Ron: Oh, that's cool. All right, I'm going to throw up on the screen here. Your Twitter, is that one of the a good way for people to follow you and, or hear what you're thinking on any given day.
Alex: Yeah, so active on Twitter, active on Instagram. Also. Anyone can email me.
Ron: Awesome. And I'm going to throw up here your company's Twitter channel as well. Let's say everyone can see that. Maybe you go, it is Twitter.com/JoshDotAI. So if anyone wants to find you on Twitter, that's one of the good ways. Well, Josh. Alex. I've said that internally when we've, you did some training for us. I was like, yeah, Josh is going to come on. I mean, Alex is going to come on. I'm assuming you get that a lot. Perhaps.
Alex: Yeah, it happens a lot, but I'm happy with it. I'd rather the brand gets known than me.
Ron: Well, you know what, I'm going to sign off, but I'm going to ask you one more question. And I think I had mentioned this to you when we spoke last. I'll send you the exact video so you can see it. But I did a series of marketing education videos called five minute marketing workshops. And in one of those videos I talked about branding and logo design. And so I was wondering if you could just tell our audience your name, Josh. Dot. AI. Where did the name come from and where did the use of the dog symbol or icon in your logo? Where did that come from?
Alex: Yeah, so the dog kind of came first when we were thinking about the brand. It was really important to me that we had a logo that was memorable you know, recognizable. I didn't want it to just be an abstract shape. And the idea of a dog was kind of perfect because dogs are loyal, they're trustworthy, they watch over your home, you know, a man's best friend. You can give a dog basic commands, like sit rollover, but you're not going to expect a dog to respond to you in a very complicated voice commands. And so it was kind of that idea that the dog just fit perfectly. People don't always know this, but we designed the ear of the dog had to be a J. So there's like a little hidden kind of letter that's in there in terms of the name Josh. This actually started off as a placeholder name where my business partner had a personal trainer named Josh. And the joke was he was really good looking and fun but not the brightest. And we used to joke that that was how Josh was, was, you know, not the brightest and beginning. But what we found and what was kind of cool is if you actually Google the name Josh, you'll see one of the first results is from Urban Dictionary and it says, essentially, Josh is that fun loving guy, shy at first. But when you get to know him, you'll fall in love. And we just thought that was so perfect for what we're trying to build. And then the last thing is we wanted a name that was easy to say, easy to remember, wasn't crazy foreign. Like you're seeing what these other AI Assistants and we wanted a male branding because when you look at traditional science fiction AI and robots are really always male branded and currently when you have all these females, there's this notion that it can be a, you know, a gender thing, you know, bossing or giving orders to a female. And we just liked the idea of kind of turning that upside down and saying, no, you know, Josh is your butler. Josh is you know, your AI that, you know, does what you ask.
Ron: Got it. Awesome. I'm going to, I'm going to grab this little bit of the audio clip and probably tie it into my marketing videos just so everyone can hear directly from you where that came from. Thank you for sharing. Well, Alex, I'm going to sign off. You've been very generous with your time spending almost 50 minutes here with us. So thank you so much for joining me on, on show number 62 with Automation Unplugged.
Alex: Definitely. Thanks for having me.
Ron: Awesome. Thank you. Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. That is show number. Let me go ahead and put this up there. There you go. Show number 62. And if you want to see more episodes of Automation Unplugged, certainly go to our website. I am gonna you know what I'll do, I'll go ahead and bring this up and I'm just want to show this resource. I don't know that I've done this before. So we do have on one firefly.com if you go over to the learn tab, you'll go down to Automation Unplugged and all of our previous guests. You'll find here we have show notes and if you simply click on the images you then easily can get to all of those videos. Now, I teased recently that we are also soon going to be converting all of our shows into podcasts and it's going to be some exciting announcements for that here in the coming days and weeks. But on that note, thank you so much for joining me. And we will, we're going to get back into our regular rhythms that we should have a show every Wednesday now through the balance of the year at least we'll certainly do our best to make sure that is the case. So thanks everyone and I will see you next time.
Alex Capecelatro began working for the Department of Defense before attending college. He started his career as a research scientist for NASA, the Naval Research Lab, and later Sandia National Laboratory. Alex then ventured into consumer technology first with electric car manufacturer Fisker Automotive, then through founding two social software products "At The Pool" and "Yeti" with members in more than 120 countries. Alex is the founder and CEO of Josh.ai, a voice controlled home automation system with a focus on artificial intelligence. Josh.ai utilizes a proprietary natural language understanding (NLU) engine with state of the art home control integrations for a powerful smart home experience.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing in the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.