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Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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An AV and integration-focused podcast broadcast live weekly
Join Ron Callis, Owner & CEO of One Firefly and industry veteran, as he talks business development, technology trends, and more with leading personalities in the tech industry. Automation Unplugged (AU) is produced and broadcast live every week.
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Home Automation Unplugged Episode #237: An Industry Q&A with Will Gilbert and Greg Michelier

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Will Gilbert and Greg Michelier, Co-Founders at Bodhi Software share everything about Bodhi Software as an IOT Solution.

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Will Gilbert and Greg Michelier. Recorded live on Wednesday, February 15th, 2023, at 12:30 pm. EST.

About Will Gilbert and Greg Michelier

Greg and Will along with their 3rd partner Rock co-founded Think Simple in 2001 a company that started out in software and hardware design, and ultimately turned into one of the largest residential home automation and AV integration companies serving The Bahamas, Florida and New York with over 100 employees, many of which have been there for 15+ years.

Building on their integration experience and software background, the co-founders embarked on their next journey, Bodhi. Bodhi is a software as a service IoT platform that brings together low cost Bodhi thermostats, sensors and other hardware items, along with the capability of communicating directly on enterprise control systems such as Crestron and Lutron. The software has been specified all around the world, with a primary focus of use in Hospitality, MDU, and mixed use properties. Bodhi markets to a professional dealer network and brings a recurring revenue stream to their businesses.

Interview Recap

  • Will and Greg’s background and what led them to founding Think Simple and Bodhi.
  • Bodhi Software as an IOT Solution 
  • How they go to market with Bodhi

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #236 An Industry Q&A with Koa Wagner

 

Transcript

Ron:  Greg, how are you, sir?

Greg: Pretty good and yourself?

Ron:  I am good. Thank you for joining me here on the show.

Greg: I'm excited to be here.

Ron:  Awesome. And let me get the countdown for Will. Will, how are you, sir?

Will: Well, thank you.

Ron:  Awesome. Maybe Will, why don't we start with you? Where are you coming to us from? And maybe give us a high level of what Bodhi is. And then I'll bring it over to Greg to do the same.

Will: Sure. I'm coming from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so just down the street from you. High level view of Bodhi is an IoT software platform. It's a software as a service. We utilize that platform. It's all developed in-house. We utilize that platform to bring in a variety of sensors and devices that we've developed. It also works with enterprise manufacturers like Crestron and Lutron and a couple of areas that we're targeting with it is hospitality and MDU environments.

Ron:  Got it. Okay. Cool. Appreciate that. Glad you're here. And mister Greg, do you mind telling us where you're coming to us from? And maybe if you could, if you want to add anything to Bodhi, but also give us just a sneak peek. What is Think Simple, which is one of your other businesses?

Greg: Absolutely. Well, I'm calling out a Nassau, Bahamas, so sunny Bahamas. Yeah, I mean, like Will said you know, Bodhi's just a great platform that enhances the current systems that are out there. And enhances in such a way that it ties in the services and the products on site. It's agnostic of manufacturers, and yeah, it's a great platform. As far as Think Simple, well, Think Simple is one of our companies. You actually started us in a way in the industry by signing us up to Crestron in 2005, we've been around before that, but we were doing advantage before that. So we've been in the industry for over 18 years. We grew it block by block. And now we have over a hundred employees. We've got 5, four, 5 offices. And it's been running itself. We work on the company, not in the company. And we're there to advise and help the people who put in place to work on to work on it and work in it.

Ron:  Greg, what type of projects does Think Simple do? Maybe just tell us what type of projects and then where do you do those projects?

Greg: Yeah. So we consider ourselves a bit of a resimercial company with hospitality. So we do anywhere from hotels to large houses, office spaces, etcetera, condo, MDU. And we do them through the Caribbean Bahamas and then through Eastern United States. And then we get the odd work outside those regions, but we try to stick within those New York, Florida, Caribbean.

Ron:  Okay. Well, Greg mentioned that you guys, the two of you, and I know your other partner, Rock as well. Rock couldn't be here for the interview today. But you guys work on Think Simple, but not in Think Simple. And I'm going to suppose that a lot of our listeners are going, oh my goodness, how did they do that? So how did you guys ultimately land at scaling Think Simple to a point where that was even an option?

Will: So it kind of goes back to the way we started it. So the three of us started together doing everything ourselves, like all these companies do. But the people that we hired also did the same thing. They started off running wire, working on proposals, installing product, programming the product, so they kind of grew with us. And they got to their expertise level and things. So over time, the natural progression was that they were doing more projects on their own. They were selling more projects themselves, and we were just kind of working on more of the admin side of things; operations, cash flow, things like that. And really let them kind of take over, if you will. Then just from a daily basis of just seeing how things are going overall, attending some organizational meetings, operational meetings, and then from there, letting them thrive on it.

Ron:  That's pretty cool. Do you guys, as owners, do you guys join out of curiosity? Here at One Firefly, my listeners are probably well averse, we follow EOS traction, some of the meeting and principles of that system for running a business. Within your business, Think Simple. Are you guys as owners involved in some of the strategic planning for that business? And are you involved in some cadence of meetings with your leadership team there? And if so, what does that look like?

Will: Sure. Yeah. And you know we've also hired some really good people industry veterans as well that have seen things go good and bad. Bad is important to learn from that. But implementing policies and procedures you know. Something that we learned in the hospitality and the commercial space, doing large meeting rooms and working for Fortune 500 companies, you have to have support contracts. You have to have a ticketing system. You have to have some visibility on what's going on on the support side of the business and growing the whole support side of the business, not just the new installation side. Then developing these different flowcharts and procedures and giving people a list or showing them to make it really easy for them because if you can get rid of all these different distractions and having them know exactly what their focus should be, it frees up their time and makes them very much more efficient on working in the business.

Ron:  Greg, do you guys have like, and again, I'm staying on Think Simple just for a moment. Do you have titles or are you just you Rock and Will are all owners? Or do you guys like have I'm VP of this or C level of that? Does any of that?

Greg: No.

Ron:  I've never known you guys, even when you were in the business to have any sort of titles.

Greg: Jack of all trades, our people do, we do not. We're Jack of all trades, so we step in wherever we're needed. We help you know, technical level, sometimes we get asked a couple questions, bounced off us. It could be directed at financial. It could be directed at design. Sometimes we're asked questions just because we're expertise. We're not big on labels for ourselves. We just, you know, we're partners and owners in the business.

Ron:  Will, you were, you were also saying something to that. Did you want to add anything to that?

Will: Yeah. That's it. That's why when we go to CEDIA and we see, you know, what title do we put on our name badge for that show? And yeah, we don't really get caught up in that. Now, we do work on a couple of different things and Greg and I work more closely on the operational side and things like that in the business side of it. Where Rock is more of a technical focus, especially on Bodhi on the hardware software design aspects. So we have our different roles, so it's not like it's a free for all of what we're doing. We've kind of just grown into different lanes over the past 18 years. And we know what our strengths and weaknesses are.

Ron:  Will, to stay with you just to make sure I cover this because I know I have a whole list of questions regarding Bodhi to kind of get into. How did you get into this business? You started working with Rock and Greg 20 years ago. Like, how did that happen? And what was young Will like? And what was young Will doing that ultimately led him down this path of technology and integration?

Will: It's an interesting story.

Ron:  It's just us. Go ahead. Tell us the good stuff.

Will: So I´ll kind of expedite it a bit. But so always have been in the software and computer side of things. And the programming in the IT side had my first job when I was 14 years old, working in that business. And that's how I met Greg and I met Rock through school, here locally. And then through meeting both of them and working on new projects and we had a whole software site in the IT things, many, many years ago. And ultimately, what happened was a relative to Greg was building a house and wanted to get some technology put into it. And so Greg, Rock and I were like, well, we know how to make this stuff. Let's start making our own home automation platforms and software like a Kaleidescape system and stuff like that. And we started doing it. We would want to spend all this money on these crazy things. And so basically, over time, we realized, well, this is not going to go fast enough. And we need to start looking at what really exists out in the industry. And that's where we started looking at manufacturers like Crestron and Advantage to start. So literally we started it as just for one project, really. And then overnight, we became like the local experts on the subject. We started having more and more and more projects. And we're not going to say no. It was a great business. And the only problem that we had with it was it was just three of us. The next thing you know, we had millions of dollars in contracts figuring out how we can deliver this stuff, right? And so that's the quick side of the story. It was never it was never our vision to say, hey, we need to go after this home automation thing. Let's do this. We were kind of pulled into it just from a background of technology. And there was a there was a need, and we filled the need, and we just kept growing it.

Ron:  Got it. And what did you study in school?

Will: So I went for 6 months for computer engineering. And I dropped out to...

Ron:  To run the business.

Will: Start this.

Ron:  That's amazing. Greg, what's your backstory? What's your flavor?

Greg: What's my backstory? As far as Think Simple or my actual education? I'm actually a lawyer by trade. I actually studied law.

Ron:  Are you the only lawyer slash integrator? Do you know of another?

Greg: I'm sure there's someone else that figured that the law was not as much fun as building cool systems.

Ron:  Was there a point in time in high school? Maybe you're going to college, you said you know, I'm going to be a lawyer? Now I'm going to do this integration thing?

Greg: I was always into computers. But I don't know how I got into law. I always really enjoyed fixing computers, etcetera, things like that. And then I ended up, yeah, I ended up I ended up doing law and hated it, came back, came back to The Bahamas, where I live, and did it for 6 months, hated it, and then Will and I kind of got talking and we're like you know, we came up with joining forces and doing what we do today. But it was definitely a big shift for me in some ways, for sure.

Ron:  Greg, I'm going to completely put you on the spot with a question I didn't prep you that I was going to ask. In 2007, when I decided that I was going to leave Crestron and I was going to start a business. And you and Will and Rock actually gave me a loan to help me start the business. You were one of my early investors to help One Firefly at the time, Firefly Design Group get off the ground. What do you remember about that? And why did you do that?

Greg: Well, we had a great relationship.

Ron:  I see Will smiling ear to ear. So I think Will wants to say something here. Go ahead, Greg.

Greg: We had a great relationship with you. And I always appreciated your support at Crestron. And we wanted to support you with your new venture. It was a great idea. I think we had discussed early on as it was going you know for you to do a pivot into marketing. I think we had some discussions about that and thought that was a good there was a big gap in that market, which you're filling, obviously. Yeah, no, we had a great relationship. We wanted to help our friend and your talented, super smart guy. So we thought you know we've been given chances, you know, everyone who deserves a chance.

Ron:  That's cool. Well, it has helped create what you see here today and has led to this podcast. Who would have thought almost 20 years later that we'd be here? Talking about Bodhi, so Greg, what is Bodhi? Give me like you guys have one of the most successful integration firms in North America, and it's doing amazing work and has been doing amazing work for a long time now. And yet, you and your partners decided to go down this path, which you've been on this path. I want to say it's ten years. Is that approximately correct?

Greg: Yeah, we've been building it. Yeah, we started building it ten years ago.

Ron:  So what was the need? What was the problem you were trying to solve?

Greg: Yeah. So we had a client in The Bahamas, a large, really large resort. With, I think they have, you know, probably 12 MDU buildings now. High end units. And then they have over 200 lots. So really, really high end properties. And Think Simple was selling base packages with HVAC, HVAC control, lighting control, and base AV. We were asked by the managing director like, hey, I'm putting all these setting all this money on all these systems. We're going to have leak detection as well. Is there a way for you guys to make it so we can monitor it centrally? We're like, well, you know what, that sounds fun. So we got working on version one of Bodhi started in 2012. Released it in and did our first deployment in 2014. Very different from what it looks like today, but similar in functionality. And we had leak detection. We had control of all lights. We could put the unit in a way Waymo for energy consumption. The energy in The Bahamas, electricity is very expensive overall but in The Bahamas, it's super expensive. It's almost 41 cents a kilowatt. So yeah, so then we got you know we saw it and we decided, you know what? Let's put some more resources into this. We started hiring developers. To work under us to start building the second version of Bodhi, which is similar to what it is today with less, obviously, a lot more functionality, scalability, built into it now. Then we decided, you know, 2017, we released that one. And then we in 2019, we started we released our Bodhi Bridge. In 2020, obviously, we had a lot of time so we released our thermostat between 2020 and 2021, and you know what's really cool about our hardware devices is we don't just, we can make them with different wireless technologies like Z wave, but also ZigBee, so we've kind of grown the product line. We've grown the software. We've always been passionate about software since we started since we started together. So that it was a natural progression for us to get into that business and an industry we've been working in for 18 plus years for us you know. We understand it you know. We know we know the pains. We know the needs. We understand it. We understand all those. So based on that, we've built Bodhi.

Ron:  Will, how did your background, you and your team. How did your background as integrators position you for success with Bodhi?

Will: To build on what Greg said is knowing the pain points, right? And also we were actually solving a problem, not chasing a problem that didn't exist, right? So the story told it came from a desire of a developer. They needed this system that didn't exist at the time. And as they added new buildings as Greg said there's up to 12 now, as they added new buildings, new amenities, new feature sets. Bodhi started off really as a building management system. Just a dashboard to do some basic things for lighting and leak detection, HVAC, stuff like that. And it grew into basically a control system in the cloud. So from the integration side, the learning from the difficulties, especially in hospitality, going and deploying hotel rooms and all the different operations of that property. Not just the room itself, but also the common area spaces. In being able to make it easier for the integrators. So not having a schedule running on an audio DSP and a schedule running on a lighting control system or a schedule running on HVAC, all these separate schedules. They have to call different people to change and reprogram them. By moving all of these critical elements into Bodhi into the cloud to make it not only easier for the integrator, but also the end user. So we don't have to call the integrator anymore. The integrator still participating in the recurring revenue side, which is great. So making it easier for them to get their stuff done from what we've learned in our own experience.

Ron:  So in business, you talk about maybe in business school, you talk about TAM, total addressable market. What you're describing sounds like it could literally be in every single hotel or resort property or condo in the world. Is that crazy? I know you guys are ambitious, but what is the ambition here? I mean, how big how many people could you serve?

Will: It scales and scales and scales. From the business side and the technologies side. And yes, I mean, it should be in every building in the world. Just because of the ease of use of the deployment, the business strategy, going in, especially in new business and new developments. They don't want to have capital expenses. They don't want to load the front side with everything. If they can move it to the operational side, they love to do that. And they do that with everything already, to do it with their other software services, Office 365. You pay a subscription for that. Everything that you use and consume is all based on a subscription model. So why shouldn't this be any different? So yeah, it is endless to scale. The trade shows we've been to and just recently ISC, meeting with our dealer base and you show them something how the platform works. And they just sit there and you can see that oh, we could put it here. We put it there. We could put it in the super large residential. Yes. You can put in any of those environments. And we made it really easy to do so, both in our hardware or software and our integrations with other manufacturers.

Ron:  Greg, when I ran into you guys, just recently, for me, it was at CEDA. And I found you guys in the Crestron booth. Can you, I mean, I'll ask you a two prong question here. Tell us about what is that partnership or collaboration with Crestron? And then the other side of that is, how do you go to market? And so a lot of our listeners are probably integrators, is there an angle there for them to partner or collaborate with you? So could you elaborate on that?

Greg: Yeah, so the Creston relationship came out of a need. Crestron wanted to get into the hospitality business more. They were in it, kind of, but not in the guest room, not effectively at least.

Ron:  More in the common areas, right?

Greg: More in the common areas. Guest rooms, some hotels, but it's also a pain to integrate because getting into the services side of it with housekeeping, PMS integration stuff like that is really really not easy. You have to have something in the middle. So we got talking with them. And it took probably over a year. We signed a co-marketing agreement. So we co-market together. We work basically since our software was we started it. And it works with Lutron, works with other manufacturers. But we started it on Crestron processors. And we did it as the three series. We wrote it for like three series processors, then the four series, and simple sharp modules, etcetera. It was a natural partner, I guess. To go to get the name out there and it's been really successful for both of us. But we also work with Lutron on projects. The nice thing about Bodhi is that we're not looking to go after just the luxury hotel. We also we also play in the limited services hotels. Because our software is so cheap for hotels to adopt and we bring so much functionality for them. That you know it's a no brainer. We integrated to Caseta, Code Smart for Lutron. Homeworks, etcetera. So that's the nature of that.

Ron:  Integrators, how do integrators partner or collaborate with you?

Greg: Yeah. So we have a dealer dealer network. So we sign integrators as our dealers. Our business model is basically pretty simple. We sign you up as a dealer. You go, we bring if we bring you a project or you get a smaller percentage of the recurring revenue. If you bring us a project, you get a larger percentage of recurring revenue. But you get recurring revenue nonetheless. Remitted quarterly. We hold the license between us and the property, but you're our dealer. So we have a contract with you to pay you out on those license contracts. And yeah, and one of the cores, we decided early on when we started this venture that we needed, we needed boots on the ground. It's important to have people to support your products. Regardless if it's in the cloud or not you know, there's always something that happens on site. So having a dealer network was very important for us. Being able to share the recurring revenue with the dealers so that they also get a constant stream constant flow of revenue.

Ron:  That makes sense. Well, you just got back what a couple of weeks ago from ISE in Barcelona. What was the response there like? Did anything surprise you?

Will: So again, we were in the Crestron booth there. They were really launching, they actually had a mock up hotel room. And it was really interesting. It was actually set up, so you couldn't just go into it. There was a hostess there and it should be checked in and on the first day, there was 987 unique people that came through that hotel room, right? A lot of those are dealers, consultants specifiers, right? So I think the show had the highest attendance ever as well. I'm pretty sure it was like 60,000 people or so. It was nonstop excitement on the hospitality side. Especially, Bodhi is international. A majority of our deals are going on in Europe and in the Middle East, because they have these great ideas. And they love technology there, right? So it was a great show. Tons of tons of uptake of the software. And again, you're meeting these dealers with these different ideas and different projects. Hearing and looking at them and we could use it here, we could have used it here and they loved the recurring revenue side of it as well.

Ron:  Greg made reference to the fact that you guys talked to so many different types of devices on different communication protocols you know, ZigBee, Z wave, radio raw, Lutron has their own proprietary communication protocol. How do you guys do that? Of course, without disclosing any secrets, but like you guys doing that's different?

Will: 00:29:18.720 So we have a great software team. But no, the software, the way we've written the software, it's very modular. So we have another partner we actually showed at the ISC as well. Rico lighting controls out of the UK. They literally sent us we met them in London in November and the hospitality conference there and literally within 6 weeks of receiving their products and testing it out, we had a full integration running with them. I mean, and that was including holidays and all of that. New year and all of that. It literally we did it in just a few days. Because the team that we have and the way that this offer is written. So we write these different modules. So going out and looking at APIs for Lutron or APIs for APIs or other people, and we just integrate them into our software space. Then if we don't have something on the hardware side to talk to, we'll build it. So we had a property actually just recently a month ago, hotel property. We needed to do control of the televisions and literally within a week we had PCB designs, plastic designs done for a little Bodhi bridge nano that plugs into the TV, gets power direct from it, has a communications connector back to that display. And we're in the cloud being able to tell it turn on, turn off schedule it, do all of that. And again, just because we control the hardware, we make it all right here. We're able to adapt very quickly.

Ron:  That sounds like that application alone. There has to be you know hundreds of millions of applications for that.

Will: Yep. Exactly.

Ron:  So what is it like manufacturing your own? I mean, you guys, I know I imagine some of our listeners are going, all right, so these guys are like doing the average, you know, home or office job, and now you guys are solving software problems around the world. And you're adding in the mix, making your own hardware.

Will: Yeah.

Ron:  How did you do that? That just sounds like I'm like a fanboy here. I'm like, shit, that sounds really challenging and interesting.

Will: It is. But it came from a need. We needed a thermostat that worked in all different applications, learning from the integration experience. We wanted to make sure it worked with a one gang or two gang box, or if they installed it horizontal, you can still put it on the wall and connect it up nice and easy. We learn from other manufacturers having multiple part numbers. And we ordered the wrong one to send it back into the 300 other something else. So our thermostat would be designed it was, listen, take all that into consideration. So basically with different software versions of the thermostat, the complete way the hardware works is different, right? So it works for heat pumps, refuge systems, or variables zero to ten systems. It all does it in one piece of hardware. And it's not easy to manufacture things, especially it's not easy to OBM mini products because of suppliers change things, especially with COVID and shortages and they'll make changes here and there. So being able to the quality side of it, you have to always be on top of that.

Ron:  Greg, maybe you could jump with this. I know the last 24 months, ish. Supply chain has been an utter nightmare. You know, you mentioned Crestron, so you got to put Crestron in the same sentence as supply chain challenges. How are you guys dealing with that? Or what's the end? What's the current state?

Greg: As far as our products, we're great. We don't have a supply chain issue. Obviously, we're much smaller than Crestron, but we actually stock chips like processors, et cetera, relays, power supplies. Anything that we saw in early 2021, we actually bulk ordered. And what we do, because our, some of our boards, our boards, we designed our boards, but we have them put assembled in China. We actually send back sometimes. We've had to send back our stock to the manufacturer for that because they couldn't source it to be able to do runs. So we've been smart about how we've been handling it. We've pre bought. We saw it coming. I don't know how anyone didn't see it coming. But I guess some companies didn't. We pre bought and made commitments.

Ron:  Do you think big picture, maybe even for your integration business, are we through the worst of the supply chain challenges?

Greg: I wish that was the case.

Ron:  Everyone's leaning in right now for your answer. What do you think?

Greg: I honestly wish that was the case. I don't I don't see it getting much better for probably you know it'll never get back to what it was. So we'll never be able to order. I don't think we'll ever be able to order a component and have it shipped within a week anymore unless it's something that's already and I think that and I don't want to be grim about it, but I think it's going to take a good year for it to another year for it to be back to something reasonable, you know, ship within a couple of months. Shipped within a month. But I don't think we'll ever see what we used to have. We were very lucky. You know, if we needed NVX or DM, right? If we need DM, we could just put it in the order and it would come. Right away would ship the next day if we needed to.

Ron:  If we're sponsoring Crestron, they used to have millions and millions of dollars of product on hand. Ready to ship.

Greg: Yeah.

Ron:  Those days are behind us

Greg: Yeah. I mean, I don't see it getting it's going to be better. It'll be something reasonable. I don't know if it'll be perfect again. Other manufacturers have also had their own issues. Crestron is not the only one, obviously. Lead times, even in Lutron, have been slipping as well. Had been slipping. But you know I think I think over the next year, we'll see some we'll see what will be more comfortable. Let's put it that way. Right now, we're waiting on hundreds and hundreds of processors, for example. And it's killing. It's definitely hurting our business. It's not helping. We've had to be very creative. Luckily, we are able to do that. We're able to be creative and build our own products, right? But you know not everyone can and not everyone has a resources. It's hurting from small to large dealers worldwide.

Ron:  Well, when I think of all the hotels I've stayed at, and on occasion I'll stay at a nice hotel. And like I'm gonna, I'm gonna just pause it that like I'm not used to technology being a part of that hotel experience. Like, on average, it's not a part of the hotel experience. Like, you know, it's nice. When I go to the, you know, say the bathroom in the hotel, and there's like a light up mirror. Like, some little touch of luxury; I'm like, oh, that's really nice. What is the future state, what is your vision? What is the vision at Bodhi as to when technology becomes a part of that experience that the consumer demands or expects?

Will: So just before CEDIA last year, we launched a new web based guest app, because one of the big problems with the hotels, you know, if you go to a 5 star property, especially boutique properties, you don't want to have to install an app. You don't want to do all the onboarding of getting into connecting, be on the hotel Wi-Fi, all these things you have to do, or I'll just get out of bed in terminal lights on, right? What we've done to address that, and it doesn't matter if it's a 5 star, one star, I don't like using stars that much, but at check in, right? So Ron, either checks in remotely or he goes to the front desk. We send you a text notification and an email saying, welcome to this property. Here's a link to control your room. And you literally click that link and within seconds, you're able to do whatever the feature set is that we have in that room, whether it's unlock your door, adjust your thermostat, adjust your lights, motorize window treatments, things like that, see information about the property, request housekeeping, whatever integrations we have with other services on that property. So you don't have to worry about being an IT person trying to make all this stuff work. And the best part is, since it's all cloud based for Bodhi, you don't have to be on the hotel Wi-Fi. You don't have to be any specialized network to make it all work. As long as you have cell phone signal, it's up and running. And that also goes back on the integration side of things. There's no pre planning required for Bodhi. If that control processor or that Bodhi bridge or thermostat has Internet access, you're up and running, it's all it needs.

Ron:  When will we just be able to talk to the room and have it raise the shades?

Will: So you can. Actually, Bodhi, I think, has had the first integration with Amazon hospitality. Hospitality is different than just Amazon Alexa. Because there's a lot more regulatory things there in hotel spaces. So we have a cloud to cloud with them. And so something really cool that we can do is put an Alexa device in the room. It doesn't have to have anyone's user account or any privacy information stored on it. When you say Alexa, turn the lights on. Amazon sends us that request. We know what room it came from. And then we can talk to the technology in that room if it's a Crestron lighting control system, we turn the lights on. If it's a Lutron lighting system, we can turn the lights on and diagnostic to us. And it's all very quick. Again, our software side is very robust and the whole transaction takes less than 200 milliseconds on average. So it's a very, very fast cloud to cloud back to the property integration. And it's also a bit expensive right now. So it is more for premium side, the cost alone on the Alexa side is quite expensive per month for the property.

Ron:  Okay. So the property has to pay like a per door license to have that functionality?

Will: I believe it is just for the voice yeah.

Greg: Not from us, just from Amazon.

Ron:  Just from Amazon, got it. So Greg, I'm going to ask you the same question I asked Will. What is the future state when there's a demand and maybe even an expectation at certain types of properties where I'm going to be able to interact with the lighting, the shading, the TV, the music, you know, the different things in that maybe the door lock, the thermostat, the elements within that room. We've been early, right? And I'm going to add that. I've been a part of that conversation since the mid early 2000s. Recently, I had Nick from Elevated in New York. He was previously with, I'll have to go back to that show, but he was with the entity in New York that did the Plaza hotel. This is back in the early 2000s. And here we are in 2023. And this sounds like your technology could be the tipping point.

Greg: Yeah, the idea really is less interaction. The end result would be the best end result with software. And it has to be done through software, is for you to walk in the room and you've already the hotel already has your favorite your favorite. So you already know that you like the air conditioning to be at 65 or 70 or whatever it is. It knows you like dim lights. It already has your preferences. You walk in and that's you know the room is set up for you in that way. You don't have to even think about it. The other part to it is obviously that's the guest side. And the ability to easily saying through our guest app control your room without even downloading an app or whatever, you can use your iPad, you can use your phone. You can use your computer. We just send you a link. Then you know the other part to it is that's great for the guest, but on the hotel side, knowing what's actually happening in the room, getting alerts before being proactive versus reactive to make the guest experience better. The air conditioning is not you know, there's an alarm. It's not cooling within 45 minutes, it hasn't cooled 1°. Our predictive maintenance, for example, where we do site wide averages of temperature and also room temperature. So we know how long it takes for the room to cool down. So there's a lot of benefits and the more we build, the more we build on Bodhi, we add so many more features. Grand welcomes when you first check in and then welcome seeing a way scenes. Everything is stored on Bodhi and easily edited or changed by the by the property themselves. So the dealer doesn't have to worry about doing any more going back to that property nonstop. Now the property actually manages their own technology and the dealer is there as a support to fix any major issues. And it's always annoying to have to go back all the time and not knowing what's going on. It's nice to know you know the trends of we always get blamed and we always get blamed for HVAC problems, right? So we have the Crestron is not working. What is it not doing? Or the Lutron's not working, whatever. It could be Control4 or Savant, right? Well, what's not working? Well, I can't change my temperature. Well, you know, my temperature is not going down. Well, that's not a control issue. That's a HVAC issue. So you know we had a customer and I don't want to run on, but we had a customer that had a VRV dike in system. And we were getting blamed, Think Simple. Think Simple was getting blamed, and that was two years ago. We're getting blamed for the HVAC not getting cold enough or not working, not working. And I had to sit down with a client. The client was getting really mad. He was threatening to sue. I sat down with the client, and I said, okay, listen, Will and I actually got certified in the VRF, Mitsubishi together like 5 years ago, and maybe more. And so we understood the system. When spoke to the client, I said, listen, here's what we're going to do. I don't want to go back and forth with the HVAC company anymore. I don't want to have any more you know, we're going to stop this. So you're leaving for the summer. I'm going to we're going to put Bodhi and we're going to collect data. And we're going to put Bodhi on your system, and we're going to collect all the set points, temperatures, and we're going to see if there's an actual issue with the controls or there's an issue with the HVAC just not getting to the set point. And that's what it was. And you know he came back and started threatening. I said, here you go. Here's the report from Bodhi. He wrote me back and said, you know what, Greg, thank you. I'll take it from here. And he got the HVAC company to come and fix the issue.

Ron:  So the moral to that story sounds like it's this power and data. And you're giving properties that access to data maybe in ways that they've never had access to that data.

Will: Right or they were promised it before, and they never really got it. So one of the cool parts here is that being cloud based and web browser based and proactive alert based, no one has to be living in software trying to figure this all out themselves. We're doing all of that for them.

Ron:  Well, what's exciting when you look to the next 12 to 18 months. I'm giving you a long runway here. What's in front of you in terms of development or opportunities or projects? What has you and the team jazzed as you look at it?

Will: Yeah, I mean, Greg alluded to a little bit earlier, but some of the new technologies that we're integrating right now, our first thermostat we launched in 2021, and we already have our second version of it, generation two, coming out in just a few weeks time and with that, working with thread and matter in the different new communications protocols for those kind of devices and being part of that ecosystem, I think that's going to get very interesting. And we're heavily looking into our investing in that. And then just from the software side, collecting more of that data, shaping that data, being able to understand trends better, like Greg mentioned, understanding your habits in the room, so when you come in, if you always go and turn this light on, why not just go ahead and do that for you? So really, the advancements in all of our algorithms and data processing that we're doing right now.

Ron:  Random question. But are you able to receive information, geofence information for guests so that if they entered the property or left the property, you could have things happen?

Will: Yeah. So the way to do that though is you have to have an app running on the device, right? And so yes, so we actually can with an app running on the device, get that geolocation, and then have the app trigger events based on the Bodhi platform. So yes, we can do geofence based events.

Ron:  It could be built or configured in such a way to allow that if a property wanted that to happen.

Will: Correct. Yeah. We have properties asking us all sorts of stuff. One of which was like having walk-in music. Ron likes to listen to, so when you come into your room, it's already already playing on the speakers, right? But in knowing where you are, having it set up for you as you come in. And again, that also scales into large residential. As you pull up to the gate or pull up to the home, notifying the system or having the gate opened by itself, lights and lights and shades changing. And there's a whole other aspect of what you need to talk about, which is the scheduling side, and being able to do everything and the lights, the shades, HVAC all from one scene on the cloud. It's really, really powerful.

Ron:  For folks that are listening, will right now it's February 2023. Where will people be able to see you guys in person to either talk to you directly? You and your team or to actually touch and interact with some of this tech?

Greg: Yeah, I think for this audience, CEDIA will be there coming up. Also Infocomm, working with our manufacturer partners, being a part of their presence there. So it'll be the two of us plus or other people as well, Rock will be there and our CTO and so we have a lot of different people there, and we'll answer questions and give live demos. That's one thing that we do every single day, our live demos and around the world.

Greg: It's important to stress that Bodhi isn't just a hospitality platform. Yes, we play really well in the hospitality market. But we're also in a assisted living and we're working with this other company that's got some really cool sensors and also collects data on if someone if an old person or any assisted living space fell knowing and letting Bodhi know that something's happened and things like that. So there's also the commercial space; Office spaces, et cetera, works really well in multi tenant situations, especially because we can add sensors. We have our own thermostats so we can tie into back net. We can also do wireless sensors like leak detection sensors, humidity sensors, all kinds of different sensors. Anything you can think of, and through lower wind. So where you have maybe one or two gateways for the entire building, and the building management manager can actually manage their building without having to get on anybody's network. It's actually what's really cool is our thermostats also, we also have LTE versions. And then obviously lower wind. So we've put a lot of technology. A lot of time into thinking different applications and not putting ourselves in a corner as far as hardware is concerned and software.

Ron:  Well, I know you guys. So I'll just attest to the listeners. These are some smart fellows. So they probably thought through some things. Greg, for folks that are listening, they could be of all different flavors and types; integrators, reps, consultants, commercial residentially, or something in between, where do we send people that want to a get in touch with you or and or b, learn more about Bodhi?

Greg: 00:51:49.860 Yeah. So Bodhi.software is the website. And then This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., any of those. Yeah. And we're very quick to we're very quick to respond and we're always open to doing demos for yourselves or for your clients, prospective clients, we have a lot of marketing material. A lot of really interesting stuff to read that helps explaining it. And yeah, and once you're signed up as a dealer, you get a demo domain and you can show it off yourselves and you can bring it to when you need. But we're always here to help.

Ron:  Greg, those demos are they in person or are they virtual? How do those demos work?

Greg: Generally virtual. For the most part. We are kind of worldwide. So a lot of our demos have been virtual. I mean, we're always open to working with a dealer on mock ups, et cetera. We want to get the project and we have to sometimes be flexible.

Ron:  Got it. No, it makes sense. And Will, same question for you. Anyone that wants to get in touch directly with you, how would you direct them to do that?

Will: Yeah. So the one thing also on the website on Bodhi.software, we also have a request demo link. So you can go in there and fill out a little bit of information about yourself, the project, perhaps. So we have a little bit better idea of the target our demo to you because you can imagine the platform is huge. So we could go on for hours of technical dives, right? So it's good to know what project you're working on. And then Greg said, email, LinkedIn, presence there. So yeah, but that request demo link. That works great for us.

Ron:  Awesome. Well, Greg and Will it was great to see you guys. And I really appreciate you joining me here on episode 237 of Automation Unplugged.

Greg: Thanks for having us.

Will: Thank you very much for having us.

Ron:  Awesome. Thanks, fellas.

SHOW NOTES:

Greg and Will along with their 3rd partner Rock co-founded Think Simple in 2001 a company that started out in software and hardware design, and ultimately turned into one of the largest residential home automation and AV integration companies serving The Bahamas, Florida and New York with over 100 employees, many of which have been there for 15+ years.

Building on their integration experience and software background, the co-founders embarked on their next journey, Bodhi. Bodhi is a software as a service IoT platform that brings together low cost Bodhi thermostats, sensors and other hardware items, along with the capability of communicating directly on enterprise control systems such as Crestron and Lutron. The software has been specified all around the world, with a primary focus of use in Hospitality, MDU, and mixed use properties. Bodhi markets to a professional dealer network and brings a recurring revenue stream to their businesses.

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.

Resources and links from the interview:

Will can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Greg can be reached directly by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.