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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.
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 Podcast Episode #23: An Industry Q&A With John Galante

Exploring Technology Trends and Events

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing John Galante. Recorded live on Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About John Galante

John Galante is President of AE Ventures. Prior to founding AE Ventures in 2008, Galante headed EH Publishing’s events division and contributed to the development of its publications, online media and new business ventures. Galante started his career at EH Publishing as editor-in-chief of its Custom Electronics Professional (CE Pro) magazine and in 2001 led the launch of TecHome Builder magazine as publisher/editor. Before joining EH, Galante was with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

He has also served the Security Industry Association as executive director; Reed Exhibition Companies in a variety of event management, marketing and business development positions; and Spiegel, Inc. as a creative services staff member and manager. Galante spearheaded the founding of the Home Lighting Control Alliance, the Distributed Audio Alliance and the Consortium for Electronic Systems Technician Training. 

John is a past director of the International Association for Exhibitions and Events’ (IAEE) and past chair of its strategic development task force. In addition he has served as a member of Convention Data Services’ Client Advisory Board and the Orange County Convention Center’s Client Advisory Board and as a director of CTA’s TechHome Division. In 2001, the Home Automation & Networking Association named Galante its industry leader of the year.

Interview Recap

Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with John:

  • Highlights from Total Tech Summit in Orlando
  • What he's looking forward to at TecHome Builder Summit
  • Trends he's seeing in residential construction and their incorporation of technologies
  • The role of technology in new construction

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #22: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Todd Girdis


Ron:  Hello everybody. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged brought to you by One Firefly, my day job. So today is what is it? It's November 8th, 2017. It is 12:32. So we're almost starting on time and I'm very excited to bring you a really cool guest today. Let me go ahead and bring him on. I've got John Galante, he's president of AE Ventures and although you may not know AE Ventures, maybe you do, maybe you don't, I can promise you, you probably know the events that this man puts on. John, how are you doing?

John: Great.

Ron:  Thank you for joining me today for a episode. What is this? I think this is episode 23 of Automation unplugged.

John: My pleasure to be here.

Ron:  How's your week going so far? I know you're just coming off of a big week last week. Are you well rested?

John: There's no rest for the weary here. So we wrapped up the Total Tech Summit 2017 on Friday and everybody's backup at it with mop up duties in terms of customer contact and such from that event. And then in just a month or so we'll be in Phoenix for our Tech Home Builder Summit. So everyone's busy with the home stretch preparations for that event. So we're in a good mood, but there was no downtime and that's the way we like it.

Ron:  That's the way you like it. Amen. Well just for my audience John, that may or may not be familiar with your background, I'm just going to give a quick highlight and that is that you're a University of Illinois or Urbana speech rhetoric, speech and communications graduate, but more importantly..

John: Well, like I said, I've got a BA and BS.

Ron:  A BA yeah, no, I have one of those too, BA and BS and I see your Illinois flag there behind you, over your left shoulder. But you have been in the installed technology space for 31 years.

John: I've got the scar tissue to show for it

Ron:  And the scar tissue. So just for our audience, do you mind sharing a little bit about your background? I've got this really fascinating right up here, four paragraphs about all the places you've been and the people you've seen. But they don't want to hear me. They want to hear you. So do you mind sharing from our sharing to our audience?

John: Yeah, no problem. So yeah, starting in '86 that's when I went to work for Reed Exhibition Companies was actually known as Connor's Exposition Group at the time and in a marketing management promotion sort of position. And among the events in my portfolio was the international security conference and expo. So I actually also worked on arcane events like the Powder and Bulk Solid show, but I really took an affinity to the security piece. You know, as early as '89 when I had moved into more of a market development business development role. With Reed, I was poking around on the custom install side of things, talking to the rodeos who were local in the Chicago area where I was working for Reed, who were actually the managers of the CEDIA group in these early days, in the late eighties.

Ron:  Talking to Trish Parks about tying in on the home automation side of things with the security integrators. So you know, that's kind of the beginning of my involvement with the tech industry. After about six years with Reed, I took a job with the security industry association as Executive Director. So I was the chief staff executive for the trade association that represents the manufacturers and supplier level service providers in the electronic security industry. And then moved over to what is now known as the Consumer Technology Association. And I worked on a predecessor a business unit. They are what's now known as the tech home division. I also worked on antennas and the Habitat Trade Show that was purchased by CES. And then after about five years in, not for profit my entrepreneurial itch needed to be scratched and I took a position with EH publishing. I actually started as Editor of what was then known as AHA Pro home automation professional. And and then after a merger there we re branded the publication and there wasn't online media at the time, but we rebranded the publication CE Pro. From the very beginning when I started working at EH Ken and I have planned to get into the event business. And in 2000 we were able to do so with the launch of the electronic house expo. We actually launched both a spring and fall version of the event on kind of bi-coastal and in these hot construction markets, what were becoming very hot construction markets in the early two thousands. And eventually that's where my focus of time was with EH, on the development of the event business and the organization to produce those. So we had the two electronic house expos. We developed a technology event for the house of worship market called the Worship Facilities Conference and Expo. And then we poked around on builder related stuff, a tech home builder expo. I was also involved in the launch of the Tech Home Builder print publication around 2001. We married that with the NHB's kind of show within a show at the International Builders Show and actually worked with NHB on session content for builders. And then in 2008 had an opportunity to spin out a couple of assets and some folks most importantly Nancy Franco from the age publishing to start AE Ventures. Our initial portfolio included the Electronic Security Expo trade show style event for the security industry, attracting integrators and dealers and what was then known as the CE Pro 100 Summit. And so we launched that at a moment when the economic storm clouds were really gathering for The Great Recession. And somehow we were able to survive and grow revenues and grow our events. Every year we have been able to do that. We are no longer producing the Electronic Security Expo and we're out of the trade show business and strictly focused on our hosted model events. Now, hosted model events means we're paying for and arranging travel and hotel accommodations for VIP level players in the markets that we serve providing them with complimentary registration and in recognition of those benefits and all the other value they get from attending these events. The guests agree to scheduled guaranteed engagements with the sponsor and company. So we like to say trade show model is full of risk, waste and chaos. Our events are very precisely orchestrated and you know, what you're getting on both sides of the equation. We feel like we're on the right side of history and from the business of that perspective.

Ron:  So if you were to describe to someone in a nutshell, what is a AE Ventures, how would you do that?

John: Our stated purpose is to drive extraordinary progress in the markets that we serve. And we do that with these next generation hosted style markets that we serve. Right now. We're purely focused on this intersection of technology and construction.

Ron:  Got it. So that's really where AE Ventures has found its sweet spot in terms of really acting at that intersection of technology and the construction community.

John: Yeah. It's where we have so much experience, right? I mean we can take this model and apply it to power box solids or pharmaceutical manufacturing or what have you, but where is our deep market expertise? And we try to really be closely aligned with the industries that we serve. And, you know, my time in trade associations, I wasn't just producing events, there was work on standards and market development stuff. So it's all been in this installed technology space, whether it was security or custom electronics or the builders take and play on technology. I've got 30 years in that space. And so it helps us know where the bodies are buried and really how to construct events that are closely tailored to the industry's needs.

Ron:  So John, you're just coming off of the Total Tech Summit in Orlando and I want to talk to you about that. Before I do that, I want to address our audience on Facebook. First of all, if you're out there, thank you for watching. If you're watching live that's pretty cool and please like this post and please share this post. It will help us get this content to your friends and maybe your enemies, but those that you know and are connected to you on Facebook, it'll help increase exposure. Also, if you have any questions for John here as we're live, please just type a comment, give us those questions and I'll be sure to read those off or to the best of my ability. Follow that and read those off to John while we're live.

John: Easy questions, Ron.

Ron:  Okay I'll filter..

John: I've got the right to plead the fifth amendment that's very fashionable these days

Ron:  That is fashionable these days. That is in style. All right. So John, you just came off the Total Tech Summit for those out there, let's pretend someone's listening doesn't know what that is. Maybe doesn't know it by that name. Maybe they know it by another name. What was the event, if we could start there?

John: Sure. So Total Tech is a brand that we actually came up with just a couple of years ago. We needed an umbrella brand to describe the co-located hosted style events that we produce. And I'll list them off for you. One at a time from the longest established to the least established. So the longest established and biggest chunk of Total Tech is the CE Pro Summit. So we're hosting the biggest and best custom integrators in the country, used to be known as the CE Pro 100 Summit. But there are only so many companies that want to publish their financial data in a publication. So we use the CE Pro 100 list that's published every May and CE Pro magazine as kind of a starting point. And to help us have our baseline in terms of revenues for the companies that we host. We hosted about 140 custom integrators this year and their aggregate annual revenue was about $1.3 billion with 44,000 installations across 140 individuals, about 117 hundred and 15 companies. The second longest established element is the commercial integrators on it. So that is principally an AV and control focused integrator who does work in the commercial market, both light, commercial and enterprise level commercial. That's the most lucrative market segment that we hosted this year. About 105 guests representing $3.7 billion in annual revenues and interestingly 44,000 installations as well. You know, the vast majority of those in the commercial institutional and in industrial sector. And then the third component of total tech is the SSI security sales and integration summit. It's security dealers and integrators. We hosted just over 90 guests. This is the second year for that bucket. And they represented almost $3 billion in annual 2017 aggregate revenues. And the installations were over 240,000. So that's more of a mass installing profile, particularly on the residential side of things. And so again, that hosted model, we're taking care of travel expenses and granting free registration in exchange for a commitment to attend the event from start to finish and meet with our sponsors. And we've been working on this for 10 years now, right? And so we keep refining and trying to tweak the schedule and the deliverables for everybody. And I think we've hit a point where we're at a pretty high level. We're able to produce it with a minimum of glitches. You're never going to get six sigma quality when you're trying to get human beings, especially eagle type human beings, you know, the entrepreneurial leaders of these companies to follow multiple steps at an event. But we do a darn good job of it. We get about 98% of our scheduled meetings are fulfilled on site. And then if they don't happen onsite, we get them to happen afterwards. But we just had great buzz from this event where the guests were thrilled with what they came away with. And in terms of the vendor contacts, the content from the main stage and the general sessions, most importantly, the peer to peer connectivity, right? Cause there's no textbook answer on how to grow and improve a company in these integration disciplines. You're really gonna do that by finding best practices from other companies of stature and accomplishment and kind of walk in your shoes and may have done the dirty work on developing a process improvement that you can benefit from and learn about it at our event.

Ron:  Quick question, John. But before I go there, Sean Stermer just commented. He said the Total Tech Summit was awesome this year. So congrats. I'm filtering all the bad comments. Of course. I'm not going to read those to you, but no, really there, there are no bad comments, but Sean says hello. So if a company is listening let's see, what is, Shawn's live chatting here, he says that we had great flow at our table and he said the scheduled appointments were a great addition. So Sean is with a manufacturer, URC I believe. And Sean, if I'm misquoting you, please correct me. And so it's a manufacturer's viewpoint. They're appreciating the audience and the attention of the audience. What John does it company and integrator this is an all expense paid when they go to a Total Tech Summit, right? You're paying for their hotel, you're paying for their flight. What do they need to do to then qualify to be able to attend this event or be on your radar for an invitation?

John: Yeah. So first of all, I just want to clarify that because sometimes in a hosted model people think of it as a junket or a boondoggle. I dunno if people know what a boondoggle is.

Ron:  I don't even know what a boondoggle is.

John: You should always look up one word a day, but you know, but let me give it to you another way. It's not stakes in golf, right? This is an intensive two and a half days. You've got a lot of activities scheduled for you with vendors and with your peers to become eligible to be hosted, you need to submit a pretty darn detailed application. We're going to be asking about things like revenues and numbers of installs and looking at your market focus and product mix to make sure that you know you're a fit with the rest of the guests. And if you qualify in that threshold on the revenue side of things for the custom integrators is around two and a half million a year. You know, if you qualify and you're willing to fulfill the responsibilities of being a host of guests, then you know, we will make an offer for you to be hosted to the event and you actually have to sign an agreement that you'll be with us from start to finish. And if you don't fulfill those obligations, there's some financial penalties. So no such thing as a free lunch. But I mean, it is greatly appreciated the hosting benefits and here's the other interesting thing, Ron, is that, we get pushback sometimes, I'm being forced to go to this boardroom presentation from a manufacturer that I know I'll never use or I'm going to have to have this 15 minute one on one meeting. I know I'm not going to use them. You're aware as a marketer of cognitive dissonance, right? So once we've made a decision, we start to exclude all information that's contrary to that decision. Well, it happens to us all the time in the world of B2B and sometimes we're overlooking the product or the business solution. That's the perfect answer for us because of cognitive dissonance and we're kind of the antidote to cognitive dissonance with our forced quote unquote forced meetings with the with the sponsors.

Ron:  John, what were some of your takeaways, if you don't mind? I'm sure there were many and it was a long and it was essentially three conferences in one with the security audience, the commercial audience and the residential integration audience. I'm gonna speculate that much of our audience is residential integration, although I'm sure there are some commercial and some security companies as well. Could you perhaps present what you felt were maybe the theme or some of the primary takeaway, one or two takeaways from each of those audiences or those conferences?

"Keep your brand as an integrator strong."

John: Yeah, so I spent a lot of my time in the commercial integrator room, but I did actually moderate a session for the CE Pro folks. And that was on voice user interface and the arrival of these mass marketers who are pushing the voice platform. So the Amazon's Google Home, Apple's of the world. And I mean I think there were a couple of really interesting takeaways there. One is the, and this is an old kind of an old saw in the custom industry, but you have to be behind your own brand as an integrator, right? So that it's not like you're going to be Amazon, an Amazon Alexa dealer or something like that. You have to make sure that your brand's value proposition is that integration company that can make these emerging technologies work to make them seem really for the client. You have to make sure that that's foremost from a positioning, selling and marketing perspective so that you could become marginalized if you became the dealer of any one of these mass marketing platform providers. So keep your brand as an integrator strong was one of the key takeaways there. Number two, voice is going to need to become a core competency of every residential integrator. So you need to be ahead of the curve. You need to be ahead of where the mass installer who's maybe taking that small Amazon Alexa job, you, you need to be better at it than the mass installing level. So that's a need. Now there's kind of an unfilled industry need, which is where's the information repository that not only has up to date information from these platform providers on what the strengths and weaknesses of their technologies are and some of the applications.

Ron:  Did you have multiple vendors at the event talking about their tickets?

John: Well, vendors, we had no vendors. Had Jim Carroll who consults with vendors but is not with a vendor company at this time. We've had Gordon Van Zuiden and Kyle Steel from California.

Ron:  Wave Guy I believe, is his company.

John: Global Wave.

Ron:  Global Wave? There you go. Wave Guy is out of Australia. Global Wave. That's Kyle. Yeah.

John: So we didn't have manufacturers there, but there's kind of a need for a centralized repository of information from the vendors. But more importantly from the custom integrators as they're learning about this stuff in application and trying to become more advanced, how do we accelerate the pace of everybody's development in this area by doing some sharing around best practices. So that not everyone has to go through the same pain points. So those were my three key takeaways from that session.

Ron:  No, there was an RMR article that just posted this week from Jason and CE Pro and he was talking about, I think there was a panel I'm trying to read, I just read it yesterday. So there was a panel with a number of players, Joey from One Vision and Greg Simmons and his new partnership with SNAP and I believe he's partnered with ETC and Livewire out of Virginia, they're doing a thing. So I wasn't there and like maybe some of my audience weren't there any high levels from that.

John: So I wasn't there for the session. But I was there for the prep calls and it was on a broader set of topics than just recurring revenue and managed services. It was moderated by Mitch Klein who's the executor director of ZOA but also previously a very successful custom integrator and CEDIA President. So it was really about a kind of total quality for system installation. And then so how do you document and button up a system towards the end of the job? How do you train and retrain the end users when you get this system started and then how do you support that, service it managed services being part of the equation. I know that the managed services piece became a large part of that conversation, but it was kind of a broader. This is the crazy aunt in the basement or the cat that's not on the table. It's like we know in this industry that we don't have enough raving fans post installation. We don't take good enough care of the customer post installation to get them really driving referrals to get to achieve high levels of satisfaction. I certainly believe that managed services is part of that ultimate solution because there's no other way for us to do this economically if we don't have these remote connections where we can do diagnostics and then you know, fix things efficiently and keep the customer happy. So it was a little broader topic than just RMR and managed services. But that's definitely an important trend. And it won't be resolved overnight. It'll be something that'll probably take three to four years for us to get to some sort of a baseline of a strong participation in the provision of managed services, the right sort of contracting with the customers and the right ecosystem to provide everything that the installing integrator needs.

Ron:  Now, a few months ago I had a guest on Automation Unplugged. I had the well known and renowned Deborah Smith on the Deborah Smith Group. And she was actually episode 14. So if you're out there and you want to catch up on that, you can watch episode 14. And she was leading a session last week to a room full of what I'm assuming were residential integrators and talking about the importance of audio and how to make a high-performance audio sales a larger portion of their business. How did that go? Any kind of high level takeaways from that?

"It's clear that margins have become tighter on the control and networking side of things as some of these mass installers start to be able to provide similar functionality at price points that are a great deal lower than what the custom integrators are accustomed to."

John: Yeah, that was a pre car workshop. It was not mandatory for our guests. I would say we had about 50 of the guests have taken the session and Deborah's got a great story to tell, right? It's about how when networking and automation became the key in demand products, a lot of integrators, have their roots in specialty retail and audio kind of took their eye off of the ball of that category and forgot how the merchandise in that category and forgot how to sell it with passion. And you know, it's clear that margins have become tighter on the control and networking side of things as some of these mass installers start to be able to provide similar functionality at price points that are a great deal lower than what the custom integrators are accustomed to. So, you know, audio and speakers in particular are one of the places where you can go get back margin. But Deborah's thesis is you've got to commit yourself to it just like you committed yourself to hiring the right people and developing a full blown business model around the control and networking side of things. So you gotta have these merchandise source assortment refreshes. You gotta have good, better, best paths and you've got to be able to provide experiences and help people understand that there is a difference in the quality of their experience based on the quality of both audio components. So there's a substantial amount of work to do, to succeed with the category, but it's clearly an opportunity. And for some business owners it's probably a need to have a stronger play in a category that continues to yield margins.

Ron:  No, that makes a lot of sense. Now around the corner you have the Tech Home Builder Summit. What are the dates for that event?

John: That's December 4 through 6 in Phoenix, Arizona at the convention center. And Ron, we have a three in one segmentation for that event, just like the Total Tech Summit. So the three segments are high volume builders, so that's a builder's doing an excess of a hundred homes a year. Some of them doing tens of thousands. We've got folks like Leonar participating at the event that's 40,000 plus homes a year. And we'll host them a hundred guests, 100 to 110 in the high volume category. Then we've got a luxury segment which we will host about 75 guests in. And some of those are production builders that you look at three and some of them are luxury custom builders who are building a handful of super high end homes. They don't have the same market power as the high volume folks, but we like to see them as thought leaders.

"They'll generally lead with the technology."

Ron:  They'll generally lead with the technology. I would imagine.

John: They push the envelope on technology. And so other custom builders are gonna follow these leaders and the high volume guys will follow them to some extent as well. And then the third segment is multifamily and it's builders, but also developers. It's the folks who are setting the specifications for the products inside of the units and in the public spaces. Those are the folks that we host importantly on this event, right? So you could go into a trade show, a builder trade show, and you'll see lots of bodies. But these folks are self selecting for immersion in technology as an opportunity. We build this show as the place where you can either establish or refine your technology strategy. So for many builders, they've looked out of the corner of their eye and technology for 20, 30 years, and we walked by it at a trade show and had a conversation here and there. Folks that come to this event, they want two and a half days of immersion in it so that they can get serious about their strategy.

Ron:  Who are the types of companies or vendors that are then trying to appeal to this? Are these the, I'm going to stay the Lutrons of the world and is it just within the automation space or lighting space or how broad is the audience presenting to your guests?

John: It's broad Ron. So we do have the players in the electronics space from AV and control and security. But we also, we have like five buckets and so there's smart HVAC and indoor air quality. So we'll have you know, companies like Carrier I don't have all the names of those companies.

Ron:  No, no, no, no. I'm not putting you on the spot.

John: We've got some of the indoor air quality stuff like automated ventilation is part of the mix. We've got smart electrical lighting, so we have a good amount of led lighting. We have load center, smart connected load center type players. We have for the first time really big plays on the appliances side of things with Samsung and Whirlpool both at like six, seven board room presentation level sponsorship. So finally we're starting to see appliances with smart connected features that actually deliver consumer benefit for so many years. We were just talking about remote diagnostics and stuff like that, but really they're starting to develop app based control for stove tops and ovens and we can get notifications and control dishwashers and washing machines and dryers. And I think that stuff needs to come into the overall control ecosystem. We've got to start integrating those apps into our overall home automation system apps to make this seamless because we don't want 15 different apps for the consumer to try to control the different elements of the home. So smarter clients. Then we've got this smart water category.

Ron:  What the heck is smart water?

John: Well, things like tankless water heaters, like we are on in the middle of a conversion that's going to take us to 80 to 90% of hot water heaters being tankless. So I want to say we have eight or nine tankless water heater providers. We've got leak detection, we've got water filtration and water use monitoring. We've got things like greywater and rainwater harvest thing. So, you and I are on the East coast here and you know, we're not in a consistent state of drought. On the West coast, you know, water's like more valuable than gasoline. So I just don't have a lot of scope of technology.

Ron:  That makes sense. So my notes here that I made to be prepared for this conversation with you, John. I see that I think it's, you correct me if I'm wrong, just released or someone just released the 2017 Tech Home Builder market pulse survey. And is this something that you put on that you've surveyed the vendors or tell me what that is and if you don't mind some of the interesting statistics in terms of the technologies that these builders are demonstrating a demand for.

John: Yeah, so we do this semi-annually, we usually do it right before the fall and then late kind of late Spring, what we call it, the market poll survey. We, it's an online survey to the readers of Tech Builder, right? And so that's gonna it's a big list, but it tends to be the more tech forward builders that re respond. And I would say it's, it's skewed to more tech forward builder and bigger builders in the response. We are consistent, consistently asking about attitudes about technology questions like, to what extent do you agree with a statement like our builders need to offer innovative technology options and amenities. So when the business of millennial home buyers, so for that particular question, for instance, Ron, we've got 49% of the builders that responded to this saying they totally agree and 45% saying they agree somewhat so strong agreement with a statement like that. Strong agreement with the idea that they can make more, they can increase revenues with innovative technology that they can increase profits. I would tell you 15 years ago they didn't think that they didn't think that these were profitable categories. And for the first time we asked this question, which to me is, you know, is the important trend that caused custom integrators should be tuned into with regard to builders is we asked every home we build should have a standard home automation system of some sort of included. 36% totally agree with that. 40% 45% agree somewhat. So, the only thing you could get standard from a home builder, from a technology perspective, 10-15 years ago was a structured wiring camp. Now they believe that there needs to be some basic level of home automation. Whether that's, you know, thermostat control and electronic locks and maybe some simple lighting control and alarm system or not. They are receiving these same marketing messages that the consumers are, they have home buyers asking for that feature. And so they believe that there should be a home automation standard in place and almost every builder out there is receptive to a message like that from the custom integrator.

Ron:  No, that's fascinating. How does my audience get their hands on this survey? Is this information on your website?

John: Yeah, I mean they could send me an email and I will forward them the deck on this and we also do a thing quarterly called the housing stat packs. So that's just the collection of government and association generated stats on housing. And the interesting thing I think that we do there is we really focus on dollars instead of starts and starts are important. But really for custom integrators it's about what percentage of the dollar spent on the house, on the construction and the development of the house. Are you going to get? So we look at criminal added value, which is kind of a forward looking stat on housing. And we have that broken down by state and Metro market when we look at the growth rates and highlight the fast growing stuff. And then we also look at on a more retrospective basis on what's called construction put in place, which again is dollar related. And, and I would say all of the local, state and regional takes that we have on the information are important because especially for a manufacturer you know, we all put up a map on a wall and say, how am I going to cover the United States? And we look at these huge landmasses and try to dedicate people to them. And if you look at how much of the construction activity is concentrated in specific metros, it might make more sense for you that eight people in LA and one person covering 45 other States, you know, eight people in LA, people in New York city, people in Houston, in Dallas, and one person covering the rest of the country. So you got to look at these things and take your bias for thinking country's bigger than a state is bigger than a city and really put the resources where the dollars are.

Ron:  Got it. That makes sense. We're running out of time here. We've been going for 30 minutes. I'm going to say maybe one more question for you John. And by the way, you're a little bit off frame. There you are now your center.

John: It's hard for me to say in frame for 45 minutes.

"You certainly seem to have your ear to the tracks and have a good indication just because of this role that you have at this intersection of construction and manufacturers and the contractors."

Ron:  No, I know. I'm trying to bounce back and jump over to your single shot just so that if you're going left or you're going right, I keep you on the screen. You know, for those businesses out there I'm going to say a lot again my residential integration market. What maybe is on the horizon in terms of technology? You certainly seem to have your ear to the tracks and have a good indication just because of this role that you have at this intersection of construction and manufacturers and the contractors. I mean, you're really at that intersection of all these interesting parties. So that's a long way of asking what do you think is either here right now or on the horizon that a lot of our integrators, these, you know, $1 to $10 million a year businesses should be looking at, or gearing up to be really intelligent about and that it's likely going to affect their bottom line in the not too distant future.

John: Yeah, I mean, I think the competitive picture is such that the sort of basic home automation system is going to become commoditized as these mass market players continue their March forward. And you've got to figure out what your strategy as an integrator is in terms of market served and what sort of competencies and proficiencies you need to develop to get there. My personal bias is that it would include some of these, a strong focus on integrating some of these other subsystems that are getting increasingly smart and high tech. So that it's not just about communicating thermostat to control temperature, but you understand humanity and freshness of air and you're able to work with an HVAC contractor for instance, to really provide comfort as part of the automation system or that even make an investment in bringing on some licensed electricians so that you can handle categories like lighting fixtures or the you know, the smart load center and the energy monitoring piece as well. Or you know, diving into what these smart connected appliances are about and how you can work with the folks that move those big heavy boxes into a home, whether that's new or existing, but then bring that technology seamlessly into your network. So I think that that's a place to go for differentiation and continued profitability versus staying put in kind of basic home automation functionality. I think that's really important. And I think what goes with that is stronger partnerships with the design-build community, not just about new construction, but how are you tied in with major remodeling projects, especially here in the Northeast. There ain't a ton of new construction, but there are a lot of old buildings that are totally gutted and remodeled and basically new on the inside. How do you become partners with the design-build community for both existing and new homes so that you can provide this broader kind of value in terms of systems integration?

Ron:  Well, there you have it folks. You've heard it from the man at the intersection of technology and construction and John last year you had me speak at the event and it was a complete blast. I really enjoyed it. And I'm really happy for you and your continued success at AE Ventures and everything that you're doing for the industry. Really. A lot of parties should owe you a lot of thanks in terms of you bringing all these people together and having and really instigating a lot of powerful conversations that are gonna affect all of our futures.

John: Well, we're having a ball doing it and I love to be an instigator and thank you very much for this conversation. It was really interesting. Appreciate it.

Ron:  There you have it folks, another episode of Automation Unplugged. Hope you enjoyed it. And I'm signing off. It's one 15 here. We're all going to get back to our day job and but I hope to see you next week. And on a future episode, feel free to check us out. You can also go to and go through the menus and I think it's in the top menu. It says Learn and then you'll see Automation Unplugged. And you can see all of the recordings for all 23 shows that we've produced so far. So on that note make it a great Wednesday, have an awesome week and thanks for watching. And we'll see you next time.

Show Notes

John Galante is president of AE Ventures. Prior to founding AE Ventures in 2008, Galante headed EH Publishing’s events division and contributed to the development of its publications, online media and new business ventures. John has also held prior roles with the Consumer Technology Association, Distributed Audio Alliance, Consortium for Electronic Systems Technician Training, and the International Association for Exhibitions and Events.

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.

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