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Automation Unplugged

Automation Unplugged is a Facebook Live show recorded weekly with our host Ron Callis, Owner and CEO of the digital marketing agency, One Firefly. In each Automation Unplugged episode, Ron speaks with leading industry personalities and technology professionals to discuss all things business development, technology trends, and more. These interviews are designed to help our clients and members of the custom integration industry keep up-to-date with the latest news as well as learn from experts in the field.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #17 and #18: An Industry Q&A With Josh Christian

Forming clear standards for the AV and automation industry

Home Automation Podcast Episode #17 and #18: An Industry Q&A With Josh Christian

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Josh Christian. Recorded live on Wednesday September 27th at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About Josh Christian

Josh has been a technology enthusiast since a young boy, working hard to earn straight A's as a 6th grade student so he could get the loudspeakers and turntable he wanted so badly. Straight A's were earned, the new stereo was earned, and he has never looked back!

Josh's first job in the electronics industry was as a salesperson at what was then called Wilshire TV & Stereo, now called Wilshire Media Systems in Thousand Oaks, CA in 1995. Josh joined custom installation company DSI Entertainment Systems in late 1998, where he helped the firm grow into one of the largest custom AV installation, home theater, and home automation companies until it was folded into VIA International in 2013. In May 2015 Josh joined Axiom Design, a low-voltage technology consultant specializing in the design and engineering of home technology systems.

Josh is an experienced educator, teaching at the annual CEDIA Expo from 2002 to 2006 and delivering several dozen industry outreach presentations to some of the top architects, general contractors, and interior designers in the USA. In serving in several different roles, as a technology salesperson, a marketing specialist to the design & build trades, an industry outreach liaison, and as a technology consultant, Josh brings years of experience and perspective to the Home Technology Association. Josh's goal has always been to deliver exceptional technology experiences to clients, and in his role as Director of Certification for the HTA, he gets to expand on that goal as he identifies the top home technology installation firms and brings them the recognition they so badly deserve.


Interview Recap

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

  • Josh's background in the AV industry
  • The response to HTA's public launch
  • The big names on HTA's board of advisors
  • Why HTA formed
  • HTA's goals for the industry
  • The value of HTA to integrators, manufacturers, homeowners, and trade professionals
  • Details on the certification process and requirements
  • And more

Home Automation Podcast Episode #16: An Industry Q&A With Ryan Heine

Exploring the Impact of Hurricane Harvey

Home Automation Podcast Episode #16: An Industry Q&A With Ryan Heine

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Ryan Heine. Recorded live on Thursday September 21st at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About Ryan Heine

Ryan Heine is the Director of Business Development at Refined Systems, LLC. Refined Systems, LLC is a premium provider of residential and commercial audio/video and automation systems including audio and video distribution, home theater, lighting fixtures and control, motorized shade and drapery treatments and control, video conferencing solutions, acoustics, and sound masking, among many others. We work closely with the customer, architect, builder and designer to integrate technology that is functional, sophisticated and effortless. 


Interview Recap

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

  • How Hurricane Harvey affected clients and AV businesses throughout the Houston area
  • How AV businesses could better prepare for natural disasters
  • How to get involved with relief efforts
  • Refined Systems' take on CEDIA 2017
  • Ryan's favorite hobby: improv!
  • And more

Home Automation Podcast Episode #15: An Industry Q&A With Blake Richetta

It's time for integrators to go solar.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #15: An Industry Q&A With Blake Richetta

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Blake Richetta. Recorded live on Thursday August 30th at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About Blake Richetta

Blake Richetta graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a Masters in Business Administration in 2001 and shortly thereafter he began a 15-year career at Lutron Electronics, the world leader in lighting control. While at Lutron, Blake successfully designed and implemented an industry leading business model for the RadioRA and RadioRA2 products. His approach to building the distributor and installer channels and the overall channel strategy for the RadioRA business advanced the global market for smart home lighting and automated shading, contributing to the overall growth of the home automation industry.

After departing Lutron, Blake joined Tesla Motors as North American Powerwall Sales Manager, bringing his expertise in selling high-end residential technologies to the nascent energy storage industry.  After a brief stint at Tesla, Blake joined sonnen, Inc. as Vice President of Sales, drawn by the company’s innovative capabilities and high quality, technologically advanced residential storage products and services. Sonnen’s innovation in energy storage goes beyond smart batteries to include the “sonnen Community”, a peer-to-peer clean energy trading as well as Grid Services platform which uses a “Virtual Power Plant” by way of aggregation.

In June of 2017, Blake was promoted to Senior Vice President of Sonnen, Inc. and named “Representative of the Global CEO” for North American operations. In his short time at Sonnen, Blake has led the US organization into a period of rapid sales and organizational growth. The company’s new manufacturing facility and “InnovationHub” in Atlanta, Georgia opened in April 2017. Outside of work, Blake enjoys spending time with his family, including his wife Priya, and is an active volunteer and philanthropist in his hometown of Santa Monica, CA.

Interview Recap

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

  • Blake's background with Lutron Electronics and Tesla Powerwall
  • How Blake landed in the solar power / clean tech industry
  • What sonnen batterie has planned for the U.S. and CEDIA in particular
  • Why integrators should be interested in solar storage
  • And more

Blake breaks down the state of clean energy technology and the role that it will soon play in the AV and automation industry.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #14: An Industry Q&A With Deborah Smith

What happened to selling high-end audio?

Home Automation Podcast Episode #14: An Industry Q&A With Deborah Smith

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Deborah Smith. Recorded live on Thursday August 23rd at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About Deborah Smith

Deborah Smith of the Deborah Smith Group is a long time industry consultant specializing in helping integrators, vendors and associations with brand and marketing strategy, strategic planning, and long and short term programs for revitalizing custom and retail sales, launching new projects, creating market differentiation, brand development selling more stereo, and implementing recurring revenue programs.

For 14 years, Deborah served as Executive Director for PARA (Professional Audio/Video Retailers Association), producing the association’s annual management conference and creating industry-acclaimed business education, sales, training and marketing initiatives for owners of independent retail and system integration companies.

Prior to PARA, she was VP of Marketing and Purchasing at Tweeter for 6 Years (from 7 – 21 stores), and GM at Harvey Electronics in NYC for 3 years. Smith was awarded the 2001 TWICE Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Consumer Electronics Industry and she received the CEPro Master designation in 2013. She is a regular editorial contributor to CEPro and a frequent public speaker and workshop presenter for various industry groups.

Her company also offers meeting planning, conference design, keynote speaker selection and management training services. In 2010, she helped create the industry’s first ever CE Pro Virtual Trade Show, and developed a wide variety of business education offerings and management workshops for EHX. She was also instrumental in designing and producing the first ELAN Trio Summit event and several years of D-Tools User Conferences.
Deborah can be reached at 617-739-9877 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Interview Recap

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

  • Deborah's background and why she chose to stay in this industry for so many years
  • Why the channel has shifted away from selling stereo
  • Practical tips for helping integrators increase their high-end audio sales

  • With CEDIA right around the corner, what takeaways integrators be trying for 

  •  The services her consulting firm offers for sales, product launches, RMR, etc.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #13: An Industry Q&A With Richard Glikes

A Glimpse into the Benefits of Buying Groups

Home Automation Podcast Episode #13: An Industry Q&A With Richard Glikes

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Ryan Heine. Recorded live on Thursday August 16th at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

About Richard Glikes

Richard Glikes is the President and Founder of Azione Unlimited, a consortium of like-minded dealers, customer retailers, integrators, and vendors. Richard has more than 40 years of experience in the custom integration business, with roles at Wall to Wall Sound, Hi Fi House, Bryn Mawr Stereo, Tops Appliance City, and HTSA..


Interview Recap

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

  • Richard's reasoning for starting Azione Unlimited
  • What Azione Unlimited has to offer integrators
  • The biggest mistakes Richard sees integrators making
  • What at CEDIA has Richard excited
  • What to expect at the Azione Fall conference

Home Automation Podcast Episode #12: An Industry Q&A With Greg Simmons

Buyouts, Builder Programs, and Security RMR

Home Automation Podcast Episode #12: An Industry Q&A With Greg Simmons

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Greg Simmons. Recorded live on Wednesday, August 9th at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About Greg Simmons

Greg Simmons started in the security industry as a central station operator for Eagle Sentry in 1989. He managed the central station for two years before being promoted to sales. While attending college full time, Greg sold security systems for 5 years before performing a leveraged buyout with his business partner of Eagle Sentry in 1996. He helped build the company as business development and sales director into a full systems integration company doing over 14 million in annual sales. He still holds the same position today, as well as presiding as the Nevada Security Association President. Greg is an active member of CEDIA. Eagle Sentry is currently listed as the 27th largest integrator in the CEPro 100.

Follow Greg: Twitter | LinkedIn


Interview Recap

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

  • How Greg got started in the AV industry
  • His role at Eagle Sentry
  • The process of doing a leveraged buyout of Eagle Sentry's existing ownership
  • Security RMR
  • Builder programs
  • The smart home design for Indy racecar driver Alex Tagliani
  • What's coming up at CEDIA