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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.

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Home Automation Unplugged Episode #215: An Industry Q&A with Håkan Olsson

In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Håkan Olsson, CEO and Founder at Beemer Smart Home shares how he uses his home as a showroom for his business.

Home Automation Unplugged Episode #215: An Industry Q&A with Håkan Olsson

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Håkan Olsson. Recorded live on Wednesday, June 15th 2022, at 12:30PM EST

About Håkan Olsson

Håkan started Beemer Smart Home in 2005 as a side business while he was pursuing a career at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA. As a classical musician and former Audio Engineer, his initial focus was on audio solutions, which then transitioned into home theater solutions a few years later. 

In 2016 after successful projects with several architects and builders in the Seattle area, he decided to take the business full- time and expand the solutions to an all-encompassing Home Technologies solutions. 

Today, Beemer Smart Home has added more solutions, like Lutron luxury lighting and motorized shades, an invisible speaker line from Stealth Acoustics, and whole home control solutions through Control4. In 2019 Beemer Smart Home also became an integration partner to Stratis IOT for multifamily smart building solutions after completing several highrise projects. In 2021 Beemer also earned an HTA certification.

Interview Recap

  • How Håkan uses his home as a showroom for his business
  • His method of using his home to demo Ketra tunable lighting and invisible speakers
  • Selling single app solutions vs App Mania (ie. using many apps)

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #214 An Industry Q&A with Dustin KernsSEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #214 An Industry Q&A with Dustin Kerns

 

Transcript

Ron:  Hello. Ron Callis here with Automation Unplugged. Actually, I'm realizing I'm live here preshow, but I'm realizing I don't have my microphone in front of me. So what I'm going to do here, everyone is going watch me do this live. I'm going to switch microphones. Let's do this. There you go. Look at that dramatic drop in. All right, so now we have the big mic. David is telling me that we are live on both platforms. So we are live streaming on Facebook and we are live streaming on LinkedIn. If you are out there in the wild watching live or on replay, be so kind as drop down into the comments section. Say hello. That is always fun. It's always fun for my guest and I to know where you're coming from. It also helps the algorithm ultimately see that engagement and push this out to more of your friends and that's a good thing. So today is Wednesday, June 15. It's a little bit after 12:30 p.m.. Eastern time. Or for my guest, he's on the West Coast. It is a little bit after 09:30 a.m. Because he's coming to us from the West Coast. So today is show 215 and my guest is the one and only Håkan Olsson, CEO and founder at Beemer Smart Home. He has warned me that if I mispronounce his name, he is a Viking and he'll be angry and he'll do things. I'm just joking. He's a very kind gentleman. But I did practice multiple times to try to make sure I got his name right because shame on me there's been other shows and other guests and I did not practice in advance. Then I go and I say it and it doesn't always come out right. So I did my best. Let's bring in Håkan and let's make sure that I got his name right, then let's learn all about him and his business and the exciting things he's doing up there in Washington. So here he comes. How are you, sir?

Håkan: Good. Thank you for inviting me. Very exciting to be here.

Ron:  How did I do?

Håkan: I mean, you shouldn't feel bad. It looks pretty good. We can do one more practice.

Ron:  So it's a strong k Håkan.

Håkan: Yeah, it's kind of like Hocan but then Håkan.

Ron:  All right and the last name. Let's do that one more time.

Håkan: Olsson.

Ron:  Olsson?

Håkan: Yeah. Good.

Ron:  00:02:56.600 Where are you from, Håkan?

Håkan: I'm from Sweden. So born and raised in Sweden and came over here in 99 when I was at Microsoft and I was going to stay here for a couple of years, but I met a Wyoming cowgirl that I didn't even know existed and ended up staying.

Ron:  That sounds like a wonderful story in itself. Your background, it looks beautiful. Is this a virtual background? Is this a real background?

Håkan: We can test if I move quickly and see if you see an artifact.

Ron:  Yeah. You have a really fast computer, apparently.

Håkan: No, it's actually our home here in Kirkland just outside of Seattle, Washington. We actually use our house as a show home for customers to see what you can do with integrated technology. So sitting here in the kitchen, you see the living room behind with a Samsung frame TV above and out there is a patio with the outer shade slightly lowered.

Ron:  I do see that. It's beautiful. You have a beautiful home.

Håkan: Thank you. Thank you, Ron.

Ron:  So, Beemer Smart Home, tell us about the business. What do you guys do? Where do you do what you do?

Håkan: Well, we are an integrator, pride ourselves in working with architects and designers and custom home builders to really take the EC integrated home technology experience to the next level for customers. There's a lot of that goes into that. But what it comes down to is to, number one, raise awareness for customers that are building maybe the third or fourth house and they want to get it right to realize what is available for them to do. That's why we have our house set up that way. Then secondly, work with their architects and builders to make that happen. Because what we have experienced is that there's not sufficient level of knowledge at architects and designers of the latest engagement on technologies. We want to partner with them to help their customers to get the best experience at the end.

Ron:  How do you do that? Out of curiosity?

Håkan: Yeah, so the way we do that is that we work with a number of architects, lighting designers, and home decorators. When they have a customer, that customer comes to our home. Then we do, it's essentially a two hour walkthrough. We explain to them about the home technology, the importance of networking as the foundation. Then you can have the different rooms in the house, which is to be more comfortable or to be more entertained or to be secure. Then to avoid that you end up with what I call app mania with 20 different apps to manage it all, to have one integrated way. One button experiences is what I call it, to make it very easy for anyone that lives in the home. Not only the tech geek in the house. But for a mother-in-law that visits that the mother-in-law can push one button to get the cooking lighting scene in the kitchen. They push one button in the TV room and everything comes on and starts Netflix. Or you push one button and you have your favorite TV station.

Ron:  Random question, totally random. Do you design a touch panel and keypad on the wall as you enter rooms? Or are you a touchpad only or keypad only designer?

Håkan: Mostly keypads. We typically do have touch screens as part of our designs, but it's more in the common areas in the living room or kitchen area. Where you have one place to go to for if you want to start music. You don't have to use your phone. But for other rooms in the house, it's multi keypads and that we program those based on how the customer is going to live in their home and based on what time of the year it is and what the time of the day of the year it is. So if you walk into your master suite at night and you hit the light button, if it's dark outside, you don't need 100%, you probably need 40%, and it's going to be comfortable lighting. But if you go in there in the middle of the day and the daylight out and the shades are up, then you want 100% to balance the light that you have outside. Does that make sense?

Ron:  That makes perfect sense. That makes perfect sense. So I have oodles of questions about your show space and about lighting and shading and lots of other topics, but I'm going to hold those for the moment because I always love for my audience to know where you come from, what's your backstory, how did you land here?

Håkan: Well, I come from Sweden, as we've covered already, and good job on the name, by the way.

Ron:  Thank you.

Håkan: It actually started in Sweden, when you go through school, you actually have to play an instrument. I have three older siblings that all play piano. So when the form came home to fill out what instrument you want to play, my mom already filled in that, yeah, he's going to play piano. I got kind of offended because she didn't ask me, so I said, no, I'm not going to play piano. So then she said, oh, what are you going to play? My sister, who I always argued with, she said, as long as you don't start to play the violin, because then I'm moving out. I said, okay, violin it is. So I started playing violin, and then at 15 years old, my fingers got really long so I switched to viola, and that became a kind of a secondary, almost career path for me because through high school I got scholarships for my viola playing, which in turn led to that I applied for a sound engineering summer job at Sweden; with a nationwide radio broadcasting company called Sanska Ricks Radium.

Ron:  I'm going to try to repeat that one. I'm not going to do that to our listener.

Håkan: Okay, I'll give you that pass. So I applied there and got accepted mostly because I was able to read music scores. That specific radio station recorded a lot of live symphony orchestras and choirs that are very prevalent in Sweden. I got a fantastic training by them, by what's considered to be the sound father of Sweden. He also sent me down to Deutsche Grammophon in Germany to get training by them.

Ron:  I have some classical recordings from them.

Håkan: It's the best. There's one recording that you have to look up, and that is by Deutsche Grammophon playing Beethoven's first violin concerto conducted by Herbert von Carajan.

Ron:  I'm going to ask you to get that to me in writing.

Håkan: Okay.

Ron:  My commitment is I will pick that up because my jam is classical music. So my happy place is listening to classical music.

Håkan: It activates the other part of the brain, doesn't it?

Ron:  It 100% does. In fact, I played classical music. I don't know if it's science or not, but it was a belief system that even when my son was newborn, we had just brought him home. We played classical music in his room 24 hours a day for his entire childhood. So now when we drive, my wife will drive him to school or I'll drive him; we have classical on the way to school and classical on the way home. That's what calms him and that's what prepares him and his mental, I say him and me for what is often a hectic day or whatever's going on, but it puts me in a different state of mind.

Håkan: Yeah. And I guess for the child, he can go one or two ways, right? Either they love it or...

Ron:  They never want to listen to it again. Now he's only 13, so we could still hit that wall where he goes, Never again.

Håkan: Yeah.

Ron:  I don't think so.

Håkan: That's awesome. But the reason I just mentioned that I always kept my interest for sound engineering. I ended up working full time for the radio company for two years before I went to university and got my master's degree.

Ron:  What did you study? What was your degree in?

Håkan: Applied physics. So we did four year old math.

Ron:  I was going to say that's some serious math. I studied engineering and I did some of those physics classes. Holy moly, it was intense.

Håkan: Yeah. But at one point in my life I had to decide, do I pursue music or something else? I always wanted music to be a passion, so I decided to have it as my passion and do something else. Then I ended up working for Microsoft in Sweden. I worked in Microsoft for a number of years, and then in 99, they asked me to come over to the headquarters here in Redmond out of Seattle. In the early 2000's, that's when home theaters started to pop out. So my first home I had here, I started to play around with that. In 2003, my first customer, John Goodfield, good friend these days, he was so frustrated having dealt with other audio video companies in the area. So he came over for a party and said, did you do this? You have to help me. So sure I'll help you. So I did and set him up and say, this was so good, you have to do this as a business. You're going to make a lot of money. It's just fun. I have two friends that want this as well. Then one thing led to another and then in 2012, through Just Connections, I was introduced to one of the best architects in the country for residential solutions. They're called Board and Vellum. They have won a number of house prices for a number of years. So I did their home, they introduced me to some of their customers. We did their homes. Then one of those customers were actually his principal for one of the high riser builders here in the area. He was so happy, so he wanted us to come and do theater and other audio video experiences in high risers. At that point I said, no, I can't do that because this is a side gig. But then my wife and I, we sat down and said, hey, what should we do? We ultimately, five years ago, decided to let's go full-time and make this our own.

Ron:  That's amazing.

Håkan: Yeah, most of our business is now for luxury residential, but we also do technology solutions in high risers as we are an integrated for strategy IoT rep page.

Ron:  When you were at Microsoft, maybe most recently, I'm assuming that's the most senior role you had at Microsoft. What were you doing? What part of the business?

Håkan: So it was in the Xbox and entertainment area as well as the OEM World. The OEM world is Microsoft called OEM's original Equipment manufacturers. So interacting with HP, Dell and others, that to license software and make software experiences on PCs. So that's what I did.

Ron:  So I'm now going to tell my son, because my son's favorite, I think, thing in the whole world is his Xbox. He has the new one, the square, the tall one. It looks a little funny, but oh my goodness, is that a powerful machine?

Håkan: It's amazing graphics. It's unbelievable.

Ron:  It's has amazing graphics. Do you miss Microsoft? Do you miss that life?

Håkan: You know, what I miss is interacting with a lot of colleagues and the international aspect. I was so fortunate to be at Microsoft and traveled the world. While I was doing that, I always brought my paraglider. So paragliding in Japan, next to Mount Fuji and in Australia and all over Europe. It was absolutely fantastic.

Ron:  So you traveled with your own paraglider, like that's a thing? Like you would check your paraglider in the luggage?

Håkan: It's just a backpack and it's a fantastic way to meet locals and engage with locals and really see the local areas.

Ron:  How many countries have you paraglided in?

Håkan: I haven't counted, but it's probably 20 plus.

Ron:  That's amazing! Do you still paraglide?

Håkan: Yeah, less than I want to. But we got twins ten years ago and that kind of went to the sidelines.

Ron:  I totally appreciate a lot of my hobbies, pre-children are no longer my hobbies. We had to do scuba diving. I do a lot less scuba diving.

Håkan: But I can also tell you what I don't miss with Microsoft and I think that with any larger companies and that there were always a lot of meetings and meetings that were not necessarily needed, also the politics. Personally, I'm kind of the person I like to interact with people and make things happen. It got harder and harder to get things happen at Microsoft at that time. I hear it's better now, but ten years ago it wasn't.

Ron:  I'm going to ask you a fairly abstract question, but it has to do with organizational efficiency. My team here at One Firefly, we're reading lots of books and practicing different methods of how, I'll just give, for example, how to have more effective meetings. Was there a methodology at Microsoft around how to conduct a meeting or how to have productive meetings? Was it an organizational belief on that or was it within your own departments of how that would happen?

Håkan: Not when I was there. I believe there is now and I think that's partly triggered by Amazon where they have very strict guidelines that the only way a meeting can happen at Amazon is that full meeting objective and everything needs to be sent out before meeting starts with everyone inquired, reading that and then discussing and making decisions. So at the time there was nothing like that at Microsoft. I'm sure there is now. I don't know.

Ron:  That's interesting.

Håkan: I'm glad I don't have to deal with it.

Ron:  Amen! Sorry for coughing in everyone's ear. I'm almost over my COVID cough. I'm like 95% better, but I've still got a little lingering tickle.

Håkan: Same here

Ron:  When did you get it?

Håkan: Actually, it's not COVID cough. It's just a dry cough that I've had for years even before COVID.

Ron:  It's challenging. So Beemer Smart Home, where does the name come from? And I've got a piece of artwork that Kim sent over. So I'm going to share that on the screen.

Håkan: Okay.

Ron:  I do see a dog and that dog in your logo looks like the dog in the picture.

Håkan: That is indeed or was our dear dog Beemer. The background of that is that I'm a passionate BMW fan. Growing up in Sweden, my family and my brother worked at Saab. So our family always had Saab. My first two cars were Saabs and in 1995 I test drive a BMW and the rest is history. So when we got the dog in 2003, we went back and forth and what should we name him? Then one day driving home from Microsoft, I remember picking up the phone and calling my wife and my wife came and she didn't the answer. So in the voicemail, I said, beemer, beamer, beamer, beamer. Shouldn't he be called Beemer? And I just hang up. She just smiled and said, yeah, Beemer it is.

Ron:  Beemer it is.

Håkan: That is the smartest dog that we've ever met. When you run a smart home business, why not call it Beemer? At that time it was just a side business, so we didn't put a lot of emphasis on doing branding and naming. But it has become a somewhat recognizable name here in the area for doing quality home implementations. Our business has been solely or mostly just word of mouth, so we don't see a reason to change it.

Ron:  All right, so tell everyone, let's get a good Beemer story. What's a fond memory of Beemer?

Håkan: Well, one of the fondest memories I have is just north of Seattle, there's an island called Whitby Island where there are cliffs off of the ocean and there's laminar beautiful flow coming in. There's a big grassy area where you launch your paraglider. Then as soon as you get close to cliffs, you gain altitude from the Upfall and there's a company in Oregon that specializes in building dog harnesses to be tandem passengers on a paraglider. So I thought, why not? He loved it. It was that was his favorite place to go and just watch us fly, right?

Ron:  Yeah.

Håkan: As I was flying, he simply was running on the tips back and forth. As we were soaring back and forth.

Ron:  He's like, dad, come back to Earth.

Håkan: Yeah. And at one point I strapped him in and he was kind of nervous. We took off and just as we gained altitude, he was kind of like this the whole time. But on this side there's also a lot of bold headed eagles. So as we were soaring, one bold headed eagle came and soared just in front of us above. He looked up and then his whole wow. I could hear him thinking, well, if he can fly, so can I.

Ron:  Not the only animal up here.

Håkan: Yeah. Now with that said, after coming down landing, I unstrapped him and then came up to get him a bit later and he ran away. He don't want to do it again.

Ron:  Never again. That's cute. Thank you for sharing those fond memories. So I'm going to jump topic here, by the way, we've got some folks tuning in, people saying hi. Ed Gilmore over on LinkedIn just said hello. I actually just had Ed on the show and he is a fellow classical musician. So if you haven't listened to that show, check him out. He's an awesome fellow and great integrator on the east coast. We also have Michael Restrepo. He says hello. Appreciate that, Michael.

Håkan: Nice.

Ron:  I've got Alex Camara actually calling my cell. Alex is a fellow Washingtonian in there with audio controls. I think I forgot to put this on mute. Alex, if you're watching, sorry, man, I couldn't take your call, but I'll talk soon. We got Katie, she says hello.

Håkan: Hello, Katie.

Ron:  Then we have Steve. Steve, I want to say Steve is coming to us from Nairobi, but Steve, clarify for me if you're still tuned in, remind me. I'm pretty sure you're out there. Then Mario is saying hello, and Mario is also saying hello to Alex. So there you go Alex on my phone. You just got a hello from Mario. Good to see you, buddy. I appreciate everyone. Håkan, tell me about using your home as a showroom. How do you do it? When you get a lead, what happens and in what order that you use your space?

Håkan: The first thing we do is qualify the lead, because since it's our home, it's living here with twins. It's a process to clean it and make it ready to be shown. So that's always a little bit of a struggle. But after we have a qualified lead, what we do is that we take them in. We explain what home technology is all about, because it's not just about dimming lights. It's not just about motorized shades. It's not just about sound. It's getting your home technologies to enhance the way you live in your home. That's why we decided to the only way to do that is to show them in a home environment what that means. Because when you walk down the aisles of that Best Buy, you see a box, and all of those boxes says, works with Alexa, right? Great. So then if you go to the next aisle, it says, works with Google. How are you going to make those work together? Right? So what we do, we take them in here. We walk them through all of their different capabilities. So in this home, we have a Lutron Ketra tunable lighting. We show them what that is about. We show the various types of indoor and outdoor motorized shades. We are specialized in stealth acoustics, inventible speakers, and a lot of people don't even know that they exist because there are no speaker grills. They are built in together with the sheetrock completely invisible. We even have an Atmosphere Theater 100% built with self-acoustics. We walked them through all of this, and then afterwards, we asked them, what makes sense to you? Here's the fun fact. I don't know how many people we have had over, and the reason they come here is to listen to stealth acoustics because we are the only ones that are showing it in the home environment. Of course, they fall in love with it, and we get that for your home. But the number one thing that they walk away with that they want, you know what it is? The Lutron Ketra lighting, because no one has seen it.

Ron:  You have to experience Lutron Ketra or tunable lighting. You have to experience it to kind of get the wow, the impact. Otherwise, if you just say, I have color changing lights. Okay, pass.

Håkan: Yeah, exactly.

Ron:  But when you demo it, so how do you demo it? What do you do?

Håkan: There's a number of key features that are so special. One is that it automatically tunes to the outdoor color spectrum, because when the sun goes up in the morning, it's this yellowish, warm light. As the day goes on, like now, it's what is it, 10:00? It has already come up, on the Kelvin scale, it's about 4500 Kelvin up there. As opposed in morning, you have 2500 Kelvin maybe. The Lutron system keeps track on that and each light source in the home tunes to whatever is outdoor by itself. So from an experience perspective, what we show is that, okay, here's the light, normal light, which is stupid, 2700 Kelvin in the daytime, that looks really mismatched. Then we hit the daylight button and then it feels like the outdoor light is just flowing into your home.

Ron:  All right, can you demo? I know this is a podcast, and we're going to cut so our audio listeners won't be able to watch this, but we are also streaming on Facebook and LinkedIn and I don't know how effective this will be. Can you show us?

Håkan: You want to try it?

Ron:  Let's give it a shot.

Håkan: Why not?

Ron:  Let's live dangerously here.

Håkan: Okay. So I'll do that in the kitchen area here, because here I'm sorry, I have to hold the microphone.

Ron:  No worries.

Håkan: Juggle a little here. It's going to be queued you for a second.

Ron:  That's all right. Everyone take your motion sickness medicine. You'll be okay.

Håkan: Yeah. You see the lighting here, right?

Ron:  Yes.

Håkan: In the kitchen area. So I just changed the lighting. So now it is 2700 Kelvin.

Ron:  I can see the yellowy glow of like an incandescent glow coming out of the fixtures.

Håkan: Yeah. And now I'm going to go up here and raise our motorized shades. You can see the mismatch of the light coming in.

Ron:  It's a very white blue light coming in from the windows and in sharp contrast to the 2700 Kelvin or just warm yellowy light coming off the fixtures.

Håkan: Exactly and now I'm going to tell the system to go match what's outdoors. .

Ron:  Okay. Now your whole room got brighter, but it matches the color coming in from the windows.

Håkan: Yeah and you see even over here in this area, all this is now matching the color spectrum that you have outdoors. I don't know how impactful it is to see on the screen, but when you stand here, the experience is that the outdoor light is just coming into the room.

Ron:  It's dramatic. It comes across, I'm assuming I've seen Ketra demos and I, in fact, will be at Ketra's HQ down in Austin next month. We're going to shoot some video down there.

Håkan: Oh, fantastic. That's actually where I took my certification training for Ketra. That was four weeks before COVID hit.

Ron:  Oh, man. Okay. That's a good timing. That was lucky.

Håkan: Yeah. So the other thing that we show; Lutron has developed this way of mixing light to bring colors out of things, which is fantastic on food, flowers and art, or even wood and floors. We have a flower arrangement here on the kitchen table. You see that?

Ron:  Yes, I see it. I see the red, white and green, very shade of green.

Håkan: So this is without Vibrancy, and that's what you would get from a normal Led light. Now I'm going to turn Vibrancy on.

Ron:  The reds got much redder, the greens got greener.

Håkan: Again, I turn it off and I turn it on. You know what we call it here at Beemer Home?

Ron:  What is that?

Håkan: The Mask stretcher.

Ron:  The what stretcher?

Håkan: Mask.

Ron:  The mask stretcher.

Håkan: Yeah. Because over the last few years, everyone that's taken the tour has had masks on. That's when we get the mask.

Ron:  Yeah, they're at all. It is impressive. I remember the first time I saw the Vibrancy demo at CEDIA a few years ago. You see art and it looks like art that you've always seen, and then they start pressing buttons and highlighting different colors in the art, and literally your art on the wall becomes completely different art.

Håkan: Yeah.

Ron:  Just by changing the settings of the light fixture.

Håkan: Yes, and we have that, too. Do you want to see that, too?

Ron:  Do you do that there in your home? That's a powerful demo when you do it, it's a lot of fun.

Håkan: Yeah. So we have here in the hallway.

Ron:  By the way, thank you for giving us this live walkthrough tour of the home. This is fun.

Håkan: Oh, this is fun. This is what we live for. Here's a piece of art, again here is the Vibrancy turned off.

Ron:  All right, let me describe for our audio listeners. So we've got, I'll call it maybe a three foot tall by four foot wide rectangular piece of art with white. I'm not going to be good at describing the art, but a bit of an abstract art with whites and reds and blues and oranges and yellows.

Håkan: Do you know what this is?

Ron:  I'm going to say it's probably the globe, it's a map.

Håkan: Yeah. It's actually Sweden up here, The Mediterranean it's down here.

Ron:  So it's an abstract world map.

Håkan: Yeah, pretty much.

Ron:  It's cool, it's beautiful.

Håkan: And here the Vibrancy is turned off. So now I'm going to turn it on. Do you see the difference there?

Ron:  The reds and the blues both become much sharper and crisper.

Håkan: Yeah. And then you turn it off.

Ron:  It goes back to dull.

Håkan: Yeah. The interesting thing here is that all different artists paint their paintings in different lights. As an example, there's a European painter called Carl Larson who always painted his paintings on the beach and the sand in the afternoon, where he got this glowing light. Museums are now starting to use this lighting to recreate the light it was painted in, because how are you otherwise going to be able to enjoy the painting, it was meant to be viewed right.

Ron:  What is the response of the people that you're talking to? I'm going to say of the customers, of the designers when you show this, what is their response?

Håkan: The typical term we hear is a no brainer. The thing is that with Ketra lighting, it reduces the scope of the amount of copper that they have to run, cabling that they have to run. So if we get in early enough, we can actually save the customer a lot of scope of what the electricians have to do because all these Ketra lights are constant 120 volts, and then they are just wirelessly controlled by the Lutron brains. I have a whole thing with the lighting because, if anything, what we've seen over the last three or four years, it's the gap of what is being designed for houses and what customers are experiencing when they move into a new home. We have several of our custom home builders that currently have their number one support issue being the light that they don't dim enough, they flicker or whatever happens. So that's why we have gone in and we are now helping architects and builders to bridge that gap, so that on the design phase, we come in as an integrator, as a consultant, essentially, hey, help us make sure that this all works together. What's driven this is a quick evolution of Led lighting technologies and that manufacturers make statements that aren't necessarily true. I think that is what trigger Lutron to, a couple of years ago, start their Intelligent Lighting initiative, where they not only do the dimmer, but they actually do the end to end lighting solutions that are guaranteed to work together. So I think that is fantastic initiative. The limitation is, of course, that only works with Lutron product.

Ron:  It's a Lutron ecosystem.

Håkan: Yeah.

Ron:  Which isn't a bad thing. It comes with a price point, right? And you have to have the right customer.

Håkan: Comes with a price point. It's premium pricing, it's for the luxury homes. This was a limitation on what types of fixtures are available. So you end up always having to supplement that with others. And when you supplement with other light sources, that's when you need to have the integration work right. That's where we come in.

Ron:  Magically, you're an integrator. That's what you do. We have George out there on Facebook. He says, now that was very cool to see, the art is awesome.

Håkan: Thank you.

Ron:  So, George, appreciate you tuning in. Appreciate your commenting. Håkan how do you handle the design, specifically, we're talking lighting. So the lighting design aspect of projects, when you meet your customer and you're in early, is there already a lighting designer on the project? Do you find that common or are you bringing that to the table or to the project?

Håkan: It's both. And in the cases, what we have found is that most architects are not specialized in lighting design and they actually appreciate to get the help to get not only the lighting designs, but also the architectural drawings that are required for all the details, for how those lights are going to be installed, which is something that they are not specialized with. The lighting designs that they typically work with aren't necessarily to that level either. So we work with a lighting design partner to help bridge that gap. Where there have been lighting designers on a project, it's going to be up to the end customers to decide whether they want to stick with that lighting designer and have them add the capabilities that we show them at Ketra or whatever they want to do, or if they want to have us take the designs that they did and then go in and build on those designs.

Ron:  That makes sense. A few moments ago, you had mentioned Stealth Acoustics. I didn't mention it in my preshow, but I was just at just in Vegas at Infocomm last week and while you were mentioning that, I grabbed a couple of images. So I'm just going to share that on the screen for the fun of it. There's Chris, from Stealth. I took a couple of pictures of their products. These are obviously very well respected brand. They're out of Oregon or Washington?

Håkan: They are 48 minutes north of where I am, up in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Ron:  Mount Vernon, Washington, yeah. Okay. I remember just a couple of days ago, so what you were just mentioning rang so true. I'm not an audio guy, so I'm admitting this, so I need you to educate me and maybe there's one or two people listening that are not audio experts as well. But what Chris was mentioning in theaters, the surround channels or some of the channels are non directional. So the invisible speaker in some of the ceiling applications is a really good solution. Not to discount all of the speakers, but can you go into more detail? How do you design that or how do you think about using the invisible speaker in that theater application?

Håkan: Yeah, and actually I'm going to give a little bit of background on that because I had no idea that the acoustics even existed six years ago and it was with the local. There's a company here called Market Share that represents a number of brand.

Ron:  A rep agency.

Håkan: Yeah. So Matt Silverstein is their audio expert. After we started working with Lutron, Craig Faith, who ran Market Share, came and said, hey Matt, you need to meet Håkan. Being a classical musician playing viola and being a sound engineer, I have always appreciated the warm natural sound from acoustical music and classical music. When I was working in the studios, we were using quad ESL electrostatic speakers from the UK. That is now a 50 year old speaker and it's still the best I have ever heard.

Ron:  Wow.

Håkan: But when Matt reached out to me and said, hey, I want to take you up on a factory tour at Stealth Acoustics and say, sure, I can do that. They sat me down in front of I met with Brian Alzano there, who is a fantastic guy, very knowledgeable. He sat me down in the listening room. That is the closest I've heard to live acoustic music after the quads. The fact that they can be invisible here in our home, we bought this house five years ago, and we were able to have all the tables run by the builder. So in this house, we have eight of the stealth acoustics in a good, better, best so that people can walk around and listen to and see what they prefer. So far, it has always been that they want the best, because you do get the rich mid-range and the richness of the sound more. So in the best one and the good and better ones.

Ron:  Do you find that you always supplement them with a sub or how do you design that?

Håkan: Yeah, like any built in speakers, you typically want to supplement with a subwoofer, not only to get a really low range the base, but that also helps with the mid-range to be more crisp and clear.

Ron:  Okay.

Håkan: Now, so that is for a whole house application. A really unique benefit with the stealth's is that they spread the sound 170 degrees as opposed to a traditional speaker, typically like 90 or 110 degrees. So if you use traditional speakers, you need more speakers to avoid getting dead spots or hot spots in the area. When we turn music on here, you can't hear what the music is coming from because it spreads it and it just becomes a seamless music experience as you're walking around. Now, to get to your question, for a theater, that can actually work against you, because if you're in a theater, you need to have directed sound from the front speakers. But the way you get around that is by having sound treatments in the room. So, like, for any theater, you want to have sound treatment. So acoustical panels, fabric, whatever you do to design a theater. But for stealth acoustic speakers, it's even more important to have that, because otherwise you get an undefined acoustical image. So in our theater, we ended up using stealth acoustic speakers only. So we have 16 speakers in the adolbi atmos theater.

Ron:  Wow.

Håkan: Brian actually brought Paul, who invented the speaker, 30 years ago, he brought him to our showroom about six months ago, and I sat him down and he said, this is going to be so fun, because I have actually never heard myself speakers in the atmos theater. Can you please turn it on? I put on a track by Eric Clapton where he plays acoustical music in Royal Albert Hall in London. As he picks up that acoustic guitar and starts playing, it's by far the best acoustical recording I've heard in an Atmos experience. I have never heard an acoustic guitar like that. Then when he starts singing and he just dropped his jaw.

Ron:  It's an emotional experience, it sounds like.

Håkan: Yeah. He didn't have a mask on, so we couldn't call it a mask stretcher. But he himself said, this is absolutely amazing. In the theater, in the front, we are using the top of the line stealth acoustics called LRx 85, which is actually a two panel solution for both left, center and right. We also have two built in James subwoofer in the front wall. Then the surrounds are the mix of the LRx eighty three S and LR six. The other aspect of that is the reason I like stealth in the theater is that it's again, such a natural sound. So another fun story around that is that I play my string quartet.

Ron:  You still practice now? You still play?

Håkan: Yeah, we have a string quartet and we entertain at weddings and other social events for fun.

Ron:  Oh, that's amazing.

Håkan: He sat down and he said, we were listening to a quartet recording that was recording atmosphere as well. He said, this is the first time I've heard the soul of the music.

Ron:  Wow.

Håkan: Yeah. And I thought, you know what? That's a great way to explain it.

Ron:  How does a customer or prospect sit in that theater demo and not buy some version of that? That's what I'm hearing.

Håkan: Yeah, that's a good point. Actually, two years ago, we had a couple over here...

Ron:  I'm ready to buy it, and I haven't even sat in the theater. I'm like, Holy bananas, this sounds amazing.

Håkan: Yeah. For us, it's all about showing what's possible, and then people can decide themselves what makes sense for them. But unless you get to experience home technology and experiences in a home environment, how are you going to know what to prioritize? We had a customer over two years ago that's building a beautiful custom built homes over in Laurel Hirst here in Seattle, which is a luxury home area. They were not going to have a theater. We sat them down there and we put an actual movie and some music on, and they looked at each other, oh, yeah, we're going to have a theater. So again, it's by showing them what is possible.

Ron:  So trends, high level question. What are you seeing as a trend right now, June 2022? Are you seeing demand for theaters or are you still seeing demand for media rooms or multi purpose rooms? What's the conversation out there?

Håkan: We haven't done dedicated multi-tiers for years, to be honest. It's what I see as a trend is that it's going away. Instead you build experience that convert into a theater when you want it. When you don't watch a movie, you use it for something else. On our website, Beemerhome.com, there's a video with one of our customers. We walk through and he's saying that in the video that we were not going to do a theater. But when we saw the space at Beemer, they decided to make one of their living room kind of lounge rooms into a theater as well. When it's not used as a theater, it's just a comfortable room with a sofa to sit and read. But then you push a button and converts to a full atmos theater. That's what I see.

Ron:  Have you ever sold integration without a demo space? Because there are people listening right now that are running their business and they've never had an experience center, whether they've brick and mortar or even their own home or a design center. What's been your experience? You obviously have passionately communicated the effectiveness of your home as a demo space. Did you have like a before the demo space and after the demo space experience and you know that it helps you close or convert?

Håkan: Yeah. So before we had this home, what we were able to do is to sell bits and pieces because you can show a speaker how speakers sound, you can show an exterior interior shade, but you can't really show how it all integrates. So what it has done for us is that we are able to show integrated experiences as opposed to bits and pieces that people are using. I think the typical way to do it is that people have retail storefronts and they have a showrooms within that. I think that's a typical way of doing it and that obviously works for them. But for us, our belief is that showing it in a home environment where people can get a sense of how it's going to be to live with it in a home environment, we believe in it and it has shown to be tremendously successful for us.

Ron:  Question, given the current state of the economy and the challenges we are all in society facing, there's rampant inflation, there's all sorts of right now the equities markets have just been pummeled in the last 30 days that rates are increasing, supply chain stress all around. I just came back from Infocomm and all the talk of the show was who has products and can ship it and who doesn't have product and can't ship it. Then if you go to the manufacturers that have product and are shipping no, you go to the manufacturers that are not shipping right now or that are back ordered. Let me rephrase it and their answers are, we're shipping more products than we've ever shipped in the history of our business. It just can't meet the demand that's coming in. So the concept of pre-ordering something our industry has never had to do, so we've had to retrain ourselves. The last 18 months to pre-order. It's a loaded preamble to what are you seeing? What's your situation, your boots on the ground there in Seattle, Washington? What do you see in terms of supply chain and your ability to get product and continue to run and grow your business with these stresses?

Håkan: So it is a stressful time because if someone, if we take a customer through today and they say, yes, we want Lutron Ketra as an example, it is three quarters to a full year until that's going to be delivered. Which isn't necessarily an issue for new builds, but it is an issue for retrofits or rebuilds. So what we've done is that we have indeed preordered to stock up. I think that is also part of the problem, is that a lot of integrators are doing that. But the other thing, the bigger issue, I would say; Is that given the uncertainties in the economy, a lot of the customers that are interested in solutions are being held up because they can't get any pricing from their general contractors or the general contractors subs because they don't know what the pricing is going to be for when the lumber or the copper or whatever is going to go into those homes. We have several projects held up right now. Not because of us or...

Ron:  Not because of the lack of demand. There's plenty of demand.

Håkan: Yeah, it's more that those customers are if they don't know what it's going to be the cost of the house, they don't know how much they can afford to spend on the home technologies.

Ron:  What are you doing as you look forward and you're designing a successful path? You're looking into your magic eight ball and you're looking into the future and predicting things and then you're coming up with a game plan. What are you doing from a business strategy standpoint to make sure that you're selling solutions and providing solutions that you know you can deliver, thus keep the cash flowing through your business? Have you had to change any habits or change any methods to manage or handle this strange time?

Håkan: I think the key strategy for us is to bifurcate and spread the risk. That comes down to what is our core competency and the way we view it as we are kind of a home technology consultant that helps customers get what they want. What that means is that we can go in and work not only with residential customers, but also high-riser solutions because people that live in high-tech high-riser buildings today, they want the same experiences. So we have partnered with the Stratis IoT that is now owned by Real Page.

Ron:  What is that?

Håkan: They call it street side to sofa integrated solutions for high risers. So it's essentially everything from getting building access. So when you walk up to a building, when you rent an apartment with your phone, you automatically get access to the front door, you go to the elevator. When you walk into the elevator, you automatically have access to level six because that's where the common area or 19 where your unit is, but you don't have access to the rest. When you walk up to your unit door, it unlocks the automatic because you have your phone on you. Then within your unit you have automated lighting, automated shades, water leak sensors, smart thermostats, and so on. The interesting thing with them is that as an integrator for them, we not only get to share on the capex when we sell a solution, but we also get to share on them essentially RMR. On that note, the notion of having business where you not only get a traditional capex but also get an RMR is going to be critical I think for the next five years.

Ron:  You're really diversifying your revenue streams. Was this a decision because of COVID or is it just happenstance that your diversified partnerships leading to different project revenue and recurring revenue, it luckily falls right in the middle or it fell right in line with the stresses on supply chain.

Håkan: This actually happened Pre-COVID and it's based on the need to have someone like us to be a home technologies expert or consultant, whatever you can call it, to come in and make sure that whatever the suppliers are saying sure actually works to do that testing and integration and also help them to put that whole solution together. It happened to come to us because we did a product for a residential customer who was a principal at a high riser. But the need is on both the commercial side as well as the residential side.

Ron:  As you look forward in the next twelve to 24 months, what are your predictions as to what our industry has in store? I'm speaking specifically in terms of there's talk that we're already in a recession or maybe we've been in it since the beginning of the year. A lot of times you don't know until the recession is over, when it started and when it ended. What's your prediction for you locally there in the Seattle market? How do you see the next one to two years playing out?

Håkan: I think it's going to be more challenging to get larger projects simply because the customers are going to have to deal with higher interest rates and more stressful economic situations. I think the effect of that is going to vary depending on where you are in the country. Here in Seattle we are blessed with having a lot of high-tech companies with Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, just to name a few. So I believe that we're going to see less of that effect here for luxury home projects. That is also because our luxury home builders, customers that are building, they may no longer depend on getting a mortgage at a reasonable rate because this might be the fourth or fifth house and the house prices has just gone through the roof here. So by selling off their previous homes they have enough cash flow to fund the new builds they're going to do.

Ron:  I always like to close out our interviews with advice and there are folks listening around the world and watching and they're either in leadership or they are various levels within their integration companies. What's a piece of advice, maybe a lesson that you learned along the way, running your, I would say business units at Microsoft or running your business now at Beemer Smart home, that you wish you had known a long time ago. So if you're able to pass this on maybe you can help someone not make this mistake or maybe move in the right direction a little more quickly.

Håkan: Well, I think number one; always make sure that you understand what it is that your customers want to do after you tell them what is possible. It always comes down to the end customer at the end. It doesn't matter what the architect says, it doesn't matter what the builder says, it doesn't matter what the electricians say. You as an Integrator always have to have a direct relationship, direct communication with the end customer if you want to make sure that the customer is going to be happy. If the customer is expecting to walk out on his patio and push one button to get the pool going and the lights set to and then music came on and they suddenly have to use three different apps to do that, they're not going to be happy. Then I think the last advice is what we have seen over the last five years. There's a lot of claims by manufacturers and suppliers that this light dims to 1% when it in effect only dims to 10%. Manufacturers of wireless networking solutions that came out with WIFI six solutions that have all kinds of claim of gigabit speeds and we did a thorough testing and it didn't, it's actually underperformed compared to the established equipment and it ended up being a former issue when they dug it a bit longer deeper. So it is so important as an integrator, don't take a word from a supplier what things are actually doing. You have to test it in an integrated environment because if you don't do you have a high risk of having customers that are not going to be happy and that's not going to make anyone happy.

Ron:  Brilliant!

Håkan: Can I say it a different way?

Ron:  Please!

Håkan: Always test and integrate because then you're going to end up with happy customers, not just going to grow your business.

Ron:  Living on the bleeding edge is a dangerous place. You don't want to take a manufacturer's word for it, go out and sell it, only to find out their promise may not ring true in reality.

Håkan: Can I say one more thing? Make sure you get involved early on with architects. As an example, we just completed the project in Ballard here. It's a custom built home with three levels and a beautiful rooftop with a hot tub and outdoor theater experience there.

Ron:  Wow.

Håkan: The way the architect built that was that they essentially built a shed that contains a Samsung outdoor TV there. The architect was building all kinds of mechanically controlled...

Ron:  Was there a lift system?

Håkan: No, it's a shed where the TV is mounted. But then they try to figure out how we're going to cover that up when it's not being used. The architect started to do all kinds of motorized doors or all of that.

Ron:  Okay.

Håkan: We said, hey, how about we use an outdoor Lutron shade and we just put it in there integrated, and when it's not used, it just comes down. Beautiful, they loved it. Same product, actually, they had in the master suite. It's a floor to ceiling windows overlooking Lake Union. They wanted to have a TV, but they won't have it. They obviously don't want to mount the TV on the windows. So we said, hey, how about we put one under the bed and it comes up and flips up when you use it. Love it. So be there with the architects. Be creative, have fun, but make sure that you inject yourself there, because if you don't, it may be too late later on.

Ron:  Love it! Thank you for joining me here on Show 215, Håkan.

Håkan: Thank you for inviting me.

Ron:  How can the folks that are listening or watching, how can they get in touch with you? What do you recommend?

Håkan: You can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Or you can call me here in the US. My number is 206-227-8770. You can also check out our brand new beautiful website that someone called One Firefly built for us at beemerhome.com.

Ron:  I love that plug! That's my favorite part of the show right there. No, I'm just kidding. Håkan, thank you so much. Kim, I know she's in the background. Thank you for all her help in preparation to have you on as a guest. I know you're very busy and you carved out some time for our audience so greatly appreciate that. I want to say thanks again for joining us on the show. We'll talk to you soon.

Håkan: Thank you.

Ron:  All right, folks, there you have it, show 215, the one and only Håkan Olsson, CEO and Founder at Beemer Smart Homes. That was a lot of fun and his experiences at Microsoft and now running an integration company are fun and impressive. And the way that he talks about his demos of Lutron lighting and shading and Ketra in his home, that is one of the more impressive home demos that I've seen so if you have a more impressive home demo, then you need to call me and we're going to have you on the show and we'll talk about it. But just the idea, if you think about it, they've really designed their home and the technology of that home so that they can show that off and run through almost a scripted, we're going to talk about this and we're going to go through that in a very formulaic way. But it allows them to express home technology and all of the amazing options and the lifestyle enhancing benefits of home technology. They've designed that right into their space. Now naturally, they need to be quite selective in terms of who they have in that space and that's that vetting process. That means everyone that contacts you is not a lead, right? Everyone that contacts you is not a good prospect. So you want to kind of run through. How do you vet someone or through what referral networks do you accept people in demo? But kudos to the group there at Beemer Smart Home, they're doing some neat things. So on that note, I'm going to sign off. I am going to ask everyone that is still watching or listening, I'm going to ask you to do me a favor. I am trying to boost my following; me, Ron Callis on Twitter. I am @roncallis. If you do not follow me, go to Twitter. Follow me. My commitment to you for doing that is I'm going to start being more active on Twitter. I've been a lurker for a long time and I'm going to start putting out more content and posts. In order to do that, I actually need to have you, my trusted listeners, following along. So I've not been very active historically on Twitter, but that's going to change. So find me @roncallis and I'll see you there. See you on the Twitter sphere. And who knows? Elon Musk may own Twitter pretty soon. I don't know if that deal is going to happen, but that'll be fun to watch. In case you weren't aware, he's made a bid to purchase Twitter. So we shall see. So here we go. If you have not already visit us at OneFirefly.com, you can give us a call. There's an 800 number here on the screen and I'm going to sign off and I will see you all next week. Håkan, I still see you there on my screen. Hang out for me as soon as we go, I'll jump in and say hello. Alright, bye everybody!

SHOW NOTES:

Håkan started Beemer Smart Home in 2005 as a side business while he was pursuing a career at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA. As a classical musician and former Audio Engineer, his initial focus was on audio solutions, which then transitioned into home theater solutions a few years later. 

In 2016 after successful projects with several architects and builders in the Seattle area, he decided to take the business full- time and expand the solutions to an all-encompassing Home Technologies solutions. 

Today, Beemer Smart Home has added more solutions, like Lutron luxury lighting and motorized shades, an invisible speaker line from Stealth Acoustics, and whole home control solutions through Control4. In 2019 Beemer Smart Home also became an integration partner to Stratis IOT for multifamily smart building solutions after completing several highrise projects. In 2021 Beemer also earned an HTA certification.

Resources and links from the interview:

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

 

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