Image Credit: Levven Electronics
They say music is a universal language!
In addition to Levven’s wireless switches, you also have wireless audio in your product offering with Soul Play. Tell us about the behind the scenes of how the idea for Soul Play come about?
Devices are becoming slimmer and more compact with every product generation. This is great for what and how we use mostly our devices, but smaller formats also sacrifice speaker size – that kills audio quality. The sound quality from a smaller speaker is not usually as good as a larger speaker. And we wanted to give home owners a way to get great sound from their devices and TVs, no matter how slim and compact.
So behind the scenes, our story started with one of Levven’s earliest products – an installed audio system for new homes, which played wireless sound from computers and mobile devices.
Now Soul Play is our evolution of that system – home owners can now use it to play from their TV, mobile devices, and computers. Now have sound from your TV to play on speakers installed in your kitchen or outdoors on your patio. It’s a lot of fun to have audio throughout your house and know that you can move the components from room to room, or to suit a change in your lifestyle.
So Soul Play is now gives a homeowner wireless audio connectivity in their home or work hub. Was this part of the initial Levven plan or did you see a rising market demand for audio connectivity for smart home devices?
The demand for wireless audio has grown quickly; it’s the number one growth area of home entertainment electronics. People want good sound when they pop open a video or music track – and they’re spending money to get it.
The majority of that spending is in portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers, the kind you set on a table or shelf. This makes sense – unless you’re building a new home and the walls are already open, wiring an installed sound system into the home is more expensive. Hence, this contributed to the popularity of portable tabletop speakers.
So how does Soul Play provide better value than those of portable speakers to the residential builder and to a new homeowner?
Typically, those portable speakers don’t help residential builders to differentiate their new home products from existing pre-owned properties to homeowners. So, we thought, why should a homebuyer pay more to the builder for something like wireless audio, when can buy from Amazon after they move in? For example, if the builder adds a couple of speakers or smart devices in the house, it adds to the purchase price. And as we all know, higher prices force buyers to shy away from new homes, so they look at pre-owned homes instead.
We knew that our success would depend on the residential builder selling more new homes without increasing their cost. Builders need to decrease the price gap between their new home and competing pre-owned homes in the area. And they need to differentiate their home with features that can’t be replicated in a pre-owned property. Features like our Levven Controls’ intelligent electrical infrastructure, or Levven Soul Play wireless audio.
So we made sure that we first had a good understanding of the homebuyers’ desires, and the builders’ competitive needs, and then drove the development of the Soul Play, as well as Levven Audio’s Soul Bar wireless soundbar, Soul Sub wireless subwoofer, and our wireless TV transmitter.
Now we know why you added the wireless audio components. Are there added features that homeowners will expect to find?
We help homebuyers and homeowners get great sound with their entertainment, and we help their budget go further when they’re buying the home.
The first thing people notice is the sound. The Soul Play powers up to four speakers, installed in the ceiling or wall, with an evenly distributed sound throughout the room. Everybody can hear and enjoy the sound from wherever they are in the room – an enjoyable experience compared to the single-point portable speakers most people are familiar with.
Will Soul Play be easy for everyone to use?
Ease of use is important. That’s why we have single-touch control buttons on the Soul Play itself. Also, it was important that Soul products have both Bluetooth and SKAA wireless. Connecting a mobile device or laptop to a Bluetooth receiver is a familiar function to most home buyers, so we wanted Soul Play to fit in that realm. SKAA, which is a higher-end wireless audio protocol, was included to enable the Soul Play’s bi-directional interconnectivity. So Soul Play has the best of both wireless worlds.
Was price point and packaging of key components important to buyers?
Affordability is important. Homebuyers have a hundred places for their money to go. If getting installed audio in their home is too expensive, obviously that doesn’t help the homebuilder or the homebuyer.
We have a program to rough the audio components into the home at no cost to the builder. This lets them make Levven Audio a standard offer to every homebuyer. It’s a lot easier, a lot more affordable, and therefore a lot more buyers are able to say, “Yes, give me that.”
With Soul Play, can you multi-channel play different functions in different rooms at the same time? Think of stereo in the kitchen for Mom to virtual reality gaming for the kids in the family room, to the football game in Dad’s home office.
A key feature of the Soul Play and Soul Bar products is the bi-directional interconnectivity I mentioned.
Levven Audio Soul products can relay wireless sound amongst each other. This gives easy control and flexibility over how and where your sound plays. You can rock the entire house with all of your Soul speakers playing together from one source. Or you can play individual sounds on each speaker separately. Or easily mix and match as needed.
James, you mentioned that soon there will be voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo integrated with the Levven portfolio of products. Can you share more about how this will interface with Levven Q app and Soul Play audio?
Levven Q will have Amazon Alexa integrated into it so you can turn your lights on and off with a voice command.
Playing entertainment content with Soul Play doesn’t need to connect to Alexa because it doesn’t actually have the music or videos in it. Soul Play is an all-in-one audio receiver/ amplifier.
People can play media files or streaming content from their phone, computer, or TV. If a device has been set to be controlled with Alexa, or Siri or whatever, you can start playback with a voice command. So if your Soul Play is on and connected to that voice-controlled device, it will receive the wireless signal, amplify the audio, and play the sound through its connected speakers.
Will there be options or enhancements for how homeowners can program the security features? For example let’s say due to security concerns, some homeowners prefer internal Wi-Fi versus external internet access. Can you elaborate on the options and benefits?
The Levven app lets the owners program their vacation schedules for home security, set saved scenes for frequently used lighting schemes, and customize which switches control which lights. It’s convenient and, to be honest, it’s pretty fun to play with.
You’re right, though, security is an important part of any application. Security is an ever-evolving phenomenon. Our team has taken every step possible to make sure no one can exploit your Levven product to gain access to personal information.
Owners can always use Levven Q without connecting to the internet. This means that when you are connected to your local Wi-Fi network, you’ll be able to open the Levven app and control your electrical system. It will be as secure as your local Wi-Fi network.
Using Levven through the internet will enable access and control while you’re away from home. Like, you’ve arrived at the office but forgot to check the lights before you left. You can use the Levven app to connect to home and turn those lights off. The commands sent through the app are encrypted so your data is safe while it’s sent to and from your home.
How easy is it for homeowners to integrate your audio package in a renovation or a new home or work hub? Will they only need an electrician to do the install?
Installing a Soul Play and connecting speakers is not difficult at all. The Soul Play is wired to main power in a two-gang electrical box, and connected to up to four speakers with low-voltage wire. Yes, an electrician or DIY homeowner could easily complete a Soul Play retrofit installation.
So in short homeowners now can ask builders for wireless connectivity to power their smart devices without adding cost to their new home. And later homeowners can move their devices from room to room to suit their changing lifestyle preferences. Plus they can add Soul Play audio connectivity to work with the smart devices.
James, we look forward to seeing your first live install right here on FutureCite.com early next year, and to see Amazon Alexa activation in action in the future!
About James Kierstead
As the CEO, James is responsible for managing the vision and growth of Levven Electronics, developing and executing long-term corporate strategies, and building relationships with partners, stakeholders and investors. He is a life-long entrepreneur with a commitment to innovation, excellence and enhancing people’s lives. Prior to founding Levven, James and his partners founded Blue Falls Manufacturing, maker’s of Arctic Spas and expanded its footprint to over 30 countries. James is an active member and contributor to several entrepreneur organizations including Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO Edmonton), Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, and Rainforest Alberta. When he isn’t focused on the business, you can find him with his family in Edmonton.
About Levven Electronics
Levven has a vision of making intelligent buildings available to everyone. Focused on delivering technology and products to advantage new construction, Levven’s promise is mobile device access and control of building infrastructure that lowers building costs, speeding construction and conserving building materials.