In the Field with Joel Reis, founder of Life Emotions

Joel Reis, CEO and founder of Life Emotions headshot

Charlotte Ashley catches up with Joel Reis from Lisbon-based installer Life Emotions, winner of ‘Best Media Room (£20,000 - £80,000)’ at the 2017 CEDIA EMEA Awards, to discuss the health of the local market and how it is bringing its CI expertise into the commercial world.

You have spent many years working as part of AV industry. What first sparked your interest in working in the sector and how did the decision to start Life Emotions come about? Do most of your projects take place locally?

Life Emotions was born in 2009, founded by myself, Michelle Reis and Abel Silva. The dream emerged with the evolution of society and the economy – we saw the future migrating from analogue to digital in all facets of consumption and lifestyle.

From the start the essence of the brand has been using our skills in technology design to help luxury homeowners connect with their emotions through integrated solutions which combine both functionality and elegance.

Portugal is our main market, from north to south, although we also have a number of projects underway in Angola and are working on development studies for installations in Dubai.

Do you think the local market in Portugal has any differences or nuances from the rest of Europe – and if so, why?

Although we have never realised projects in countries other than those mentioned, it’s vital to note how extremely important the climate and maritime proximity are for projects here. These are factors that influence routines and the lifestyle of our clients and directly filter through to the solutions and equipment we must integrate.

Operating in temperate or hot countries means managing climate control in indoor spaces and making a technological adjustment in outdoor spaces since they are used regularly throughout the year, either to enjoy moments in the garden with wireless internet, to warm the pool water or to accommodate serving dinner with music and ambient lighting on the terrace.

Life Emotions-installed modern home cinema featuring screen and standalone speakers

Portugal had become quite the hotspot internationally and is extremely attractive for outside businesses to invest in, and for foreigners to have a first or second home here. Therefore it’s vital to be adaptable and open to client preferences differing when it comes to product preferences and lifestyle, i.e. customers from Brazil and Russia will have completely different interpretation of their home and manner of communication.

As somewhat of an industry stalwart, what industry-wide changes and shifts in technology demands have you had to adapt since co-finding Life Emotions? And how have you adapted to them?

We have seen an intense evolution in the development of the interfaces and their relationship with the user, as well as in the quantity and type of gadgets associated with the home system (via IoT). Life Emotions has adapted by developing a solid foundation platform through consolidated systems that essentially communicate via KNX and IP. The integration layer is the most volatile and client-dependent, and for that reason we have know-how with Control4, Savant and have also developed our own interface, Birdie.

The video component has also evolved a lot. Nowadays, for example, we design more solutions with IP technology than HDBaseT.

“Previously there was little heterogeneity, and it was the client who adapted. Today, fortunately, we see a greater capacity for personalisation, culminating in greater customer satisfaction.”

Previously there was little heterogeneity, and it was the client who adapted. Today, fortunately, we see a greater capacity for personalisation, culminating in greater customer satisfaction. The fact that are now customising each project to the specific requests of the customer means that quality IoT-based products force us to adapt, and evolve what we offer accordingly.

What are the key challenges you currently face as an integration firm? Is it educating clients? Recruiting staff? Legislation, or other factors?

The wide range of IoT devices and the significant lack of information on how to integrate them at home creates a lot of confusion in the market, especially in terms of security and efficiency. It is a huge challenge for the consumer to differentiate between a good or bad service or product when the market is constantly flooded by self-made advertising installations of poor quality.

Another important factor is the discontinuation of products or services that depend on the cloud (IoT). When these companies close doors or discontinue products, suddenly making a service or product unavailable, this causes a serious problem between an integrator and its customer. We believe that companies must develop guarantee policies or develop certification that ensures the provision of the service for an established period, or even, to legislate.

Therefore, it’s necessary to educate the client to make decisions in the most informed way possible. Company employees are also increasingly in need of technically qualitative know-how. 10 years ago we had specialised technicians working in AV, but nowadays we need engineers. The complexity of integration and its heterogeneity exponentially increases the need for specific competencies when it comes to the communications network (IP network).

“10 years ago we had specialised technicians working in AV, but nowadays we need engineers. The complexity of integration exponentially increases the need for specific competencies when it comes to the IP network.”

Tell us about one of Life Emotions’ most interesting recent projects. What were some of the challenges you had to overcome, and how did you make a success of the project?

All of the projects we work on are interesting and have their own personality, but alongside CEDIA’s Best Media Room Level II project, there is a pilot project that we developed for a completely different segment that gave me particular personal satisfaction: health.

photo collage showing different technology deployed in Life Emotions' hospital installation

We created an experimental project in an internment room of one of the most prestigious hospitals in Lisbon. A global concept of integration that worked directly on wellbeing as patients could select the environment or entertainment they liked best, choose the room's colour, temperature, lighting, ambient music or personalised TV content. The conclusions of the study were unanimous: the difference between having or not having intelligent solutions during hospitalisation has a huge impact on the hospital experience. Being able to enjoy greater autonomy and entertainment generates greater satisfaction and positive thoughts, increasing proven recovery of the patient.

What do you find is the most popular request you currently receive from clients? Why do you believe this service is so in-demand?

The most common requests we receive are for qualitative wireless internet throughout the home (both indoors and outdoors), lighting control and for discreet design that can camouflage the technical equipment as much as possible.

This work is demanding because each customer is a special customer, and as such, each has specific requirements. They all share, however, the same unique requirements: quality, efficiency and reliability.

What level of awareness does your typical client have of the technological opportunities available to them and their home? Where does it come from – seeing other people’s homes? The consumer industry?

Most clients gain their initial interest in technology from the experience of family or friends. From there they build a dream of how their own home could be spectacular. They search the internet, consult magazines, are seduced by IoT advertising and influencer comments, sometimes resulting in the acquisition of information based on false premises.

brightly decorated Life Emotions 2017 CEDIA Award-winning media room in class II category

Even in the B2B market we sometimes feel that the introduction of technology is a secondary element in architectural and interior design projects, when in fact technology is an essential requirement and is part of the foundations of the projects. In our view, it is necessary to "educate" the market so that customers understand that they only achieve professional and efficient technological integration by requiring specialised consultants.

In your view, is there enough awareness of what an integrator can do for them, and how can we propel this going forward?

Definitely not. We often see the confusion between integration with electrical services or sound systems installation. A true integration company conceives global projects out of customer needs, optimising solutions and thinking about the future, and then implemented by a multidisciplinary team that, from there, involves all the professionals that have their part to play (across electricity, air conditioning, design, architecture, plumbing, lighting, etc.)

With IoT and voice control becoming larger aspects of custom integration how are you approaching educating your clients about this automation technologies? What has the response been from your clients?

We defend and influence the integration of emerging technologies in the home. We give our customers the possibility to enjoy technologies that will dictate the future, they are a "nice to have," but we also make them aware that it is important to have robust technologies that effectively guarantee the present.

“We know that these technologies will be fully tuned and will be a commodity in a few years – so why not have an Alexa in the living room for basic tasks and impress your friends?”

Our customers already interact in their homes with voice control and gestures. We know that these technologies are not yet totally reliable, but in a few years they will be fully tuned and will be a commodity – so why not have an Alexa in the living room for basic tasks and impress your friends?

Looking to the industry on the whole, do you believe the design and building communities has enough interaction with the CI industry? If not, what needs to be done to bridge this gap?

In Portugal, unfortunately, there is still no interaction. It is with difficulty that we reach the academic university of architecture to share experiences on the importance of technology from the planning, design and construction of a building. Custom integration is not yet perceived as an added value that transforms functional requirements into technical requirements. Yet the evolution of the lifestyle of the market forces this awareness and the professionals of architecture and interior design are beginning to realise that they need support and technological integration in their projects.

What do you anticipate will be the next big trend or challenge to your market in the next 5 years – what’s driving this, and how can installers benefit or adapt?

The next BIG TREND will be the Unknown. The high speed of technological evolution prevents us from anticipating concrete scenarios. However, I believe voice and gesture solutions will effectively be solid interfaces for interacting with the home. I also believe that there will be a strong evolution in the entertainment content and the way it is distributed.

I also predict the existence of computer attacks on the technological systems in homes. Now is the time to invest and acquire know-how to create effective security solutions as well, it's time to prepare ground for the future amazing technologies.

Joel Reis is founder and CEO of Life Emotions