LEA Breathes New Life Into Professional Audio with Serverless IoT
“We had our hardware talking to the cloud weeks before I thought we would.” - Brian Pickowitz, VP of Marketing at LEA Professional
Professional audio powers much more than stadium concerts. It’s behind the music that plays on loops in restaurants and theme parks, and the announcements about delayed flights and upcoming trains that cascade through airports and subway stations. The professional audio industry, composed of companies from Sony to Audio-Technica, pushes six billion dollars a year in US sales alone.
Yet, the industry establishment can be slow to innovate and take advantage of new opportunities. Despite the surge in cloud technology over the past decade, most pro audio companies aren’t making devices or dashboards that can be managed remotely. Audio engineers have clients all over the globe; tweaking or troubleshooting intricate audio set-ups often requires time-consuming (and costly) travel for on-site visits.
“Big corporations are like big ships, and big ships take forever to turn,” says Brian Pickowitz, VP of Marketing at LEA Professional, a burgeoning pro audio company. “At LEA, we’re here to move fast and innovate.”
LEA’s founders—industry veterans from Harman Professional Audio, which is owned by Samsung—founded their company with the intention of remaining agile and delivering truly innovative products to the audio market. In their first year, they created and shipped an IoT digital amplifier, where the cloud allows for fleets of equipment to be managed remotely. A sound engineer in Texas could make instant adjustments to complex audio systems in Seattle or Hong Kong.
To pull this off, LEA brought in the best hardware engineers they knew. But they needed to make sure the cloud component was also perfect. That meant finding a team to help design and build the backend of LEA’s ground-breaking audio device.
This is why, barely a few months away from the ISE trade show, where LEA had gotten an opportunity to debut their prototype on an international stage, they decided to join forces with Trek10.
It was a sprint from December to February, as LEA and Trek10 forged ahead into brand new terrain.
Pushing Professional Audio Into the Future
“What LEA is doing,” says Tony Reyes from Trek10, “is way ahead of everybody else in the industry.”
When LEA first spoke with Trek10 in December 2019, they had already been hard at work on the hardware prototypes, and partnered with a software firm, Outside Source, to design and develop the front-end web application that would integrate with AWS IoT Core. But they still needed someone to build out the supporting cloud infrastructure and IoT Core services quickly. Outside Source suggested that Trek10 would be ideal for the project. “Our team has been deeply impressed with Trek10,” said Mike Peck, President at Outside Source. “A project like this requires close collaboration, and our teams worked together extremely well to deliver an excellent product for LEA.”
The team at LEA had to put a lot of faith in Trek10 to create something that aligned with LEA’s dreams for how the end product should work.
“Nobody in our industry had done anything like this before,” says Pickowitz, “and if possible, we really needed to have an MVP ready to demo by February.”
The goal for the MVP was to enable LEA Audio to get on stage at the ISE tradeshow in Amsterdam and show that it was possible to manage a connected digital amplifier located anywhere else in the world. “If LEA could do that,” says Reyes, “that would be the mic drop. They’d win.”
Accessing devices from anywhere, located anywhere, requires a global reach. And when a single client rollout can mean dozens of devices, the infrastructure needs to be able to scale seamlessly with the business as it grows.
“Scalability was incredibly important to us,” says Pickowitz. “We didn’t want to build a one-off thing that we’d have to reconfigure from the ground up later. Trek10 really got that. Together, we designed a solid foundation of LEA’s product for years to come.”
Trek10 put LEA’s product and business goals at the center of every architecture decision. With the fast growth and a global presence in mind, Trek10 designed an infrastructure that gives LEA products excellent performance all over the world. LEA’s cloud infrastructure is templated in CloudFormation, allowing LEA to easily deploy to new regions as they expand. Their auto-scaling serverless architecture is built on AWS Lambda with a DynamoDB single table design—no matter how quickly LEA onboards new venues, their infrastructure can instantly handle the load.
Trek10 also focused on optimizing LEA’s infrastructure costs. Since the infrastructure manages real-time message transmission, LEA could save exponentially by reducing the number of messages sent per second.
Trek10 helped build out cost estimation based on customers’ predicted behavior as well, producing a cost per device per month that has been a critical business tool for LEA. They use this data to tie infrastructure costs back to specific users and devices as they assess their profitability in the global supply chain.
The Sprint to Demo Day
As the weeks ticked toward February, the pieces of LEA’s product were falling into place. When they got on stage in Amsterdam, they were able to show an audience of tens of thousands how all of the control and monitoring features on their digital amplifiers could be adjusted from a remote desktop anywhere in the world.
“I honestly can’t believe what we were able to accomplish in the time frame we had,” says Pickowitz. “We had our hardware talking to the cloud weeks before I thought we would.”
After the demo, LEA was flooded with interest. While they couldn’t have known it at the time, the ISE tradeshow in February would be their only chance to market their product to a packed audience for a very long time. By March of 2020, COVID-19 had all but completely shut down in-person events, canceling their next marketing opportunity at an audio trade show in June, and then all others through at least 2021. Had LEA missed their ISE debut and been forced to continue developing a brand new product amidst a global economic recession, it’s tough to imagine how things may have otherwise gone.
“Sure, we could have done all this alone,” Pickowitz says. “But would we have gotten it done by February? No, I don’t think so.”
Thanks to the buzz they garnered at ISE, LEA has had an incredibly successful first year, landing some of the most coveted deals in professional sound. “Once you get those first few key wins of large, prestigious venues,” says Pickowitz, “it’s like a waterfall. We’re in such a great position right now.”
A New Frontier for Professional Audio
LEA’s clients are more than the organizations that have their digital amplifiers on-site. Independent sound engineers (usually hired by the venues themselves) are responsible for managing the equipment and making sure the audio is configured to spec. In chain retail stores, for instance, one sound engineer might oversee an entire country or region of stores, all of which need to sound and feel the same. It quickly becomes clear, then, how game-changing it is to be able to make changes and correct sound issues for multiple locations from a central web UI.
For instance, a sound engineer overseeing an LEA system recently got an urgent call from a client who was fifty miles away. The wall volume control at the venue had stopped working right before a scheduled event, and they needed the audio running as soon as possible. The engineer was able to log in to the client’s audio panel dashboard remotely and solve the problem in a couple of minutes. On any other system, the engineer would have had to drop everything they were doing and drive fifty miles one way to deal with physical hardware.
Even amidst such unprecedented early success, LEA is looking toward the future. They want to move their infrastructure to even more regions around the world, build out more granular management features for sound engineers, and provide data and analytics to end clients. Pickowitz says LEA is primed to keep growing, both through organic customer attainment and possibly through acquisition.
As LEA iterates on their platform, they are continuing to partner with Trek10.
“If we have anything to say about what’s to come, the future is going to be fast-paced and very exciting,” Pickowitz says. “We’re more than ready.”