Rob Qualls, CEO at SAAM, Inc. talks about revolutionary spectroscopy based approach to smoke, fire, gas and air quality monitoring.
1. Tell us how you came to be the CEO at SAAM, Inc.
SAAM was founded in 2018 with a vision to develop consumer safety products; specifically smoke, fire, gas, and air quality detection devices, including the SP4 portable tabletop unit. The SP4 evolved out of discussions with parents who lost children while away at college due to inadequate smoke alarms. SAAM developed the SP4 with AI/IoT capabilities so parents could send it away with their children for added protection and peace of mind. I founded SAAM along with 3-other very talented former Fortune 100 executives and an extremely talented CTO, who happens to be a world renowned expert in spectral technology, the technology we are implementing in our patented devices.
2. How did you define the vision of SAAM? How did you approach your first 100 days as the CEO at SAAM?
Once we established the team, we met to discuss our vision and strategy for SAAM. We all agreed in moving forward we would establish an environment of honesty and integrity with a focus on introducing new smart home technology to save lives and improve health, and accomplish this by developing the SP4 and SC4 devices with novel and patented NDIR (Non-dispersive Infrared), AI and IoT technology. Existing smoke detector technology is 50-70 years old, and can often take several minutes to alert homeowners to a potential danger, this is troublesome considering you have an average of 4-minutes to take action before a potential catastrophic event. The S-Series of devices will alert in seconds by detecting trace elements of chemicals in the air indicative of smoke, fire, gas leaks, and allergens. Our vision is to successfully have a SAAM device in every home, protecting consumers and saving lives while improving health.
3. What are the applications or rather opportunities you seek to have with your product?
In June of 2021, UL, (Underwriters Laboratory), is changing the smoke alarm standards for the first time in 30-years, the changes will render 95% of smoke alarms in US homes obsolete. By virtue of our novel technology, we can meet or exceed the new UL standards. It is my hope and desire that our technology becomes the new consumer standard for smoke and air quality devices across the globe. We will introduce two devices, the aforementioned SP4, and the hard-wired ceiling mounted SC4 to the consumer and commercial markets. The S-Series technology can also be adapted to detect trace elements of Volatile Organic Compounds, (VOCs), or dangerous and toxic gases; the technology can be adapted to a wearable device for our military and First Responder’s providing an early warning to the presence of life-threatening toxic chemicals.
4. What are some of the unique lessons you have learnt from analyzing your customer behavior?
As consumers, we tend to focus on acquiring products that are useful or entertaining in everyday life, however, consumers tend to be reluctant to spend hard earned cash on products that will save their lives, especially if we have not directly experienced an injury or loss of life as a result of smoke or fires. Prior to SAAM, I never gave our smoke alarms a second thought; we had them in our home, I assumed they worked and would protect my family, until I learned that 100,000 people in US are injured or died, with property losses exceeding $8B per year, due to inadequate technology. Equally as important, the number of children that perish annually in home fires is unacceptable. Again, as consumers we do not think about this until it happens. Our goal is to see that not one life is lost as result of a home fire because of inadequate technology.
5. What are some of the distinctive features SAAM’s Air Quality Monitoring Device? And how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
There are several differences, the main difference is the technology; existing smoke alarms use either photoelectric (50years old), or ionization (70-years old), SAAM uses Non-dispersive Infrared technology, which measures trace elements of chemicals in the air indicative of smoke, fire, and gas leaks. We also measure for particulates, including mold-spores, dander, pollen, dust, and more to determine air quality. The S-Series includes an intake fan so the air is continuously moving through the device. Once the SAAM device detects a change in the level of chemicals, the S-Series makes an audible alert and simultaneously an alert sound on your smart phone advising of the level of danger while at the same time advising of a recommended action before a potential catastrophic event. The S-Series can also interact with your HVAC system using AI proprietary algorithms, sending a signal turning on the HVAC fan in the event the device a gas leak or high levels of allergens. Users will be able to know in real time the location, the seriousness, and the recommended action required before the alert reaches a life threatening circumstance. The SAAM technology is nothing like what we see available in the market today, a smart home device that has four main attributes, detecting smoldering fires, fast flame fires, gas leaks, and allergens, all at an affordable cost using novel patented technology.
6. Early this year, SAAM launched SP4 device with the vision of improving health. Can you tell us more about the product?
As mentioned above, the SP4 evolved out of conversations with parents who lost children while living away from home at college. Dean Dennis, Founder of “Father’s for Fire Safety,” lost his daughter Andrea and four of her friends in an off campus housing fire at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio due to inadequate or non-functioning smoke alarms. I have had conversations with a number of individuals directly or indirectly impacted by the loss of children in home fires, including Adrian Butler, Chairman of “The World Fire Safety Foundation,” (WFSF), who relayed numerous stories of children who lost their lives in home fires. WFSF has never before endorsed a technology, however, for the first time in its history, the WFSF endorsed the SAAM S-Series technology. The SP4 is a game changing, market disruptive, smart home device that will provide added protection and early warnings before a potential catastrophic event. The SP4 is portable, so the device can travel and be placed on a table next to your bed, or anywhere in a residence providing that extra piece of mind. The SP4 also has proprietary AI/IoT/Big data algorithms that can store historical data, distinguish between nuisance and dangerous alerts, and provide recommended actions in the event of an alert.
The EPA has determined the air in our homes is 2 to 5X more polluted than the air outside. Worldwide, 235 million (50-million in the USA), people have asthma linked to high levels of allergens costing taxpayers in the US $7.2B per year in health care costs; the S-Series will detect particulates in the 1.0, 2.5, 4.0. and 10.0 range, allowing the S-Series to alert users of excessive levels of allergens and recommend action.
7. SAAM recently announced the acceptance into TEC. Can you elaborate more on the same?
TEC is a well-known technology and funding support organization located in Dayton, Ohio.
TEC focuses on up and coming tech start-ups in providing support such as engineering, manufacturing, marketing, legal, patent, and a multitude of additional required support for new companies. We pitched TEC in August of this year, and TEC determined we met the criteria for becoming a client and I must say, the support we have received has met or exceeded our expectations. TEC is a fantastic organization with a great group of people to support companies like SAAM.
8. What are some of the common pain points that your customers commonly approach you with?
Since the pandemic began, most of what we hear is an interest in monitoring the quality of air in our homes. As people are sequestered, spending more time at home, consumers have become keenly aware of the air we breathe in our homes, and wanting to understand what contaminants are in the air. There has also been a renewed interest in safety, again, spending more time in our homes means the potential for a fire, or gas leak increases exponentially.
9. What advice would you like to give to the upcoming AI-based tech start-ups?
Stay focused on AI that benefits society, making our lives better. AI is our future in every element of our lives, especially in the medical, financial, entertainment, and in our homes. Every start-up believes they have the next greatest, market disruptive technology; yet fail due to lack of focus, funding, quality of founders, or the ability to tell a compelling story. A start-up must be able to demonstrate how their idea will dramatically improve and benefit society and that they have the tools to develop and sell the technology.
10. Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the upcoming product upgrades that your customers can look forward to?
As a next generation product, it is our desire to introduce technology that will detect bacteria and viruses in the air. We have our work cut out for us, but we have brilliant scientists on our team who are focused and driven to develop the next disruptive technology.
11. Which is the one AI breakthrough you will be on the lookout for in the upcoming year?
The ability to identify viruses in the air and determine through AI the danger associated with a particular virus. We will continue with a focus on improving AI/IoT in SAAM technology, understanding the importance of AI/IoT in our future.
12. What is the one quote that has stayed with you throughout your professional life?
My father instilled in me as a young man the following,
“You will never succeed until you fail, because failure is how we learn to succeed.”
Rob Qualls was born in Manchester, England and has resided in Aylesbury, UK; Angeles, Philippines; Crete, Greece; Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and Florida USA. Rob has 35 years of experience in marketing, Sales, and General Management in the Global OEM/Aftermarket industry as it relates to advanced technology. Rob has held executive positions with Highway Master, Pacific-Dunlop/GNB and General Battery. Rob has extensive experience in conducting business on a global basis with a focus on North America and Europe. Rob attended the University of Kentucky with a Major in Business and Economics.