The Intersection of Life, Culture and Technology

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Measuring Broadband Hawaii

December 11th, 2014 · broadband


We all know Internet access in Hawaii can really test your patience. I have a cable modem from Oceanic Time Warner and DSL from Hawaiian Telcom. Both are in two different locations and are at the basic service level. Over the years Oceanic has increased their service offering. I now get about 16M down and 1.2M up. My Hawaiian Telcom DSL has pretty much stayed the same at 1M down an 1M up. I can barely stream any video on my DSL without stalls for buffering.

There was an effort initiated by DCCA a few years back to map your broadband access by running speed tests and reporting the results. This effort seemed to have had marginal impact as a data gathering tool for assessing broadband infrastructure. DCCA is now launching another project to measure your broadband speeds but in a more automated fashion. Volunteers are being recruited to install a “whitebox” onto their network to measure broadband speeds when the network is idle. If you are interested in being part of this project you can sign up for the program here.

Much of Hawaii’s broadband agenda originates from the Broadband Assistance Advisory Council. Their last meeting of 2014 was on Nov 12, 2014. You can find the agenda here. With all the attention on broadband being one of the key enablers for a thriving tech industry, this is the group to watch. Attend their meetings, they are open to the public, and you be the judge whether they are meeting the goals set in the Hawaii Broadband Strategic Plan.

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Extraordinary Machine: Public Access to Public Domain

September 4th, 2014 · open data


Please join us for the screening of ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ on Friday, Sept. 5th at 6:30 p.m. at Kaka’ako Agora. Sign up here.

Then come back to join us for a discussion of the film and a workshop on open knowledge on Saturday, Sept. 6th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. We will brainstorm action plans and prototype tactics to liberate more open government data. Bring your creativity and appetite. RSVP required for lunch count. Lunch only applies to workshop attendees. Thanks!

The Internet’s Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activistAaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

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Hack to the Future II

May 13th, 2014 · open data


On May 31, 2014 Hawaii is participating in National Day of Civic Hacking by holding its own Hack to the Future II. Join the Code for Hawaii Brigade on this day of workshops, prototyping and civic hacks. We will use this day to build capacity and brainstorm projects to infuse government with civic innovation. Citizen engagement is taking hold in our community so let’s focus on what we can accomplish in 2014.

This event is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, taking place across the country.


9:30a – 10:00a Welcome/Registration
10:00 – 12:00p Tri-Track Workshops

  • D3 Visualization
  • Data graphs & analysis
  • Mapping
12:30p – 1:00p Lunch
1:00p – 3:00p Civic Hacking
3:00p – 3:30p Show and Tell
4:00p – ??? Pub Networking (TBD)


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PTC 2014

January 23rd, 2014 · telecom


The Pacific Telecommunications Council puts on their annual conference every January and like clockwork #36 took place without a hitch over at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The one day I could make it was on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Jeanne Holm the notable evangelist was speaking on Data Driven Innovation in Communities.

Holm’s presentation was a short one since in my world, there is so much to talk about in open data. She highlighted the work being done on and it’s recent conversion from Socrata to the open source CKAN platform. She also brought attention to the widespread interest in energy data and the Green Button initiative.

Originally from NASA, Holm’s has a wealth of stories about how NASA embraced the web 2.0 technologies with interactive websites, Google hangouts, launch tweetups and the tweeting Mars Rover.

Whether the telecom audience takes anything she says back to their companies to implement is another story. My experience is that much of the data held in telecom companies will remain closely held. It would be nice to see broadband penetration by carrier provided as open data but the push back has been: “we don’t want that information getting into the hands our our competitors.”

With my limited time at the conference I wanted to catch up with local broadband expert Alex Bergo, a recent Univ of Hawaii Ph.D recipient and CEO of LiveSift. He gave a talk on Forecasting Information for Planning in Rapidly Changing Environments. He focused his work on Hawaii’s Broadband future and how increased bandwidth contributes to economic development. It’s a valuable study and particularly useful for policy makers.

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SOEST Open House

November 7th, 2013 · ocean, science, weather

This event at the Univ. of Hawaii, School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology only occurs once every two years. This year it took place on Oct. 25 and 26 and feature demonstrations of explosive volcanism, Doppler on Wheels, James Cameron’s DeepSea Challenge, meteorites from Mars, the Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory and many more.

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October 1st, 2013 · innovation, maker

In preparation for a piece on gadgets for emergency preparedness on Hawaii News Now, I rolled down the hill to the Pearl City Industrial Park for a visit with Mike Bond and his shop Ti2Design. We had him on the radio show the week prior talking about Kickstarter and he mentioned one big unknown he eliminated was to do his own manufacturing in-house.

It is quite impressive what this shop can produce. He showed me some custom gears he was making for Hawaiian Electric and a grenade launcher, part of a brief foray into the Dept of Defense’s world of non-lethal weapons. Mike admitted that his true love is making his own designs, items that include the Ti2 Pen, Sentinel, the Torq bottle opener and the Ti2 Para-Biner.

The slideshow features various milling machines, a water cutter, polishers and drills. The most impressive is this turnmill used to produce the Sentinel Cache. This video gives you a sense of what is involved. One Sentinel gets created in about 30 minutes. His next project is another variation on the Ti2 Pen. There’s a lot if ideas brewing in head and I am also hoping Mike participates in the upcoming Honolulu Mini Maker Faire.

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Getting Ready!

September 17th, 2013 · communities, emergency management


Since September is National Preparedness Month, there seems to be an assortment of training opportunities to build your personal preparedness and community resilience. Over the course of last weekend there were three classes offered by different organizations.

The first was from the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, for which I teach an occasional social media class. The class I took is a newly certified FEMA class called Natural Disaster Awareness for Community Leaders. The key is to plan ahead of time, assess the available resources in your community and the different vulnerability factors that exist within those communities. It’s important to organize before the event of an emergency.

The second class was Skywarn offered by the local NOAA office. This is an introductory class for anyone interested in being a weather spotter for the National Weather Service. The program won’t qualify you to be a meteorologist but it will give you the basics in identifying thunderstorms and the associated cloud formations. By taking the class you get a Skywarn number and the fundamentals of reporting local weather phenomenon like hail, flooding and storm conditions.

The third workshop is an essential for anyone who considers their pet a part of their family. The Red Cross offers this pet first aid class that gives you the basics to help your pet in distress. It is described as pet CPR. The lessons taught in this class could help you resuscitate your pet and give you the needed time to get to the vet. Good information to know in the event of an emergency and your pet will love you for it.

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Energy Excelerator gets major Navy funding

September 6th, 2013 · alternative energy

energyexceleratorNavy commits $30 million to Hawaii’s energy startup program

The Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), under the Asia Pacific Technology Education Program, announced today that it will invest $30M dollars in the Hawaii-based Energy Excelerator.

The Energy Excelerator helps innovative energy startups succeed in Hawaii and the Asia Pacific region with non-dilutive funding, strategic relationships, and a vibrant ecosystem. The startup program has helped 17 energy companies bring technologies to market and raise follow-on funding of over $38M. The new Navy commitment triples the funding that the program operated with over the past 3 years, showing that they recognize the value of Hawaii as an ideal place for new energy innovation.

The Energy Excelerator funds seed-stage and growth-stage startups with compelling energy solutions and immediate application in Hawaii. “Hawaii has the best economic conditions for launching a clean energy company on the planet. We have electricity prices that are quadruple the average on the U.S. mainland, we pioneered the most aggressive clean energy goals in the country because our government is very serious about getting off imported oil, and we already have a deep bench of renewable resources that we are looking to integrate more powerfully,” says Dawn Lippert, Senior Manager of the Energy Excelerator.

The Energy Excelerator looks for technologies that can solve real-time problems such as managing renewables on the grid, integrating smart energy efficiency technologies, and reducing the use of oil in transportation. Once companies have proven their technologies and successfully delivered in Hawaii, they become very attractive to island nations in the Asia Pacific, as well as certain markets on the U.S. mainland.

“The Energy Excelerator is unique in that they’re not afraid of hardware companies. They know what will succeed in these markets, and they’re very focused on helping companies win customers,” Patti Glaza, Principal of Arsenal Venture Partners.

For seed-stage companies with a working prototype, the Energy Excelerator awards nondilutive funding up to $100,000 to develop and execute their go-to-market strategy, aided by a team of experienced mentors. For growth-stage companies with significant customer traction, the program awards up to $1M of grant funding for a project in Hawaii. Growth-stage projects require 50/50 cost-share with customer financing or private capital.

“The Energy Excelerator was transformative for us,” says Michael Pfeffer, CEO of Ibis Networks. “We went from a cool technology with big aspirations to a company with angel investors, a differentiated value proposition, and real customers. It’s exciting to see ONR doubling down on this excellent program.”

The Energy Excelerator is currently accepting applications for its next round. The program attracts hundreds of applicant companies, and selects less than 5% for funding.


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National Preparedness Month 2013

September 5th, 2013 · communities, emergency management


September is National Preparedness Month and the Hawaii State Civil Defense is running this cool little contest to get people in the preparedness mindset. All you need to do is:

With this you could win a State Civil Defense t-shirt. Anything for a t-shirt! I’m in.

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Uber rolls out on Oahu!

July 16th, 2013 · auto, disruptive tech

Kala_uberThis morning in a relatively nondescript location on the North Shore, Uber, the private on-demand car service, soft launched with rider zero, Kala Alexander. The Uber launch team has been in town quietly scoping out the transportation options. The business is a disrupter to the traditional taxi and limousine car services.

I got a chance to talk to one of the Uber reps and he told me the model is quite simple. They sign up independent car services that have applied and received a Motor Carrier Certificate from the State Public Utilities Commission. This is the same certification a limo service would be required to have. Uber works out a pricing agreement and with all the t&c completed the car services becomes an Uber Partner.

UBER_VERT_LOGO_CHARC_DARK (1)Uber has no hardware on the ground. Uber hires an Associate General Manager and a Community Manager for Hawaii to work the market and partner relations. The rest is done with with Uber mobile app which you can download to your iPhone or Android smartphones. You don’t have to hail a taxi which evidently you can’t do in Hawaii anyway. Instead you use your Uber app and find the car nearest your location and schedule a ride.

In a recent blog post, Uber makes it simple to share the fare with another rider. This way you can easily divide the fare amongst multiple riders eliminating that awkward moment of settling up the bill. Right now the Uber service on Oahu is Uber Black. Since the service is ramping up, don’t expect cars to be available everywhere. Uber is signing up Partners as we speak. It will be interesting to see how this service takes shape in Honolulu. There are no plans yet for neighbor islands. In other cities across the country, variations of lower cost options are cropping up due to competition. But for now Uber Black is comparable to your own private car service and you can expect the service to be Uber comfortable.

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