The Intersection of Life, Culture and Technology

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Community Emergency Response Team

January 24th, 2015 · emergency management


Peter Hirai, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Emergency Management

The City & County of Honolulu, Dept of Emergency Management (DEM) has been offering Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for more than a decade but this is the first time they brought everyone together to discuss community organizing. Previously if you completed CERT training you would not be able to find out who in your neighborhood also completed training due to privacy concerns. This policy made it difficult for anyone to contact other CERT members thereby slowing down efforts to organize community groups.

Several communities like Manoa, Ewa Beach and Waimanalo, through shear force of will and motivation created teams of CERT graduates that meet regularly to discuss disaster preparedness. Areas like Manoa and Ewa Beach have even conducted preparedness fairs to grow community awareness.

The format for today’s Meet and Greet was to provide a quick overview of the CERT program and then give people a chance to meet others in their area. If you were from an area with an established group, then you were welcomed into the group. If you were from an area without a group, like Pearl City, Aiea or Kalihi then you are starting from scratch. Taking it to the next level requires a lot of time and sustained commitment.

To DEM’s credit, they will support the efforts of new CERT communities by attending meetings to aid organizers. Another new offering by DEM is to provide refresher CERT classes, focussing on perishable skills. A third area they are considering is exercising the CERT teams through community exercises or incorporating CERT in statewide Makani Pahili exercises.

These are some of the ideas being considered and it appears DEM is making a concerted effort to further nurture CERT community building. They will even provide custom training based on your needs and schedule. In my opinion, whether you are part of an organized community or an individual interested in being disaster prepared, you can not go wrong with going through the CERT program. Oh, and I failed to mention, it is all free.

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#PTC15 – NHK 8K Super Hi-Vision

January 20th, 2015 · infrastructure, Internet, Japan


More pixels, faster pixels and better pixels were the key message points from NHK’s demonstration of their 8K broadcast system in Japan. The Japanese public broadcaster announced their plans to skip 4K and go straight to 8K. At a resolution of 7680×4320, screens pack in an ultra high definition image of 33 megapixels per frame, at a frame rate of 120Hz. The details in the demo reel were amazingly clear, but you would expect nothing less.


NHK 8K Demonstration

As a broadcaster, NHK aims to test in 2016 and in 2018 provide commercial broadcasting with a goal in 2020 to cover the Tokyo Olympics. The demonstration is less about the television monitors to display the content – there are a lot of manufacturers optimizing displays. Instead NHK is working out the transmission requirements. They estimate 100Mbps circuits for streaming content.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as infrastructure goes. Between the content creation and the receivers there are satellites, cable, wired and wireless systems, data centers and content delivery networks to consider. All of this infrastructure still needs to be built in order for widespread 8K delivery to succeed. In the U.S. we are still asking ourselves where the 4K content is, let alone ubiqutious high speed broadband. As lofty a goal as NHK has set, at least Japan is pushing the limit of this technology, 2018 will come sooner than you think and if successful will leap frog systems in the U.S.

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#StartupParadise Demo Day

January 17th, 2015 · technology Hawaii business


Someone new to the islands came up to me at the recent Startup Paradise Demo Day and said there are a lot of people in the tech community. Compared to 15 years ago, I think that is true. When you take snapshot views like this it becomes clear the tech community has grown considerably. The main difference in my mind is the number of young people (to me everyone looks young) that have joined the ranks. Programs like Blue Startups, XLR8UH and Energy Excelerator have done wonders to nurture the up and coming young entrepreneurs, something we did not have 15 years ago.

For this fourth Demo Day, Blue Startups featured 5 companies from their recent co-hort: TipTop Health, Selly, Job Rangers, Sagely and Advlo. XLR8UH featured Diagenetix and Flywire. With Energy Excelerator, instead of company pitches, short interviews with the founders of Shifted Energy, Pono Home and Stem gave the audience a peek into the business operations after the accelerator program.


Energy Excelerator Interns

To close out the program Energy Excelerator brought on stage three interns from Hawaii Pacific University and the RISE program who worked within the three energy companies. It’s rare to see interns featured in a program but it worked well for this demo day. They were billed as the next generation of entrepreneur and the organizers did a good job of demonstrating the potential pathway from college into to startup. Although intuitively obvious, but not often well executed, having a continual pipeline of graduates looking to start new companies is key to a healthy ecosystem. It appears the concerted effort demonstrated at Startup Paradise shows the focus on nurturing this pipeline.

It will be interesting to follow not only the companies graduating from the accelerator programs but also the accelerators themselves. Karl Fooks from the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation told me that he is not seeking any funding from the 2015 Legislative session. Previous sessions helped fund LAVA and the Hi Growth Initiative. Chenoa Farnsworth, Managing Director of Blue Startups, said they have enough money to go another year. They received funding from LAVA and from founder Henk Rogers. To reach sustainability and to eliminate the need for public money, Blue Startups will need to cash in on their equity stakes in successful startups. So if this model is successful, we should see some of the graduating companies reaching a point of acquisition to trigger a liquidity event. To see this in the fourth year would be awesome but if they do seek public money to continue for a couple more years, I think it is well worth it. The momentum created with #StartupParadise needs to continue to grow and thrive.


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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.

Presented by:

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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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