Category Archives: technology Hawaii business

Oceanit 25th Anniversary

Oceanit 25th AnniversaryIt's testament to Pat Sullivan for not only lasting 25 years in Hawaii but to actually grow Oceanit and thrive in this arguably isolated market. I remember visiting him some 20 years ago in a small one-man office in downtown Honolulu. Now they command an entire 6th floor space in the Oceanit Center on Fort St. Mall and are expanding on the ground floor to accommodate their lab. The projects they take on seem to have no boundaries. On one side of the floor is Hoana Medical where they develop and market the Lifegurney. Think of Star Trek's Sick Bay beds that read your vital signs as you lie there. On another floor in the Oceanit Lab, work is going on to develop nanoparticles consisting of nanatubes that are filled with toxins. The design of these nanoparticles make them seek out specific cancer cells upon which they bind and inject their toxic payload, killing the cancer cells. In the photo above, programmers have devised a way to read your heart rate by placing your finger on the camera lens of your iPhone. The approach is novel enough to be patentable. In the growing market for personal activity and health monitors this would be a must have. During the short program, Pat Sullivan talked about being disruptive and finding new ways to use technology to make a difference. But it's not only about being smart with technology but it is also about being smart with the connections that will get you there. Obviously Hawaii is a big Department of Defense location and the right Federal connections are important in making the equation work out. Each of the Hawaii delegation to Washington DC were on hand to talk about tech in Hawaii and Oceanit in particular. US Rep. Mazie Hirono, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye each spoke. Sen Inouye brought attention to earmarks which he has been publicly criticized for. If you listen to his talk, about 30 minutes into the video, he is no where near giving up on this tool for Federal funding of special projects. All in all a delightful, thought provoking evening about what it takes to survive and thrive in Hawaii's technology industry.

Newsmorphosis 2.0

Hats off to Jay Fidell, Bill Spencer and Mary Fastenau for pulling off a very engaging and thought provoking half-day panel discussion about the future of news. Not only was it timely, coming at the heels of a major television news consolidation in Hawaii and the recently announced sale of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for the Honolulu Advertiser but it was also headlined with people like Sarah Lacy (TechCrunch) and John Temple (Peer News). For those who were not able to make it down to the newly renovated Plaza Club in downtown Honolulu, the webcast of the day's panels are all available on the NewsMorphosis channel on Ustream. My main take away from the first panel called "Transformation of the News", with Will Moss from Beijing, Mark Platte from the Honolulu Advertiser and Chris Archer from HawaiiNewsNow was that Mark Platte was lamenting the eventual demise of one of the dailies and the possible consolidation of staffs to form the one paper: Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Chris Archer on the other hand, already well into merged operations of the KGMB, KFVE and KHNL newsrooms has resigned himself to accept reality and fully embraced the new HawaiiNewsNow. Archer said it was inevitable that one or two stations were going to shut down. This way at least all three are still delivering the news, albeit the same. What perked me up during the second panel was Sarah Lacy. As much as I love listening to Olin Lagon (Kanu Hawaii), Dan Leuck (TechHui) and Kyle Tanouye (Talisman), it was Sarah that turned the crowd on its head. (Her part starts about 1:45 hr into the webcast.) She came right out and said she saw the death of newspapers 10 years ago, which got some cheers of acknowledgment from the crowd. She also said it wasn't the fault of the journalist, but the papers themselves for not seeing it coming. She obviously had no sympathy for the papers. She also make the astute observation that if this conference was held in Silicon Valley everyone would have their laptop open. Out of the 200 or so people in attendance, I think I only saw 2 and one of them was Sarah's. The point of her observation did not become evident until a little later in the session, right after John Temple concluded his presentation on Peer News. No sooner than when he started taking questions from the audience did Sara post her blog entry about Peer News to Techcrunch. Sarah singlehandedly scooped all the Hawaii journalist in the room and got her story out first. By the time the sessions were over her post had well over 300 retweets on Twitter. That's the power of new media, the power of a strong brand (Techcrunch) and the power of someone who gets it. More later on Peer News...

Hawaii’s CIO

ICThawaiiWhen we first reported on the State's Task Force on Reinventing Government, I was a little skeptical as to what would become of it. Do these things end up on someone's shelf collecting dust or are they the impetus for action? One of the reports findings was the recognized need for a Chief Information Officer for the State system. The following section is directly from the report: Information Technology Recommendations (1) Establish a new senior position reporting to the Comptroller to be the State's Chief Information Officer. Currently, the head of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) serves as both the Comptroller and Chief Information Officer (CIO). The Task Force recommends that the two roles be separated into two job positions. The new CIO position should be budgeted at market compensation. The CIO's responsibilities would include:
  • (a) Supervision of the Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD).
  • (b) Developing and implementing a three-year statewide Strategic Information Technology Plan (SITP) that would include the consolidation into ICSD of all hardware, operating software, related positions, and budgets for all IT and communications within the Executive Branch of state government and provide service level agreements (SLAs) to those departments.
  • (c) Reporting, at least annually, to the Legislature on the SITP's progress, and submission of a consolidated IT capital budget for the Executive Branch, as well as a report on the performance under all SLAs.
  • (d) Formulating a charter and chairing a monthly governance committee, to include all state senior IT CIOs (including Department of Education, University of Hawaii, the Judiciary, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and state hospitals), and providing the Legislature with an annual executive summary of projected and achieved budgetary savings, operational synergies, customer service enhancements, state productivity gains, and security improvements generated from the joint collaboration. This governance committee would also be responsible for the development of an annual master state IT budget and vision, as well as standards for IT job classifications; staff training, development, and certification; career path and staff retention goals; customer service and productivity targets; SLA performance targets; customer service survey results; and data management warehousing and disaster recovery planning.
(2) Request that the Legislature explore establishing a dedicated funding source for the CIO position. Given the monumental task of consolidating all of the State's separate ICSDs and their associated hardware and operating software and of converting all departmental local area networks (LANs)-so that they can communicate and share data, it is imperative that the State be committed to maintaining the CIO position through a dedicated funding source. A dedicated funding source will ensure the continuation of the position and thereby increase the likelihood of achieving program goals and concomitantly ensuring long-term benefits and cost savings to the State. Several articles have appeared about the report. A Business Week article at the end of January was the first to be published. In February this article was written in the Government Technology website. Both referencing the report, speaking to the need for a consolidated approach to information technology in the State system of departments. Each of these were written from a news wire perspective. Not so in this recent post by John Savageau in his blog Technology Innovation Topics which was also picked up by WebSphere Journal. In it, Savageau brings his own keen eye for technical detail and the experience that comes with building and supporting data centers around the world. I know him from the work he did with Level 3, Pihana (now DR Fortress) and One Wilshire in Los Angeles. The article is a great read and brings attention to the dire need for our State to get serious about Information Technology. We've got the bandwidth (although we could always use more). We've got the brain power. I see the kind of excellent IT work that goes on in corporations like the one I work at and I am convinced we have the talent here in Hawaii. We just need the vision and commitment to to see this through. The jury is still out on whether the report will create any real substantive change but it is interesting to watch bills like SB2548 move through the legislature. I will be very interested to see this position get created but more so with who would ultimately fill the role. Hawaii is at a point of critical change. Will we be positioned (in the middle of the Pacific) to have the right infrastructure, like IT and broadband, to compete with the rest of the world? Stay tuned.

Hawaii’s First Charging Station

Green Energy OutletIt's the classic "chicken or the egg" problem. Which came first? Is it the electric car or the charging stations? As Mike Leone of HIEV explains, customers are weary of buying an electric car because of the lack of charging stations and businesses are hesitant to install charging stations because there are so few electric cars. Enter into the picture, Frank Rogers of Green Energy Outlet (GEO). Together with Leone, they install solar panels on the roof of GEO, tie it into the electric grid and install the first ChargePoint smart plug-in for recharging. It's the first in Hawaii and the first of a wave of charging stations that, if you imagine one-day, being as easily accessible as gas stations currently are. The idea is that these charging stations can be anywhere the electric grid is. These can be installed in parking lots, gas stations and businesses. A driver simply pulls up to one of them and plugs in their car. Understandably the adoption rate is slow. You can think of it like when we went from horse and buggy to the automobile. (I'm too young but I can image.) The infrastructure to install a gas pump must have been substantial. Each gas station requires a huge tank to be buried and the plumbing installed necessary to dispense the gasoline. Now look at the proliferation of gas stations, there's one on and across every street. It will one day be the same way with charging stations, if of course the electric car takes off. That may still be a ways off. Hybrids extend the life of gasoline as a portable fuel source. Cars like the Toyota Prius recharge their batteries through regenerative braking and the gasoline engine. They never need to be plugged in. The major auto manufacturers have put so much development into the gasoline powered car it will be some time before they transition completely away from that fuel source. Honda has hinted about a 100% electric vehicle (EV) to be available in 2015. So perhaps by mid-decade we will start to see a sea change of EV automobiles on road. Nevertheless, this charging station at GEO is a significant first step in the right direction. Hats off to the pioneers like Mike Leone and Frank Rogers who are bold enough to make their vision real.

Mobilizing Tech in Hawaii

As the legislature gears up for the 2010 session, the tech community is mobilizing to make the most out of what is to be one of the more difficult law-making years. In order to make up for the $1.2B deficit Gov Lingle is already looking at deferring tax returns, restricting spending and refinancing debt. It is highly unlikely lawmakers will support any tax-credits for the tech industry. Even back in October at the Rebuilding Tech workshop, Senators Fukunaga, Hanabusa and Representative McKelvey predict "programs are being cut, nobody will be giving away money in the form of credits." So what is the tech community going to do? Mobilize for one thing. Jay Fidell, Bill Spencer and a host of others are organizing Crucible 2010: Hammering out Tech Initiatives For the 2010 Legislative Session. For anyone in the tech industry interested in efforts to introduce new bills in this session should attend this workshop being held at the Plaza Club on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 starting at 4:00pm. The program agenda includes:
The event is free but you need to RSVP by calling the Hawaii Venture Capital Assoc. at 808-262-7329 or ThinkTech at 808-524-0544. You can also email Bill Spencer or Jay Fidell. In related news Lisa Gibson is stepping down from her post at the Hawaii Science and Technology Council as President/CEO. Keiki-Pua Dancil is replacing Gibson as the new President/CEO. Dancil will be presenting at Crucible 2010 and talk about Hawaii's Future in Technology. I spoke briefly with Gibson who told me "it's time for a change." She wasn't clear what she would be doing now but whatever it is it will be dynamic. We all wish Lisa the best in her future endeavors. For those interested in a primer on the legislative process you might want to check out the Legislative 101 Workshop on Jan. 28th. The program will feature experts from the legislature’s Public Access Room, elected officials, and experienced advocates who will explain the legislative process and share insights on how to participate effectively. Speakers include Sen. Les Ihara, Jr., Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, Jeff Mikulina (Blue Planet Foundation), and Kapua Sproat. The program is free of charge and a good way to understand how to engage in a process that might otherwise look quite daunting. Reserve your seat here.

Clear WiMax Test Run

clearspeedClear (formerly Clearwire) is actively rolling out their WiMax service and I was lucky to get my hands on a demo unit to test. Installation is a no-brainer. One thing I was told was to download the driver from the website. Of course this assumes you have a pre-existing Internet connection. I had to do this because the thumb drive that comes with the unit had an old version of the driver. Once downloaded, I disconnect from my Internet connection, plug in my Clear modem and launch the Clear Connection Manager. The connection manager finds the modem and connects. It's that simple. So the first thing I do is run a speed test. This TWTelecom site provides servers in Honolulu and Los Angeles. As you can see the download speeds from LA are quite impressive. I also tried the Honolulu server and surprisingly had a slower download speed of about 6.4Mbps. Both uploads were similar. I'll leave it running to see how it fairs. One complaint, the drivers for the WiMax modem supports Mac OSX 10.5 and 10.6. I have a laptop running OSX 10.49 (Tiger, PowerPC). So I am out of luck for my PowerBook (albeit old). Drivers are also available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

Honolulu iPhone Apps

Bytemarks Lunch - Nov. 17, 2009There are some interesting developments in the local iPhone application community. Granted iPhone  app development here is nothing new. I recall in the beginning of this year when Russel Cheng over at Oceanit announced their iFu Kung Fu app. It was all the rage and quite novel at the time. Now iPhone apps are popping up in the most interesting places. We recently had a Bytemarks Lunch at Mini Garden where Michal Anne Rogondino showed us her new ShakyGlobe app. If you look closely you can see the DC comics logo. It's an interesting concept with some licensing potential. There are globes for a variety of places each one having unique digital assets. Michal Anne tells me that this is just a precursor to something bigger. So I will keep in touch to find out. Don't mind my crispy gau chee mein in the background. That was my lunch. HMSA iPhone App now on iTunesAlso released this week was HMSA's iPhone app. (Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I did have a hand in this.) But any recognition goes to Kevin Lohman of Logic High Software, who did all the development and an excellent job managing this project. I was looking for something simple and came up with a basic mobile portal. We went through a couple of iterations, with a pre-release beta that used graphics that I cobbled together. This first release is very clean in appearance and functional. The app points to a variety of HMSA resources on the web like homepage, news links, Twitter accounts and Youtube videos. The free app is available in the iTunes App Store. We did it to show the potential of mobile apps and to solicit feedback on what might be of most interest in an HMSA iPhone app. You can post your comments here or send me an email. You will find me at the Contact Us tab. Coincidentally, we covered an event on Bytemarks Cafe about an upcoming iPhone Developers Meetup coordinated by Dan Leuck from Tech Hui happening on Wed. Dec. 2nd at 6:00pm over at the Manoa Innovation Center. Bruce Kim, who I have known from Innovaware came on the show to talk about the event. It was news to me that Bruce was involved with mobile app development but his new company Userlink is focused on this. He is a good resource and has the experience to prove it. This is the second meetup for the developer group. If you are interested in mobile apps this looks like an exciting sector to keep an eye on. It is definitely building in momentum.

The Wave Hawaii

The Wave HawaiiThis past week the Hawaii Science and Technology Council launched their new eJournal, The Wave Hawaii (not to be confused with The Wave Waikiki, Jack Law's now defunct hip night spot). Lisa Gibson, Executive Director for HiSciTech writes:
"Welcome to the first edition of The Wave, a new e-journal launched by the Hawaii Science & Technology Council.    As people working in science, research and high technology businesses, we think the time is ripe for serious discussion of our island economy, its prospects, and the waves of opportunity breaking on our shores.  As champions of an innovation economy, we decided it was time to speak up."
Newsletter, eJournal, online Magazine, call it what you want, but I would agree that it is high time for some serious writing/dialog about Hawaii's tech sector and efforts to establish a tech economy. I enjoy Jay Fidell's critical posts in his Honolulu Advertiser ThinkTech blog and the sanguine tech coverage in Lincoln Jacobe's Pacific News Bytes but we can always use more perspectives and exposure. This inaugural issue of The Wave has an article by Tony Clapes revisiting his Blue Wave Millennium: A Future for Hawaii, expose. It nicely recaps how well (or not) we've done over the past 25 years in establishing a tech economy. Rory Flynn writes about Leaving Home as an Economic Indicator. I've observed Hawaii to be known for importing all is fuel and food, keeping all its trash and exporting all its intelligent young brain trust. It's not surprising we are in the shape we are in. There is also an interesting reprint of an article by William Bonvillian about the Innovation State and government's role in creating an environment for innovation. This brings to mind our State government's Innovation Initiative. It's a nice looking website but I have not heard of anything that has come out of that effort. Where is Marc Benioff, Jay Shidler or Ron Higgins? Not running in my circles to be sure. Since it's formation in 2007 the mission of the Council is "To be Developed." I like what Clapes points out in his article,
"Despite the efforts of DBEDT and island economic development boards, there is not much steering of the economy going on at the leadership level.  As a result, the State continues to spin in the lazy circles of the boom and bust cycle."
There is an obvious pattern. Whenever there is a disaster that affects tourism our leadership (public and private) lauds the need to create a tech sector to balance out the economy. It's happened with Hurricane Iniki, 9/11 and now the Great Recession. When that passes, tech initiatives are forgotten and we go back to the old ways of servicing our number one industry. Will 2010 be different? I certainly hope so. I was tweeting with Kaiser Kuo who was recently here for [Re]Think Hawaii and TEDxHonolulu. In his closing remarks at TEDxHonolulu he said Hawaii was too laid back for a tech sector to form. He felt Hawaii lacked the energy, drive and intensity. I don't totally agree with him, I would add lack of leadership. But that is going to all change come 2010... Agree or disagree.

Rebuilding Tech in 2010

Rebuilding Tech 2010This is the most coordinated tech movement I have seen to date. Jay Fidell (ThinkTech Hawaii) is on a mission to help establish the tech sector in Hawaii. He's brought together Pacific New Media's, Susan Horowitz; Dan Leuck from Tech Hui; Mary Fastenau from Anthology Marketing Group and Bill Spencer from the Hawaii Venture Capitalist Association and put together quite an interesting set of panels. The program called Rebuilding in 2010: A Tech Prospective Approaching the 2010 Legislature provided a forum for discussing next steps in the post Act 221/199 world. As Act 221 sunsets in 2010, it is unlikely that another bill will make it through the legislature to provide the tech sector with tax credits. In this period of down revenues and furlough Friday's, the panel of legislators, Sen Colleen Hanabusa, Sen Carol Fukunaga and Rep. Angus McKelvey made it clears that when programs are being cut, nobody will be giving away money in the form of credits. During the Aspirations Panel, Ian Kitajima from Oceanit lead a rally cry for the tech sector to unify around the cause of Hawaii's survival in the world economy. The objective is bigger than one industry fighting against another in Hawaii. It's about Hawaii staying competitive against other tech centers in the US and the world. During the Methodology Panel, Darren Kimura (Sopogy) and Kelly King (Pacific Biodiesel) represented Hawaii's unique position in alternative energy. Hawaii has to focus on areas where it can excel. Solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal and wave are all readily available here. Besides tax credits, what can the legislature do for these industries? Reduce the permitting overhead! Bill Spencer from Hawaii Oceanic Technologies also participated on the panel to bring attention to his two year struggle to get permits for a deep ocean aquaculture operation. He finally got it from the Board of Land and Natural Resources but it was a long and costly effort. Why can't the workers processing these permits feel the sense of urgency felt by the entrepreneur? Lack of top down leadership and message! 2010 looks to be shaping up to be an interesting year for tech. With the tech sector mobilizing, dynamic new industries forming and the ongoing search for new political leadership there will be a lot of potential for positive change. Well, that is at least the hope...

Cellular Bioengineering Inc.

Bytemarks Lunch at Cellular BioengineeringInvent. Disrupt. Inspire. How can you not be intrigued by a company with such a bold motto? This past Friday (9/25), the Bytemarks crew converged on Cellular Bioengineering Inc. for the monthly geek lunch gathering. CBI graciously allowed us the take over their conference room. We usually catch up on the tech happenings around town but on this occasion, Dr. Mark Mugaishi launched into a presentation about some of the interesting projects the company is undertaking. Their flagship products are Eyegenix and Decongel both of which are far enough along the product development cycle to be available in the commercial market. The above photo is one of CBI's newer projects called Trutag (aka PixieTag). They have figured out a way to encode spectral codes onto a pure form of silica, as shown in the monitor on the right. This silica is broken down to very small particles, smaller than a grain of sugar that can be embedded into a drug coating. This can be read by a spectrometer and the corresponding code read to verify authenticity of the shipment, as shown on the monitor to the left. Bytemarks Lunch at Cellular BioengineeringAnother interesting project, still in its early stage is eCanary (aka CMC Chip). The idea behind this application, much like the name implies, is to build a device that you can place into a potentially hazardous environment, for example, poisonous gas, radioactive or particulate matter and determine if it is deadly. Instead of using a canary, CBI has developed a bio-sensor which combines live cardiac cells on an electronic detection chip. The integrated bio-electronics can detect responses to the live cells and conclude whether or not there is a hazardous condition. The photo shows a microscopic view of the live cardiac cells. In the image the cells were beating. If they were to stop beating, i.e. die, the electronics would detect this. Mahalos go out to Hank Wuh, Georgette Ulloa, Mark Mugaishi and Mike Oneill for their gracious hospitality and informative tour. Great work being done right here in Hawaii.