UH and American Samoa launch HoloCampus 3D learning platform

American Samoa Community College (ASCC) has switched on a ground-breaking digital platform that will stream 3D holograms of University of Hawaiʻi faculty members to deliver classes and engage with ASCCstudents in real-time. Students and officials at the HoloCampus launch on August 20 received a lecture by UH Mānoa Water Resources Research Center researcher Chris Shuler on the subject of “sustainability and resilience,” a theme with special significance for the people of American Samoa and Pacific Islands nations as they face challenges such as increasing plastic waste and more dramatic weather systems brought about by climate change.

Running on Hawaiki transpacific submarine cable, which directly connects American Samoa and Hawaiʻiusing technology from Canadian tech firm ARHT Media, the HoloCampus solution is the first of its kind in the Pacific, and is set to redefine how schools and universities connect and collaborate in the region.

“HoloCampus enables a remarkable new approach to distance learning,” said UH President David Lassner. “We expect that our work with ASCC will spark new ideas and approaches for academic collaborations across the Pacific and beyond.”

hologram of instructor

Researcher Chris Shuler teaches to a class in Samoa from a studio in Mānoa.

ASCC and UH are working together to create specific course programs running on HoloCampus, which could lead to students in American Samoa earning credits and grades toward UH degrees, with UHacademics and students benefiting from greater access to ASCC and its teachers, learning and resources.

“It’s definitely super cool to go to American Samoa as a hologram. This setup is kind of novel. Doing distance learning on larger screens or on Skype is pretty cool and I think this new internet connectivity is really going to make that a possibility,” said Shuler who presented his recent research done in American Samoa.

He added, “The main goal of our American Samoa research program is to improve peoples lives in the territory. Working in such a remote location necessitates some creativity, so some things that make our program distinctive are: 1) a huge focus on building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders and 2) continuing experimentation with recent advancements in cyber-infrastructure, social networking, and open-source cloud-computing tools to make our work accessible to those who need it, despite the big distances between islands.”

“HoloCampus is a culmination of the vision and hard work of many people inspired by the challenge of harnessing technology to provide American Samoa’s young people with access to the best opportunities for advancing their education, and creating a better future for them and their communities,” said Governor Lolo M. Moliga.

Moliga added, “The partnership between Hawaiki and American Samoa has delivered on its promises to bridge the digital divide in our Territory. Having ready access to high speed internet is already helping high school and college students with their learning, but the ability to have academics from around the world literally beamed into ASCC classrooms offers an exciting glimpse into what education and learning will look like in the future.”

Speaking at the launch in Pago Pago, Hawaiki Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Ludovic Hutier emphasized the importance of international connectivity for Pacific Islands nations and territories.

ASCC President Rosevonne Makaiwi Pato noted that HoloCampus will also spur new opportunities for American Samoa to more effectively share knowledge and insights from the U.S. territory with UHstudents and academics, and potentially more academic institutions in the region and throughout the world as the technology is deployed more widely.

The launch of HoloCampus comes just 13 months after the Hawaiki cable went live in American Samoa, resulting in a dramatic increase in connectivity on the U.S. territory.

How does HoloCampus work?

Holograms are created using ARHT’s patented “capture studios,” which allow people and 3D content to be broadcast live, virtually anywhere, in HD or 4K, on a variety of devices, with virtually zero latency.

A speaker can see the room via a video signal back to the capture studio and speak to students responding to their questions and reactions in real-time.

Streaming on platforms like Facebook and YouTube is quick and easy, while broadcasts are also able to be recorded to the cloud and shared after the event.


New hope for Hawaiki or Bluesky cable

By Tom Pullar-Strecker, Stuff.co.nz

New Zealand and Pacific Island governments have agreed to work to ensure a new submarine cable is laid across the Pacific, after meeting in Auckland.

The intervention makes it more likely that one of the two existing plans to lay a new cable to and from New Zealand will succeed, according to a Cook Islands minister.

Internet access in the Pacific is expensive and limited. For example, the Cook Islands relies entirely on expensive satellite communications to carry phone calls and internet traffic, Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown said.

A “standard” broadband plan in the Cook Islands costing $49 a month comes with a meagre 6 gigabyte data cap – and with 100 millisecond lag, business is stifled and video-gaming has yet to take off.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with delegations from the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and French Polynesia on Thursday to discuss improving internet connectivity in the region.

The ministry has since issued a communique saying officials would present leaders with “solutions for a submarine cable and satellite infrastructure” to improve communications for the islands by August.

New Zealand would “facilitate the planning and development phases of the project”, it said.

Auckland-based Hawaiki hopes to build a $500 million cable linking Australia and New Zealand to the United States via several Pacific Islands, but has had a series of disappointments securing the last remaining $150m it requires.

Another firm, Spain’s Bluesky, aims to build a cable from New Zealand as far as Hawaii, also connecting other islands en route – including American Samoa where it has a subsidiary business.

Brown said representatives from private companies Hawaiki Cable and Bluesky attended the Auckland meeting and it seemed they had the most viable options to improve internet access in the region.

Brown said the New Zealand government had indicated it would contribute financially and he was thankful for that.

MFAT would not detail what if any funding was under consideration.

The Cook Islands would also chip in, Brown said.

“We could look at equity stakeholders who may want to invest in the cable and we have the ability to borrow through our financiers such as the Asian Development Bank.

“Looking to the future, it is inevitable that we need to invest in cable.”

Broadband and mobile phone penetration in the Cook Islands, which has a population of 10,900, was very high, Brown said. But the cost and lag associated with satellite communications meant there was a limit to what people could use broadband for, he added.

“It is stifling business, particularly in the finance sector.

“The latency and the cost means things [like video gaming] doesn’t really take place over here,” Brown said.

He was “very optimistic” the agreement signed in Auckland would result in a new cable being laid within three years.

Hawaiki chief executive Remi Galasso said its proposed cable would be a cost-effective way to bring ultrafast broadband to Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands and would make internet data 10 times cheaper than it was now.

“We have presented the advantages of our technical proposal to both MFAT and Pacific islands leaders. Hawaiki will be able to carry their international traffic to … New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii or Portland, Oregon,” he said.

The MFAT communique said the governments had a shared vision of providing reliable, affordable and high-speed broadband.

“This will ensure that Pacific citizens and businesses, including those on remote islands, can benefit from planned initiatives such as telemedicine and digital education solutions,” it said.

The Samoan government and the Asian Development Bank also participated in the Auckland meeting, MFAT said. Brown said Southern Cross Cable also made presentation.

Photo credit: Abaconda Management Group

Pacific Research Platform Expands Across Pacific Ocean

San Diego and Melbourne, Aug. 6, 2015 — Barely days after announcing the $5 million, five-year NSF-funded Pacific Research Platform (PRP) project led by Calit2 director Larry Smarr, Smarr was in Australia where he signed an agreement with Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) to link Australian researchers to PRP.

The agreement is with the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), on a partnership to connect Australian researchers to the PRP, a ‘next generation data sharing network linking research universities and supercomputing centres at unprecedented speeds.’ The announcement was made during the Australian American Leadership Dialogue meeting being held in Melbourne this week. Founder Phil Scanlan says the announcement is a great example of the kinds of partnerships fostered by the Leadership Dialogue.

AARNet CEO Chris Hancock says Australia and the U.S. have both made major investments in networks based on the Science DMZ architecture over the past few years to support the exponential growth in data-intensive research. “What we are aiming to do now is to connect those networks into a common Australian/ American platform – the Pacific Research Platform – which will support enhanced collaboration by our top researchers in disciplines of critical importance to the future of both our countries,” said Hancock.

Australian research projects in data-centric fields such as particle physics, astronomy, biomedicine, earth science and visualization are set to benefit from the new data-sharing platform connecting them to their American counterparts. They will also be able to share, use and reuse significant collections of data now stored on infrastructure created under the NCRIS RDSI project, using innovative digital tools and techniques.

The partnership is available to any Australian university undertaking Big Data research with PRP institutions. Universities already involved include:

  • Institute for Marine and Antarctica Studies at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), together with the UTAS-led Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) data groups exchange large oceanographic and geoscience datasets with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography;
  • Monash University: Linking the CAVE2 virtual-reality facility to similar facilities in Hawaii, San Diego and Chicago; and the
  • University of Queensland: The university’s advanced middleware can connect compute and storage clouds with U.S. to support biomedical, geosciences and imaging data analysis.

“To accelerate the rate of scientific discovery, researchers must get the data they need, where they need it, and when they need it,” said UC San Diego computer science and engineering professor Larry Smarr, principal investigator of the PRP and Calit2 director, who is an American delegate to the Leadership Dialogue.. “It is critical that we collaborate globally to develop a common network architecture to support data-intensive research into the future.”

Building on a series of investments to create on-campus Big Data freeway systems, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) last week announced funding for the PRP project. Calit2 and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), led by UC Berkeley, will organize PRP, utilising California’s Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC)/Pacific Wave’s 100G backbone. PRP links most of the research universities on the US west coast.

In parallel with the U.S. effort over the last few years, Australia has funded a similar set of data-centric sites, which are interconnected by the RDSI-funded national Data Sharing Network (DaShNet) implemented and operated by AARNet.

AARNet’s Hancock says participating in the PRP project as an international partner was a logical next step. By extending DaShNet, AARNet can interconnect an increasing number of huge research datasets, as well as NCRIS-supported computational resources such as the NCI, Pawsey Centre and the NeCTAR Research Cloud to the PRP networked data infrastructure.

AARNet will provide connectivity to the PRP in partnership with Southern Cross Cable Network via the submarine optical-fiber links known as SXTransPORT to the West Coast of the U.S. and on to San Diego and Calit2 via Pacific Wave and CENIC. With the support of SCCN, AARNet is upgrading SXTransPORT to 100 Gigabits per second by the end of 2016.

“This is another plank in Australia’s platform for sustained high community performance through 2050 and well beyond,” said Leadership Dialogue founder Phil Scanlan.

— A Calit2 news release

RTI and Bluesky Pacific Group to Provide Seamless Connectivity Between US, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, and Key Asian Destinations

RAM Telecom International, Inc. “RTI” announces collaboration with Bluesky Pacific Group, a subsidiary of Amper SA, to interconnect the Southeast Asia – United States “SEA-US” Cable system with Bluesky Pacific Group’s Moana Cable system.

RTI and Bluesky Pacific Group intend to connect their cable investments to provide end-to-end connectivity to the US West Coast, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, and key Asian destinations. When completed, the agreement will optimize connectivity between the SEA-US and Moana Cable systems, bringing their respective customers superior access to global content.

RTI will provide Bluesky Pacific Group with interconnection to SEA-US. Upon its anticipated completion at the end of 2016, SEA-US will link five areas and territories including Oahu (Hawaii), downtown Los Angeles (California), Piti (Guam), Davao (Philippines), and Manado (Indonesia). The SEA-US cable is among the first transoceanic cables deploying 100 gigabits per second state-of-the-art ultra long haul optical fiber transmission technology.

Bluesky Pacific Group will provide RTI interconnection to its Moana Cable to deliver content at faster speeds to key island destinations, as well as onward connectivity to New Zealand. Upon its completion, which is targeted for 2018, the Moana Cable system will link New Zealand and Hawaii, serving Samoa and American Samoa, with a second segment also linking the Cook Islands to Samoa. The Moana Cable will be the first long haul submarine cables in the Pacific Islands region relying on the latest innovative 200 gigabits per second optical fiber transmission technology.

Adolfo Montenegro, Executive Committee Member of Amper and Group Chief Executive Officer of Bluesky Pacific Group said, “The Moana Cable will enable providers in Samoa, American Samoa, and surrounding island nations to equip our enterprise and consumer customers with the fastest and most reliable access to global content. Our customers need and deserve the latest technological advancements that help them access the Internet faster and more cost effectively. Once completed, the Moana Cable system will deliver the most efficient solution available.”

Russ Matulich, Chief Executive Officer of RTI stated, “Bluesky’s investment in the Moana Cable is essential to increased economic benefit to the entire region. RTI is pleased to provide the Moana Cable with onward connectivity from Hawaii to California, as well as Hawaii to Guam, and key Asian destinations. We look forward not only to maximizing each of our strategic assets, but also to expanding our relationship to serve new markets already in the planning stages.”

— An RTI news release

UH expands global network capacity with RTI partnership

RAM Telecom International, Inc. (RTI) and the University of Hawaiʻi System has signed a multi-year, multimillion dollar IRU agreement to supply transpacific fiber system capacity to the university.

RTI will provide the capacity on the Southeast Asia-United States cable system (SEA-US). Upon its completion targeted for end of 2016, SEA-US will link five areas and territories including Oʻahu (Hawaiʻi), downtown Los Angeles (California), Piti (Guam), Manado (Indonesia) and Davao (Philippines). SEA-US is among the first transoceanic cables deploying 100 gigabits per second state-of-the-art ultra long haul optical fiber transmission technology.

UH President David Lassner said, “RTI will enable UH to significantly expand its global network capacity and enhance our connections with our national and international peers. This capacity is critical to ensure that our academic community can both lead and participate in international large scale, leading edge research and collaboration efforts.”

Russ Matulich, chief executive officer of RTI stated, “The University of Hawaiʻi has won numerous awards for excellence in research. RTI strongly supports research and development efforts in academia and we are excited that our 100G technology will contribute to UH’s ongoing success.”

Garret Yoshimi, vice president for information technology and chief information officer of UH added, “The increase in bandwidth to 100G technology provided by RTI will enable researchers and educators at UH to take the first steps towards participating in many new research and education efforts. These high capacity connections are critical to supporting UH’s effective leadership and participation in national and global science efforts that require very large datasets transported between computational and visualization nodes in real-time or near-real-time.”

In a recent PBN article, UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said, “Funding was provided by the Legislature a few years ago specifically to acquire capacity between Hawaii and the Mainland. We did a specialized and fully competitive procurement, and got to execute contracts in mid-2015. Our deal is a 25 year Indefeasible Right of Use contract at $5.9 million, although we encumbered the full $6 million for contingency.”

To view the full size SEA-US map, visit the TeleGeography Submarine Cable Map website.

SXTransPORT: Pacific Islands Research & Education Network

Welcome to the new site for the Pacific Islands Research and Education Network (PIREN: NSF Award Number 1451058). The PIREN project builds on the successful prior work of proven partners to support and expand the primary international research and education (R&E) network connections supporting global scientific collaborations involving U.S. researchers and students in the Pacific and Oceania.

The project has two main thrusts. First, it leverages prior NSF investments and mature international partnerships to maintain support for the current resilient production 2 x 40Gbps submarine fiber connections from Australia (AARNet) and New Zealand (REANNZ) to the U.S. and, in 2016, upgrades these connections to 2 x 100Gbps. Since the fiber connecting Australia and New Zealand passes through Hawaii, the project also connects one of the world’s most important international astronomy sites, Mauna Kea (Hawaii Island), as well as the international observatories on Haleakala (Maui).

The project leverages the trans-Pacific submarine fiber backbone to terminate and transport the connections at major U.S. open R&E network exchanges and hubs. Second, the project provides leadership in R&E network capacity building throughout the Pacific Islands, the region of the planet most on the front line of climate change and the last area of the world with no regional R&E network initiative. Intellectual merit and broader impact are reflected in this enabling role for international research collaborations in astronomy, oceanography, high energy physics, coral reef research and more.

Outreach into the Pacific Islands provides an unparalleled opportunity to engage Pacific Islanders, who are highly underrepresented in STEM fields, in a wide range of scientific research and education initiatives that are both appealing (astronomy) as well as of critical concern to their communities (oceanography, biodiversity coral reef health, and climate change).

Archived information for the Translight / Pacific Wave website is located at http://www.hawaii.edu/tlpw/.