May 8, 2013
Host: Ted Simons
AZ Technology & Innovation: Athena Wireless
- Athena Wireless is a manufacturer of high capacity wireless connectivity systems that give fiber-like speeds without the fiber. The company’s radio systems are about the size and shape of a stereo speaker. Athena Wireless is the first company to be born at the AZ TechCelerator incubator in Surprise, and is currently located in the city. It was founded by Eduardo Tinoco and Terry McManus. Tinoco will talk about his company’s innovative wireless connection system.
- Eduardo Tinoco - Founder, Athena Wireless
| Keywords: AZ
, athena wireless
Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at Athena Wireless, a manufacturer of high capacity wireless connectivity systems. Athena Wireless is the first company to come out of the AZtech-celerator incubator in Surprise. Joining me now is Athena Wireless co-founder Eduardo Tinoco. High capacity, wireless connectivity systems… what are we talking about here?
Eduardo Tinoco: So we're talking for a way to transport fiber-like connectivity using a very high frequency. In this case millimeter wave. 60 gigahertz, and 80 gigahertz.
Ted Simons: It's basically high frequency radio devices connecting signals?
Eduardo Tinoco: The best way to describe, when you need to connect two points, A and B, you have one of many ways to do it. One of the most expensive ways that we're using today is using fiber. So you get a machine that makes a hole and you put fiber into it. We have a way to do that using a very high frequency device at 60 and 80 gigahertz and we provide the same connectivity as if you have done it with fiber but you do it over the air.
Ted Simons: No trenching. No digging.
Eduardo Tinoco: No cost, no time delay. Fiber connectivity in Downtown Phoenix it will take you two, three months to get permits, two, three months to do it. For us it takes couple hours and you have fiber like speeds.
Ted Simons: How do you get the speeds without the fine center.
Eduardo Tinoco: By having a very high frequency element with a lot of band width you can modulate that device to emulate the capacity of the fiber.
Ted Simons: How much is needed and are there finite spaces available for this kinds of connectivity?
Eduardo Tinoco: There are. So today we commercialize a product that can do 1,000 megahertz per second. In the lab we have been able to go up to 10,000 per second. To give you an example we can probably route 70,000 calls through it. That's a sample of the capacity.
Eduardo Tinoco: Are your customers so far for this?
Eduardo Tinoco: 80% of our devices sell in Europe, primarily in Germany. We also do a lot of sales in the U.K. and some of it in the U.S. Customers are carriers, AT&T, Verizon wireless.
Ted Simons: I guess maybe municipalities that don't want to dig trenches.
Eduardo Tinoco: Hospitals. Places like that.
Ted Simons: What got you started?
Eduardo Tinoco: Well, I have been doing a lot of research to this matter. I was just looking at me website before the show to make sure I was repeating the same thing. It says 12 years of experience. I thought, boy, that went by fast. We have been doing this over 16 years now.
Ted Simons: As far as your business I know this tech-celerator deal in Surprise kind of got you guys started. Talk about that relationship. You're still in Surprise?
Eduardo Tinoco: Yes. We relocated from San Jose, California. A group of guys and myself, we're 18 employees. When we initiated this dream four years ago, we went and raised some capital and we said now let’s finds an incubator that understands the need for growth. That's how we found the city of Surprise. Truth be told I didn't know about a city named surprise until I flew into Phoenix, met the mayor and we told him the dream. They told us about this incubator being a municipality based incubator, which made it very attractive for us.
Ted Simons: Is it a nonprofit incubator?
Eduardo Tinoco: I don’t know if it’s nonprofit, but their goal is for us to keep hiring people instead of increasing rent.
Ted Simons: To keep you in Surprise?
Eduardo Tinoco: Yes. They would like to make the mecca of our technology surprise.
Ted Simons: How many do you employ?
Eduardo Tinoco: 18.
Ted Simons: You mentioned that. How many more expected?
Eduardo Tinoco: We would like to get to about 65.
Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing where you would like to stay based in the west valley? Wind up going back to San Jose? What's the future?
Eduardo Tinoco: We would like to make this the mecca. Technology such as these will most likely need to have multiple locations. Maybe we'll need an office in Europe, one in Asia. We see the need for these type of technology in those locations.
Ted Simons: The product you have now I think was the 60 and 80 . I notice you had a little pixie as well for cellphones. What's that all about?
Eduardo Tinoco: When we're designing technology we're looking into multiple elements. Typically the question is what next. What we did is we took a traditional microwave and made it digital. We made it small. We looked into traditional base stations, cellular towers where we make phone calls. If you look at one of those stations typically they are very expensive, very heavy. So our goal, our objective with pixie is to digitize, reduce the size, reduce the cost and emulate that with our product.
Ted Simons: It's basically a small tower.
Eduardo Tinoco: Yes. Exactly, it’s a small tower.
Ted Simons: That's coming out when?
Eduardo Tinoco: Well, we are going to do some demos in the next few weeks. We realistically think the product is about six months out to begin.
Ted Simons: You're doing great work. Congratulations on your success and continued success.
Eduardo Tinoco: Thank you.
Biomimicry and Janine Benyus
- Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature that is used to create a healthier, more sustainable planet. One example is solar cells that mimic leaves. Another is paint that mimics leaf surfaces to be self-cleaning with just water. Janine Benyus co-founded the world’s first bio-inspired consultancy, which has done work for more than 250 clients. Benyus will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa for her groundbreaking work specializing in biomimicry at the Arizona State University undergraduate commencement ceremony May 9. She will appear on Arizona Horizon to talk about biomimicry and her work.
| Keywords: science
, janine benyus
Ted Simons: Biomimicry is an emerging discipline that looks at nature to inspire technological innovation. Janine Benyus has written six books on the topic and will receive an honorary degree for her work tomorrow. We welcome Janine Benyus to "Arizona Horizon." Good to have you here.
Janine Benyus: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Give me a better definition of biomimicry.
Janine Benyus: Innovation inspired by nature. It's a new field in which biologists sit with the people who make our world. Engineer, for instance, the engineer says, I want to design a new desalination membrane. Biologist says here's how nature takes salt out of water, describes kidneys and the glands of sea birds and fish, all the ways nature takes salt out of water. The engineer says, that's amazing and mimics it. It's literally looking to the natural world for more sustainable ways to do things.
Ted Simons: I think something that immediately comes to mind is leaves and solar cells. Maybe a connection there. I can't imagine anything better as far as photosynthesis than leaves.
Janine Benyus: That's what made me write the book in ‘97. I read solar cells were not based on leaves. They weren't based on photosynthesis. That seemed crazy for me. For 3.8 billion years life has been perfecting that. The first chapter in the book is on research at Arizona State University where they are consciously trying to emulate photosynthesis to create solar cells that can actually go all the way and take sunlight and turn it into fuel, say.
So it sounds like it's back to nature with the healthy dose of technology.
Janine Benyus: Definitely. Definitely. It's literally looking at the design principle. For instance we have problems with bacterial resistance. Superbugs in hospitals. The Galapagos shark, you look in the natural world this shark has no bacteria on its surface. You look at it and say how is that working? It's a structure on its skin. There's a company making these Nano ridges in sort of a contact paper for hospital railings and doorknobs that rappels bacteria. It's just uncomfortable for them. They don't harvest the shark or make it out of shark skin. They literally take the blueprint and make it out of whatever material we need to use.
Ted Simons: Maybe as a launch to address that particular issue. You can probably get as close to the original as you can, though.
Janine Benyus: Well, that's the key thing. If you take biomimicry beyond form you start to say, how does nature manufacture? Chemically it's very different than what we do. If you're making -- if a spider makes a web, a silk, very, very high-tech material, it doesn't heat it up. It doesn't put it in toxic solvents. It does chemistry at low temperatures in water. So the chemistry how you make it, if you get as close as that you get a miracle material, but you also save up all that energy and toxins.
Ted Simons: Is biomimicry more research and academia now as opposed to practical use?
Janine Benyus: I have been following the field since the book came out in ‘97, I have been following it since ‘90. It was mostly in academia before I wrote the book. After I wrote the book the phone started ringing, G.E., Boeing, Proctor and Gamble, people calling saying, can you bring some biologists over? We started a company called Biomimicry 3.8, for 3.8 billion years of experience. We have consulting biology I was who sit with industry. It's very much moved now. Biomedical products are doubling every year now.
Ted Simons: When G.E., Boeing, General Mills, when they call what do they want to know?
Janine Benyus: Well, they have us come in. We sign a nondisclosure agreement. They basically tell us, look, there are some very toxic things we're doing. This is where we want to change, become more sustainable in this particular area. Can you help us? So they might ask, how does nature repel water without using Teflon? How does nature do fire retardants without using brominated compounds. How does nature create color without toxic pigments? The color is great. You know peacocks? There's only the color brown in a peacock. All of those colors are created through transparent layers of carotene like your fingernails play with light. The light goes through and bounces back from the structure to create blue, yellow or Green. It's four time brighter than pigment and never fades. Companies like Sherwin Williams are saying, maybe we won't use pigments. Maybe we'll use transparent layers. Maybe your next car will have transparent layers on it that create the color you want.
Ted Simons: It sounds like herbal medicine, taking ancient ideas and saying there are some ideas that actually can work. Maybe not in a strict form, but pay attention because there's something there.
Janine Benyus: Here's the deal. These technologies evolved in the same context as we have now, which is organisms don't have much energy to work with so they are really low energy. They have to use local materials. They can't use toxins. They will destroy their habitat. At a time when we're actually trying to do thing in ways that don't degrade the planet, the best source of ideas are systems that have evolved over long periods of time to actually enhance the places they live.
Ted Simons: When you wrote the book in ‘97, were you at X in this, now you're at Y? What has changed? '97 was quite a while ago and this sounds like something that could be changing quickly.
Janine Benyus: It's an amazing thing. I won the national design award this year at the Smithsonian for -- what it was -- I won the design award that says this has a paradigm shifting effect on all design, and that means architecture, landscape architecture, industrial product design this. Idea among the people who make our world, the chemists and engineers and architects, has taken off to the point where most companies today are looking at their innovation, design tables saying, we need a biologist there. It's gotten that much of a methodology. Our company started a long time ago and we realized here's this emerging discipline. Our goal was to have a biologist at every design table. That is starting to happen.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, what's next for biomimicry? What can we look for as far as the Frontier is concerned?
I really think that two things. I think that we're going to -- biomimicry is going to be very helpful in taking carbon dioxide, which we have a lot of right now, turning it into stuff. Plants take CO2 and turn it into sugars and starches. It's already being used, people are capturing CO2 from smokestacks, using the recipe from the coral reef, from corals to create a concrete that sequesters CO2. It has a building block and a company is taking CO2 and turning it into bio degradable plastic. Half the plastic. Imagine packaging half by weight being CO2.
Ted Simons: Watch for the toxicity of something like that. You don't want it creeping out of the sidewalk or out of the plastic.
Janine Benyus: That's right. Well, CO2 is what we breathe out, but especially with that concrete that's sequestering CO over long periods of time in buildings. Makes a lot more sense than pumping it underground.
Ted Simons: Congratulations on your honor from ASU. That has to be a thrill for you.
Janine Benyus: It is.
Ted Simons: It sounds like ASU is kinds of in the forefront of this stuff.
Janine Benyus: They are looking into creating a center for biomimicry and sustainable design.
Ted Simons: Wow.
Janine Benyus: That's a conversation I'm having tomorrow.
Ted Simons: I was going to say, I know who they could talk to. Thanks for joining us.
Janine Benyus: Thanks, Ted.
- A reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times discusses the latest news from the state legislature.
| Keywords: legislative
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. How much progress is being made on the question of accepting federal funds for expanding Arizona's Medicaid program? Is any progress being made? We turn to Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Good to see you. Give us an update.
Jim Small: I think you're not seeing a whole lot of progress but behind the scenes we keep hearing that the votes are definitely there in the Senate for whenever this goes to the floor they will have the votes in the Senate. In the house more people say they have the roads than that they don't but that one is still up in the air. While there seems to be a path to getting to the floor in the Senate which is Republicans siding with Democrats to use procedural moves to override Senate president Andy Biggs. There's an attempt to try to find a way to convince House Speaker Andy Tobin to get this to the floor. So I think there's a lot of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes in terms of what needs -- what does the governor's office need to give up in terms of policy on this issue or other issues to allow this to happen. I suspect we'll see more coming up this next week. I'm hearing some rumblings that perhaps in the next week or two we may see some forward movement on this in one way or another.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Reports out of the Arizona Capitol Times where the governor may be working on individual lawmakers.
Jim Small: There were some meetings she had couple weeks ago she called up small groups of lawmakers, some who were on the fence, some really perceived to be opponents. It was essentially a two to three hour meeting where they sat down with the governor with her chief of staff, with all of her top policy advisors on this health care issue and the director of AHCCCS was in the room. Her budget folks were in the room. They basically went through, “Here's how we got to our decision. Here's why we made the decision we made. What kind of questions do you have?” It was essentially a robust Q and A with the governor's office trying to defend their decision to push for the expansion and get this federal money.
Ted Simons: Just to reiterate here, we're talking about expanding those who would be covered by Medicaid to up to 133% of the poverty level. That would kick in massive federal funding matches. You don't do that expansion and what happens?
Jim Small: If you don't the state is left with a couple options. During the tight of the budget process we put a freeze on childless adult enrollment which is something approved by the voters more than a decade ago. The federal government said they will still continue to give us matching dollars, two for every one we spend on that population. At the end of the year the federal government has indicated that will go away, if we do not restore that entire population, 150,000 people that have been removed, the state won't get matching funds so we have to pay for it out of the state's pocket.
Ted Simons: You have that so again the governor and those who look at the matching funds if you go up to 133% of the poverty level, which raises this, means more people covered, paying for it by way of a hospital assessment so not much out of the general fund, what is the argument against this? We have done programs on this. I understand the philosophical kind of aspect. But in the real world, that seems like a tough thing to argue against.
Jim Small: The biggest is that it's an unsustainable federal program that federal government is promising all this money now but in three years it will evaporate. The federal government is committed to paying this enhanced matching funds through 2016. When that money goes away the state is going to be left holding the bag is their argument. We have added, say, 300,000 or 400,000 people on to AHCCCS and the government says all that money is going away. We're going back to the 2-1 match. The state will have billions of dollars that -- a billion that it will have to come up with or face kicking a quarter of a million or more people off AHCCCS.
Ted Simons: Yet the governor's proposal calls for a circuit breaker if they don't match 80% of what they are supposed to do.
Jim Small: Correct 80%. Right now the match is about 90%. If it drops off more than that, the way she's proposed designing this is that it would go away. Arizona would opt out of the program, would no longer be beholden to this program.
Jim Small: So you're thinking that again Democrats are -- we have talked about this as well. There seems to be a hint that abortion language could muck things up if you will. What's this all about?
Jim Small: This is an issue that Pro-life advocates raised, they didn't like the idea min would go to Planned Parenthood. It also does a wide range of other health services for women. Some of the patients are Medicaid patients. It stands to reason they would get more money, probably have more patients because of this expansion. So they have looked, raised the specter that is essentially indirectly funding abortions. In turn the governor's office has worked with them to try to find if there's some language they can put in to kind of soothe their concerns, but it becomes difficult because a law passed last year basically said, aimed at Planned Parenthood, said they can't receive any Medicaid money and the courts blocked that saying it's against federal law. Politically if the governor moves forward with this there are some Democrats who say even though we don't think it will have a practical effect we can't in good conscience sign off on it. So you’re looking at two, three, four, five democrats falling off. When you talk these narrow margins, that becomes a problem.
Ted Simons: The goal posts move again. Before you go, a judge ruled on a casino in unincorporated land in Glendale and once again we have a court ruling that seems to side with the tribe that it's okay to build the casino.
Jim Small: Yet another ruling where the courts have said that according to the federal law the way this is set up and the way the Arizona gaming compact was set up the tribe can use this land for a casino even though it wasn't tribal land when the gaming compact was passed in 2000.
Ted Simons: Basically the state and two other tribes are arguing that there was an agreement. We won't build any more of these in the Phoenix metro area. But the judge said that's an agreement, not in the compact.
Jim Small: The judge said even if they did acknowledge it at the time they are a sovereign nation. I don't have the ability to say you need to keep your word.
Ted Simons: So is this still moving through the courts?
Jim Small: I think it is.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.