Honolulu innovation lab aims to help US win intelligence race against China

With tensions rising between the U.S. and China, defense experts are positioning Hawaii as a national security asset.
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 4:43 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2023 at 5:06 PM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With tensions rising between the U.S. and China, defense experts are positioning Hawaii as a national security asset.

Inside the Booz Allen Honolulu Innovation Lab in downtown, developers create virtual environments and test out solutions for clients, with less risk. Its biggest client is the U.S. Department of Defense and National Security.

“We’ve created these training applications for you know, maintenance, repair, but also for combat, for safety,” explained Vince Goldsmith, senior lead technologist for Booz Allen.

From immersive technology to artificial intelligence, cutting edge technology is key to getting an edge across the Indo-Pacific.

“For a lot of our clients, they don’t have a lot of funding, or they get it incrementally,” said Ed Barnabas, Booz Allen vice president, Indo Pacific CTO.

“And so they don’t have the luxury of getting it wrong. In fact, a lot of the solutions that are born out of labs 80% never make it into production. And so what our lab does is we’re able to incubate their problems, ideas on what the solution could be.”

The lab features devices like augmented reality headsets and self-driving vehicles designed to help people understand and engage with complex technologies and apply them to real world scenarios.

“We have adversaries that are in the region that are investing, they are looking at technology in a way to win what we call competition in the region,” Barnabas said.

“It’s very important that we look at how we’re staying ahead of our adversaries. And it’s not necessarily, we never want to be in a situation where in conflict, but we do want to feel like we’re winning in the great power competition, so that we can keep the Indo Pacific free and open.

And with renewed focus on surveillance balloons, defense experts say the race for power is a race for data and intelligence.

Aside from investing in labs like this, the industry is working to create a pipeline of talent and robust defense technology workforce ― and it starts with integrating more STEM curriculum into schools.

“There’s clearly demand that’s out there as more companies are coming here and and understand the importance of the state and its strategic position. Building that supply to meet that demand is what we’re doing,” said Michael Collat, Hawaii FIRST Robotics Competition regional director.

It’s one way Hawaii is helping the U.S. win a race some say it can’t afford to lose.