Solekai Systems Forms 'Indie' Cable-Testing Lab


Orlando, Fla. -- Solekai Systems wants to become the go-to service for anyone who needs to test the interoperability of digital-video devices and applications.

San Diego-based Solekai, with about 150 employees, claims to be the largest “independent” engineering-services company specializing in digital-video-product design, implementation and testing.

Now the privately held company is specifically focusing on building out its testing services, with plans to open a 7,000-square-foot cable-testing facility in Boulder, Colo., sometime this summer.

Solekai’s Independent Test Lab will have 22 open benches and 13 private lab spaces. The company announced the formation of the lab here at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo 2007.

Solekai director of marketing Joe Matibag said the company's services orientation sets ITL apart from other systems-integration and testing outfits.

“We don’t have any [software] stacks,” he added. “We’re not biased toward any implementations … We are not trying to sell you any IP [intellectual property].”

Most third-party cable-development labs are associated with equipment vendors, such as Motorola’s Acadia labs in Lexington, Mass. Others include Itaas, which works closely with Scientific Atlanta, and Vidiom Systems, a subsidiary of set-top maker ADB.

As for Cable Television Laboratories, Matibag said, “They have great resources for certification, but what they don’t necessarily have is the people on staff to fix the problem and help with things like debugging code.”

Solekai’s Colorado location has 50 engineers who have worked for a range of companies, including Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Harmonic and Conexant Systems, Matibag said. The company, he added, has spent “in the significant six figures” building the lab, including the installation of Motorola and SA headends.

Why does Solekai seem to think there’s an opportunity for this kind of service now?

To hear Matibag tell it, the drive toward more interactive applications and open standards, like CableLabs’ OpenCable Application Platform, will increase the complexity of getting all of the pieces of the cable infrastructure to sing together in key.

“There’s going to be a new level of interoperability that the operators are going to need,” he said. “You can get certification -- that’s one thing -- but then you need interoperability to deploy things quickly.”

Solekai expects initial customers for the lab to be set-top-box makers, silicon developers, TV manufacturers and middleware vendors. In the future, Matibag expects interactive-TV-application developers and, eventually, cable operators to have an interest in the lab’s services.

Matibag declined to say whether Solekai has lined up any customers for the test lab. “There’s nothing we can announce,” he said. Solekai’s previous customers for design-consulting work included DirecTV, TiVo and chip makers AMD and Conexant.

The company was founded in 2003 by Martin Caniff, who previously led the digital-video practice at Doctor Design. That company was acquired in 1999 by Wind River Systems, an embedded-systems-software company.

Solekai's name, incidentally, is a compound of the Spanish “sol” (sun) and the Hawaiian “kai” (sea) -- a formulation that occurred to Caniff as he sat at a San Diego beachfront hamburger joint, according to Matibag. Plus, he added, “the domain name was available.”