Former Hewlett Packard executive using experience to grow Fargo Packet Digital
Name: Dan Olsen
Position: Vice president of sales and marketing for Packet Digital, a Fargo-based company that designs computer chips to improve power efficiency and reduce energy output.
His story: Moorhead native and North Dakota State University grad Dan Olsen said he felt like he had won the lottery when he landed a job at Hewlett-Packard in 1994.
Over the next 20 years, he did everything from electrical engineering to software engineering, program management, international business development, sales and marketing.
Now Olsen is ready to use that experience to help grow Packet Digital into a company well-known in Silicon Valley and across the world.
“The technology, expertise and products we have are so compelling, and we are really focused on solving some of the big problems in the world today around power consumption and carbon emissions,” Olsen said.
There are many applications for Packet Digital technology, but Olsen said he plans to initially focus on the areas of data centers, unmanned aerial vehicles and mobile technology companies.
“My job is to take complex technology and sell it or explain it in a way that people can understand,” Olsen said.
A data center is accessed every time a person visits sites like Google or Amazon from a computer, tablet or smartphone. Olsen described them as giant Wal-Marts where all of the shelves are filled with computers.
“A data center consumes as much electricity as a medium-sized town,” Olsen said. “All those computers are consuming power, and all that power ultimately generates heat. Now you need to cool them, so it also takes power to run giant air conditioners to cool the building. … There is lots of power being spent there. It’s very expensive, and the carbon footprint is very significant.”
Computers with Packet Digital’s intelligent voltage regulator chips run more efficiently, so the same amount of work can be done with less electricity, less heat and less carbon footprint. Olsen said data centers that use Packet Digital technology can save up to several million dollars per year in electrical costs.
Also exciting to Olsen is Packet Digital’s partnership with the Naval Research Lab to produce unmanned aerial vehicles capable of flying nonstop for days on solar power.
He said Packet Digital is developing the battery and power management system to take electricity from solar panels on the wings during the day to power the on-board systems and charge the battery so it has the power to keep going at night.
“We’re really on the cutting edge of power management technology,” Olsen said. “It’s not just about heat and cost of power, but about reducing carbon footprint and enabling whole new capabilities that could never be done before.”
Olsen said many people’s biggest gripe about mobile devices is that the battery charge does not last long enough.
“Wouldn’t it be great if your phone lasted two days on a charge? Alternatively, if you’re satisfied with the battery life, wouldn’t it be better if it was thinner?” Olsen asked.
He said Packet Digital chips and technology can improve the efficiency of memory chips in mobile devices, meaning the battery will last longer. Packet Digital technology will also allow smaller batteries to achieve the same charge, so smartphones, tablets and notebook computers can be made even thinner.