HOBI Labs was founded in 1997 by Robert Maffione, Ph.D. (President & Chief Scientist), David Dana (Chief Engineer) and Nancy Alimonti (Chief Financial Officer).
HOBI Labs started with a dual mission of both sponsored research and instrument manufacturing. Initially most of this research, both by HOBI and by HOBI's customers, was sponsored by the U.S. Navy, and oriented toward basic physical oceanography, or detection and imaging of military targets. Gradually, other U.S. agencies such as NASA and NOAA, and many international organizations, adopted HOBI instruments for research in ecology, climate science and satellite remote sensing. As of 2013, the majority of HOBI's sales were outside the U.S.
HOBI's flagship product, the HydroScat-6, was the world's first commercial spectral optical backscattering sensor. The sensitivity and dynamic range of the HydroScat-6, and its siblings the HydroScat-4 and HydroScat-2, have never been matched, and indeed have improved over the years as advances in semiconductor technology provided better components. The HydroScats were also the first backscattering sensors that included the capability to simultaneously measure fluorescence. HydroScats have proven very hardy and reliable, with some of the first units built at the start of the company still in use today.
In 1999, HOBI Labs also introduced the a-Beta and c-Beta (known to us as the “Beta Boys”), unique instruments that measured both attenuation and backscattering, to support studies of visibility and laser system performance.
HOBI Labs's developments include not only water-property (so-called “IOP”) instruments, but also a unique line of hyperspectral radiometers, the HydroRads. First deployed 1999, the HydroRads are based on miniature fiber-optic spectrometers with very high spectral resolution, and modular optics and electronics enabling very versatile configurations. HydroRad systems have been deployed by divers, on moorings above and below water, in profiling systems, and on aircraft. Like the HydroScats, HydroRads have proven very reliable, with some units in active use at sea for well over a decade.