Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

Fairfax County Implements New COVID-19 Call Center — The health department says the new center will enable the county to “better meet the needs of our residents during the upcoming transition to Phase 2 and beyond.” Wait times may be prolonged this week as the department resolves issues with the new system and trains more call agents. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Virginia Investigates Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Death — Health officials stated yesterday that one of the six U.S. cases of a person developing blood clots after receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine appears to involve a Virginia resident who died in mid-March. Use of the vaccine has been paused throughout the country as the cases are under review. [Patch]

“Hamilton” Returning to the Kennedy Center — “The Kennedy Center announced on Tuesday its theater lineup for the upcoming season, which will include performances of Hamilton, Jersey Boys, and Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird. Theater curtains will first raise on October 13 for a staging of Tony-winner Hadestown, a return to live theater that may cause musical buffs to break out into a chorus line.” [Washingtonian]

Tysons Company Provides Air Monitoring to D.C. SchoolsSenseware has installed its air monitoring data platform in D.C.’s 112 public schools. The Tysons-based software developer says its technology can detect the presence of COVID-19 particles and help users monitor air quality to reduce the risk of viral transmission. [PR Newswire]

Vienna Coffee Shop Donates Beans to Food Bank — “Donating bags of our coffee beans to @foodforothers! Here at Caffe Amouri, we believe in giving back to our community that shows up for us every day. Thank you @foodforothers for letting us be apart of your mission” [Caffe Amouri/Twitter]

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The Tysons telecommunications startup Omnispace is working with Lockheed Martin to develop a 5G network that will utilize both satellites and existing land-based cell towers to provide wireless service around the world.

The two companies announced on Tuesday (March 23) that they have entered into a “strategic interest agreement” to cooperate on turning Omnispace’s vision of a hybrid global communications network into a reality.

“The proposed global 5G standards-based non-terrestrial network (NTN) would offer commercial, enterprise and government devices ubiquitous communications worldwide,” Omnispace said in the press release. “This type of network has the potential to redefine mobile communications, benefiting users requiring true mobility, regardless of environment or location.”

Brian Pemberton, Omnispace’s vice president of sales and marketing, says Lockheed Martin was one of several companies that the startup approached while looking for possible satellite suppliers, but as the discussions continued, they saw potential for a more ambitious partnership.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., with an office in Dunn Loring, Lockheed Martin is an aerospace and technology company that primarily works as a government contractor for the U.S. military and various federal agencies. In contrast, Omnispace has a more commercial bent, focusing on individual consumers and businesses.

The new agreement commits the companies to combining their different perspectives and resources to support a shared goal.

“We had a very common vision…around the value and utility that a global 5G network can provide,” Pemberton said. “So, our conversations evolved rather quickly from one of vendor-supplier to much more of a collaborative approach.”

The actual launch of a working 5G network in space remains mostly theoretical right now.

Pemberton says Omnispace is aiming for a 2023 timeframe for when it hopes to initially deploy a 5G platform. That would align with when he expects prototype mobile devices to become available as international standards for how 5G devices and networks will interact with each other are established.

However, the need for a more efficient and expansive wireless communications system has become increasingly apparent over the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many activities — from school and office work to grocery shopping and social gatherings — into the digital realm.

According to Pemberton, the global wireless network envisioned by Omnispace could help eliminate dead zones and provide more resiliency, since satellites would not be affected by terrain or natural disasters like service providers on land.

As an example of how the technology could be applied, he cites the challenges presented by worldwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Reliable, continuous wireless coverage could enhance government and medical providers’ ability to track shipments and monitor environmental conditions to ensure the vaccines are stored properly, he argues.

“That’s just one microcosm that obviously resonates with a lot of people today, but you can extrapolate that to food transportation and other types of goods and just think about the global supply chain in general for all kinds of industries,” Pemberton said.

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Victory came in different forms for the winners of Fairfax County’s first-ever Smart City Challenge.

Organized by the nonprofit Smart City Works and the McLean-based technology hub Refraction, the month-long virtual competition asked participants to develop projects that use innovative technology to address societal issues, such as housing, education, public health, and broadband access.

The challenge launched on Jan. 23 and concluded last Thursday (Feb. 25) with a live event where 11 finalist teams pitched their projects to a panel of judges that selected winners based on the innovation, impact, equity, and feasibility of their ideas.

The six judges, including Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Refraction CEO Esther Lee, ultimately named five winners of the overall competition:

  • Autonomous Incident Response System: an incident response system that uses 911 geolocation and drones to improve public safety response times and reduce uses of force and casualties
  • Databuoy: a gunfire detection system integrated with drones to decrease law enforcement response times to shooting incidents
  • TRAXyL: optical fiber “painted” onto existing pavement to deliver high-speed broadband services
  • VIA: an artificial intelligence assistant that guides people with vision loss
  • Haven (student team): a wastewater analysis system that uses data to improve nutrition and address food insecurity

According to a press release, the winning teams each received $12,000 in cash, $10,000 in Amazon Web Services credits, seven months of free membership at Refraction, and free access to entrepreneurship programs at George Mason University.

VIA and Haven also won the two People’s Awards, which were voted on by the audience. Haven won a third award from Smart City Works, which invited the student team and the cybersecurity team Onclave Networks to participate in its accelerator program.

In addition, Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax are planning to pursue pilot projects with two teams each.

Alcorn announced on Thursday that the county will work with KnishKits, an online marketplace that lets local businesses reach customers directly without having to pay a third-party platform, and History Through AR, which was not one of the finalist teams.

Pitched by the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, History Through AR utilizes augmented reality technology as a tool for historical tourism. The team is specifically interested in telling the story of West Ford, a freed slave who founded Gum Springs, the oldest African American community in Fairfax County.

Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives Director Rebecca Moudry says Knish Kits stood out as an option to assist businesses as they try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the county is “exploring possibilities” with History Through AR to raise awareness and enhance access to local historical sites.

“Fairfax County is excited to continue to build on the success of the Smart Cities challenge,” Moudry said in a statement. “We are so impressed with the talent and ideas that have come forward that we want to capture some of that entrepreneurial lightning.”

Fairfax City selected Engage ARt and the student team WISE Cities as its pilot project winners.

According to Lee, the challenge drew about 500 participants, either as competitors or as attendees of the eight online panels held throughout the past month.

“The inaugural Smart City Challenge has proven that we have great innovative minds in our region working on the most pressing challenges in our communities,” Lee said. “We were overwhelmed by the many creative and powerful solutions we received…We can’t wait to host an even more impactful Challenge next year.”

Full descriptions of the Smart City Challenge winners and their submitted video pitches can be found on the initiative’s website.

Image via Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation/YouTube

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11 finalists have emerged from the 45 teams that joined Fairfax County’s inaugural Smart City Challenge, a virtual “hackathon” where participants developed projects that utilize technology to address societal issues.

However, the advancing teams will have to wait a little longer than expected to vie for the competition’s top prizes, which include more than $350,000 in cash and in-kind prizes as well as the chance to work on a pilot project for Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax.

Shortly after releasing the list of finalists, organizers Smart City Works and the McLean-based Refraction announced yesterday (Wednesday) that the concluding event — where the finalists will pitch their ideas live to a panel of judges — and subsequent awards ceremony have been postponed by a week to Feb. 25 due to weather concerns.

“The National Weather Service is forecasting a winter storm in the greater Washington, DC region tomorrow with power outages ‘likely.’  If even one team is unable to pitch due to a power outage, it would be unfair,” the Smart City Challenge team said in a message to participants.

The organizers say they decided to delay the finale, which was scheduled to take place today from 6-8:30 p.m., after consulting with their partners on the challenge, a group that includes the utility Dominion Energy and Fairfax County.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay are among the speakers scheduled for the event, which remains open for registration.

The Smart City Challenge kicked off on Jan. 23. In addition to the competition, it featured different virtual panels on topics like sustainability and housing that were open to the general public.

“The Smart City Challenge is the perfect opportunity to tap bright minds to improve the lives of everyone in the Washington, DC area through technology, innovation, and problem-solving,” Refraction CEO Esther Lee said. “We are excited to bring together forward-thinking businesses, entrepreneurs, universities, government, and nonprofits to showcase collaboration and thought leadership.”

The competition finalists will be evaluated based on innovation, impact, practicality, and equity by a panel of six judges, including Lee, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, and Smart City Works Venture Labs CEO David Heyman.

The finalist teams are listed below, along with their proposed projects: Read More

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A proposal to build a wireless communications tower next to a fire station in Vienna is about get a vote of confidence from the McLean Citizens Association.

The unofficial town council of McLean will discuss a resolution supporting the project when its board of directors meets at 7:30 tonight (Wednesday).

“The Application is consistent with and furthers the goals and objectives of the [Fairfax County] Comprehensive Plan, and will provide improved communication services without undue impact on the surrounding community,” a draft of the proposed MCA resolution says.

The Reston-based cell tower developer Milestone Communications submitted plans to Fairfax County in October for a wireless tower on the Wolf Trap Fire Station site at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Beulah Road.

According to Milestone’s plans, the tower will consist of a 114-foot-tall pole with antennas, topped by a two-foot lightning rod, and it will be surrounded by an eight-foot-tall chain link fence. The facility is expected to occupy 2,500 square feet within the 11.5-acre site, which is owned by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Milestone says all existing structures and open space will be preserved, and the impact of the unmanned facility on neighboring properties will be minimal, noting that the structure will be screened by existing trees.

“There will be no noise or fumes emitted and only 1-2 maintenance vehicle visit sper month maximum,” the plan submitted to Fairfax County says.

The tower will be initially outfitted with Verizon wireless cables and antennas, though designs show that it will be able to accommodate at least four more wireless carriers in the future.

In order to pursue the project, Milestone has asked Fairfax County to grant a special exception and a proffer condition amendment to permit telecommunications facilities on the site, which is zoned for low-density residential use.

The project also has to be approved through the county’s 2232 review process, which determines whether proposals for public facilities are in accordance with the county’s comprehensive plan.

The MCA board of directors notes in its draft resolution that Milestone held a virtual town hall to present the project to the community and has agreed to provide additional buffering to further minimize the visual impact in response to community comments.

MCA says it supports the Milestone tower because it will “improve the cell phone capacity and coverage levels in the areas surrounding the property and would also work with existing neighboring Verizon sites to handoff signals for wireless transmission of voice and data.”

“This will improve customer service including Internet connectivity speed and voice connectivity, resolve customer complaints in the area, and help address increasing demand for quality wireless service so that the service does not further degrade,” the MCA resolution says.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Milestone tower on May 12, and a hearing before the Board of Supervisors has been scheduled for June 8.

Images via Google Maps, Milestone Communications

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Vienna Town Councilmembers Announce Reelection Bids — Howard Springsteen, a 12-year veteran of the council, and newcomers Steve Potter and Nisha Patel announced earlier this week that they will seek reelection on May 4, though no candidates have formally filed paperwork yet. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

CVS to Offer COVID-19 Vaccine in Virginia — “CVS plans to offer COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting Feb. 11 at select locations in Virginia for people eligible in phases 1a and 1b…According to a CVS spokesperson, the list of specific stores for vaccines will be provided on the CVS website as stores receive shipments and appointments become available.” [Patch]

Police Charge Maryland Man for Using Stolen Identities to Buy Cars — “Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau charged Nickolas Mathis, 36, of Maryland, with multiple felony offenses following a serial crime spree involving the fraudulent purchases of several automobiles at dealerships in Fairfax, Tysons and Chantilly.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

Tysons Start-Up Seeks to Create 5G Network — “Tysons satellite communications company Omnispace LLC has raised $60 million in fresh funding…The startup, founded in 2012, aims to create seamless 5G connectivity to companies that operate across urban and more rural areas across the world.” [Washington Business Journal]

Virginia Senate Passes Bill Requiring Schools to Have In-Person and Virtual Learning Options — “Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, a co-sponsor of the measure, said the nearly yearlong stretch of remote learning has frustrated families, including his own, and threatened the loss of a generation of students.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

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Updated on 2/4/2021 — Bards Alley in Vienna has canceled today’s Teacher Tuesday browsing hours due to continued snow, but the event is still scheduled to be held on other Tuesdays this month.

The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (Feb. 2)

  • Online Preschool Story Time (Online) — 10:30-11 a.m. — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library hosts a story time with stories, songs, and rhymes aimed at kids 5 and under. The event will stream live on the library’s Facebook page.
  • Teacher Tuesdays — 6-8 p.m. at Bards Alley (110 Church St.) — Throughout February, Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna is reserving browsing hours exclusively for educators, who can use the time to spend holiday gift cards and stock up their classroom libraries “in anticipation of the (theoretical?) return of in-person teaching.”

Wednesday (Feb. 3)

  • Space Innovation (Online) — 9-10:35 a.m. — This is the second installment of a three-part series on air and space technology hosted by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. NASA Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Kathryn Lueders will deliver the keynote speech after a panel discussion on new technology with space applications. Registration is required to get a link to the event, but it is free.

Thursday (Feb. 4)

  • A Night of Mentalism (Online) — 8 p.m. — Members of The Tower Club Tysons Corner can watch mentalist Michael Gutenplan perform a variety of magic tricks in this family-friendly show. Register in advance for the Zoom event.

Friday (Feb. 5)

  • Meet the Mayor — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Simply Social Coffee (260 Cedar Lane) — Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert will hold her monthly “office hours” for residents to chat or share their questions and concerns at Simply Social Coffee in the newly renovated Cedar Park Shopping Center.
  • Front Row: Gloria Chien (Online) — 7:30 p.m. — The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts presents a virtual performance at The Barns by pianist Gloria Chien as part of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s “Front Row” streaming concert series. The program features pieces by John Field, Franz Liszt, and Felix Mendelssohn and will be followed by a Q&A. A link to stream the concert will be available until midnight on Feb. 12.
  • Moose Jaw — 7:30 at Jammin Java (227 Maple Ave. E) — The outlaw country/bluesgrass band Moose Jaw performs an indoor but socially distanced concert at Jammin Java in Vienna. Tickets are free, but donations are encouraged, and tables have a two-item minimum purchase.

Saturday (Feb. 6)

  • The University of Wonder and Imagination (Online) — 11 a.m.-5 p.m. — The McLean Community Center is offering live-broadcast, interactive magic shows by the children’s theater company Cahoots NI. A limited number of tickets are available to each of the performances, which start every half hour and are 60 minutes in length. There will also be shows on Feb. 8. Purchase tickets at least two hours in advance through The Alden.

Sunday (Feb. 7)

  • McLean Uncorked: Part 3 (Online) — 5-6 p.m. — Get a head start on Valentine’s Day with this virtual wine tasting and food pairing event from the McLean Community Center. The wines selections are currently available from Balducci’s (6655 Old Dominion Dr), and prepared cheeseboards can be preordered for pick-up starting on Feb. 4. Register in advance through MCC to get a discounted $55 price on the wines. Questions and preorders can be sent to John Coleman at [email protected]

Photo via NASA on Unsplash

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(Updated at 11:55 p.m.) More than 100 people have signed up to compete in Virginia’s inaugural Smart City Challenge, and organizers expect more to join in the coming weeks.

The proceedings kicked off on Saturday (Jan. 23) with remarks from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and panel discussions on how technology could be used to address societal challenges, from COVID-19 and natural disasters to the availability of healthy food and efficiency of traffic lights.

The month-long competition will conclude on Feb. 18 when participants pitch projects designed to improve modern communities by tackling issues in housing, transportation, health, education, and other sectors.

People can also register for virtual discussions on topics like female leaders in innovation and the future of housing, even if they are not taking part in the competition.

“I can’t wait to see the impactful solutions that come out of the Smart City Challenge,” Northam said. “In fact, I hope we can implement some of them right here in our Commonwealth to create high-paying jobs and advance equitable and inclusive opportunities for all Virginians.”

Spearheaded by the nonprofit accelerator Smart City Works and McLean coworking hub Refraction, the 2021 Smart City Challenge is part of Virginia’s efforts to position itself as a leader in the development of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and other kinds of “smart” technology.

According to Refraction CEO Esther Lee, who briefly served as Virginia’s commerce secretary under Northam, Virginia Tech’s plans to build an innovation campus in Alexandria helped draw Amazon to Northern Virginia.

In addition, the Herndon-based Center for Innovative Technology has teamed up with Stafford County to establish a Smart Community Testbed that Northam says will enable Virginia to deploy technology ranging from wildfire-detecting sensors to a WiFi-equipped park in Fredericksburg.

Given the amount of construction and traffic in the area, Tysons could be another prime location to experiment with smart technology, particularly when it comes to climate and energy efficiency issues, MITRE Labs Senior Vice President, General Manager, and Chief Futurist Charles Clancy says.

Headquartered in McLean, MITRE is a sponsor of the Smart City Challenge, along with Fairfax County, Dominion Energy, and several other local governments, businesses, and educational institutions. The company will host a discussion about resilence and sustainability on Feb. 12, and Clancy spoke on one of the panels for the kick-off.

“How can smart city technology…further reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions, particularly in an environment where, post-pandemic, we expect upwards of 50% of employees to not be in the office every day, all day?” Clancy said. “…Tysons is a great playground to experiment with that, given the density of office space and, of course, mixed-use [development]. It’s a microcosm of all those issues in one.” Read More

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Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and 25 other technology companies will be represented at a virtual career fair hosted by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority on Thursday (Jan. 28).

The Cyber and Cloud Virtual Career Fair will focus on the information technology, cyber, and cloud industries. Participation is free of charge for job seekers, and the FCEDA is encouraging professionals of all experience levels to attend. People with security clearances are especially in demand, though that is not a required qualification.

“Our region is a top cyber and cloud hub and there has never been a better time to land a job in this industry because of the thousands of open jobs here,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said in a press release. “We are proud to be working with such a diverse group of companies that are letting us help them cast a wide net to find the right talent to fill these jobs and keep our networks, businesses, agencies and people secure.”

This is the latest in a series of job fairs that the FCEDA has been organizing throughout the past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous events included fairs focused on hiring and reskilling, and women in technology.

According to the FCEDA, the first three job fairs in the series “collectively attracted over 2,100 attendees and resulted in 3,100 completed conversations between job seekers and hiring reps from a wide range of employers.”

The tech industry is expected to grow rapidly in Fairfax County in the coming years. About half of the more than 86,000 open jobs on the FCEDA’s job board are in technology fields, and the D.C. area is projected to add more than 130,000 tech jobs within the next five years.

The FCEDA’s job fair series is part of an initiative funded by Fairfax County to attract, retain, and retrain workers.

“Cloud and cyber companies are an important and growing facet of the Fairfax County tech economy,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “I am delighted to see the talent initiative that the Board of Supervisors funded helping residents find jobs and emphasizing the importance of these sectors to Fairfax.”

Because the cyber and cloud career fair will be conducted virtually, candidates do not need to be currently located in Northern Virginia, and some companies are open to remote work options, the FCEDA says.

Interested job seekers can visit the FCEDA’s Work in Northern Virginia website to register and to see a full list of participating companies.

Photo via Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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Thursday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Public Schools to Start Vaccinations on Jan. 16 — “All FCPS employees will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine as a part of the Virginia Department of Health 1b group of other essential workers. All FCPS staff who wish to access the vaccine will have the opportunity to receive their first dose in the next three weeks.” [FCPS]

Metro Announces Inauguration-Related Service Changes — Metro will close 13 stations starting Friday (Jan. 15) through Jan. 21. Trains will operate according to a Saturday schedule, bypassing the closed stations, and 26 bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter that law enforcement authorities have put in place for the Inauguration on Jan. 20. [WMATA]

Airbnb Cancels Reservations in D.C. Area — “Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the Inauguration week.  Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C. area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations.” [Airbnb]

Tysons-based Alarm.com Debuts No-Touch Video Doorbell — The video doorbell uses “video analytics to ring itself whenever it sees someone standing on your mat. That design eliminates the need for anyone to physically press a button, and the built-in camera and microphone let you talk with them through your phone without opening the door.” [CNET]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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