When we checked in on Ouli a year ago, the new mobile personal concierge app, developed in North Arlington, impressed early adopters with its groundbreaking two-way engagement abilities and it’s ability to learn your likes.
Now meet Ouli 2.0, released in March. Not only does it deliver consumer-choices for you based on your location and previous interaction–and the more you use it, the more it learns about you–the new home page brings you “the best thing to do right now” when you open the app, says Pierre Malko, CEO of Dante Inc., the Arlington-based software company that’s been building technological innovation since 1998.
“It could be where to have happy hour or what show is available at a local theater,” he says. “Ouli comes to you with recommendations for experiences that are pertinent at that point in time based on where you are.”
Other added enhancements include an integration with Uber — you can book your ride through the app — and OpenTable, to make reservations based on Ouli’s recommendation. One of the benefits of Ouli is that it only suggests viable selections, so sold-out restaurants and performances won’t be recommended.
A year ago there were about 100 merchants in the Ouli database, mostly in Arlington because that’s where the app launched. But now, Malko says, Ouli’s reach goes beyond Northern Virginia into Washington and Maryland and the programming has expanded into the arts, nonprofits, farmer’s markets and volunteer opportunities.
“Ouli is all about connecting you with the local community,” says Malko. “Usually we gravitate to well-known places like the Shakespeare Theatre and the Kennedy Center, and that’s fine, but there are tons of local performers and artists who are doing great shows in nearby establishments that you would not have heard of otherwise.”
“As a person with a family in Arlington who is also very involved in the community, I always like to know about the things that are going on,” he says. “But it’s not always easy to find. You have to search a million different places.”
Community engagement with Ouli, he says, “is helping us all enjoy and support local causes that are important to us, or local establishments that we love to have around. And the more we engage, the higher the chances that they’ll stick around for a long time.”
The new Ouli release offers an improvement on the personalization and two-way engagement attributes of the app. In short, they’ve made it less intrusive, and thus more welcome, all the while still giving you notifications of sales, events and other specials in the neighborhood you happen to be in, “but only if there’s a high likelihood that you’ll care about it,” he says.
“We didn’t want this to be one other thing that bothers our users, so we spend a lot of time and energy on taming it,” Malko says. “Honing those personalization skills was not easy, but we’re giving the user what they want and also not bothering them with things they don’t care about…We want to make this a service that helps them enjoy their life and do so economically.”
Yes, there’s an app for that. It’s called Ouli.
Ouli can be downloaded here for immediate use. See what the best thing going on around you is right now.
The preceding post was written by Buzz McClain and sponsored by Ouli.
Parents were left frustrated on Saturday after registration for Arlington Public Schools’ Extended Day Program was beset by server issues for the second time in as many months.
Originally, the program’s registration portal had opened at midnight on March 1, but suffered technical issues and was closed indefinitely to be fixed.
APS reopened online registration at 3 p.m. April 1 for Summer School and the 2017-18 school year, but within minutes the system struggled with technical issues.
Several parents vented their frustrations on the APS Facebook page at the repeated technical issues.
“This was the issue a month ago and it is still not fixed,” wrote one. “Please provide additional guidance to parents (many of whom signed up the first time at midnight) on if we should continue to wait for the site to be fixed (now at 36 mins of trying) or try again later. It is the weekend and expectations should be managed.”
“Thanks for wrecking a Saturday afternoon,” wrote another. “It would be much appreciated if you would either offer a time frame or advise whether or not we should keep trying. You have a lot of parents feeling stuck and afraid not to keep hitting ‘refresh.'”
At 4 p.m., APS posted the following on its Facebook page:
UPDATE from Extended Day:
We greatly apologize for the inconvenience as the registration website is again experiencing issues. The developers are working to correct any issues and make the process faster.
Please send an email [email protected] with your student(s)’s name, school and requested sessions and we will process your registration. You will be contacted in the next few weeks with additional information.
But less than an hour later, APS posted to say the website “appears to be working now,” then again the following morning to “apologize for the inconvenience as the registration website experienced issues.”
There do not appear to have been any further issues with the website since.
A new petition is calling for Arlington Public Schools to discontinue its program of giving each elementary school student an iPad for educational use, but some parents are critical of the iPad critics.
The Change.org petition has just over 150 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
“Parents, teachers, pediatricians, librarians, art therapists, poets, doctors and taxpayers of Arlington County are asking that APS discontinue immediately the current 1:1 iPad program within APS elementary schools for grades K-5,” the petition says. “The 1:1/Digital Learning/Personalized programs, which put a personal iPads in the hand of elementary school children, over the past three years has not only cost millions for devices, staffing and infrastructure, but it has put children into a social experiment that is likely to harm their physical and social-emotional well-being.”
The petition calls for giving parents the ability to opt-out of iPads for their children and wants APS to send parents “a waiver to explicitly list the potential risks of iPad usage not limited to attention issues, screen addiction, blue light effects on eyesight, Wi-Fi radiation, and effects on reading acquisition.”
But some parents are pushing back against the petition, supporting the use of iPads and questioning the scientific basis of the “risks” listed in the petition. In one local neighborhood Facebook group, it has sparked a debate dozens of comments long, with most in favor of keeping the iPad program as-is.
“You [have] got to be kidding me! What are you using to post this?” a parent said in response to a post critical of student iPad use. “How do you expect your kids to be exposed to digital world and be prepared how to handle it when they are out of your wings. While I’m against screen time for my kids 24/7 some exposure is pretty useful if we want to keep up with the rest of the world.”
One parent called the iPads “extremely beneficial” to her child, while another said her kids — one labeled as gifted and the other as having learning disabilities — have both “been engaged in learning in exciting ways.”
Those in support of the iPad program are being asked to counter the voices against the program by providing positive feedback on the APS website.
Pupatella Expanding to Richmond — Beloved Bluemont pizzeria Pupatella is expanding via franchising. One of the first places getting new Pupatellas: Richmond, where a local franchisee is opening four new locations. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
McAuliffe to Talk Self-Driving Cars in Arlington — On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be in Arlington to “give remarks at [a] workshop hosted by the Secretary of Transportation on autonomous vehicles,” according to the governor’s public schedule. The workshop is taking place at 1776 in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive).
People Are Increasingly Leaving the D.C. Region — All of the D.C. region’s population growth in the latest U.S. Census estimates were from births and international immigration. The region’s domestic migration is negative and increasingly so, with more people moving from D.C. than to D.C. Writes the WBJ: “The challenge for Greater Washington is there are other metro areas that offer jobs and high quality of life, and are also far less expensive — driving people away for what they see as greener pastures.” [Washington Business Journal]
Does Our Site Seem Faster? — We were working Saturday, moving ARLnow and our sister site Reston Now to a powerful cloud-based server from a traditional dedicated server. Things should be faster today, but if you notice any glitches please let us know. [Twitter]
Photo courtesy Erinn Shirley
Pike Booster ‘Disappointed’ By Transit Delay — Cecilia Cassidy, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, said the group is “very disappointed” by the latest delay in bringing enhanced transit service to the Pike. Cassidy said the cancellation of the streetcar cancelled much of the planned development along the Pike and that the delays in providing a viable transit alternative have put other development into a holding pattern. [WAMU]
More on DCA Plans — The airports authority has released more details about “Project Journey,” its $1 billion plan for upgrading Reagan National Airport. “Scheduled to mobilize in summer 2017, Project Journey includes construction of two new security checkpoints that fully connect the concourse level of Terminal B/C to airline gate areas, buildout of an enclosed commuter concourse to replace the 14 outdoor gates currently serviced by buses from gate 35X and future improvements to roadway and parking configurations.” [Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]
Good News, Bad News About Tech in Arlington — Arlington has risen in the rankings of the best places in the U.S. for women in tech, from No. 34 to No. 22 this year. However, women in tech in Arlington still earn less than men, there are significantly more men than women employed in tech in Arlington and overall tech job growth in Arlington over the past four years is flat. D.C., meanwhile, ranked No. 1 on the list. [DCInno]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The County Board unanimously approved an incentive-based economic development grant for SineWave Ventures at its Tuesday meeting.
Up to $250,000 would be paid over five years to SineWave under the terms of the deal, depending on performance.
The agreement states that SineWave must attract five capital providers and partner companies to lease office space, and create at least 391 new full-time jobs. There are other goals for investment reviews and the provision of educational events for local entrepreneurs.
SineWave is aiming to develop a central hub of similar tech-focused venture capital firms at 2231 Crystal Drive, to invest in new companies. It will be in the same building as startup incubator 1776, and close to open-access workshop TechShop and coworking space Eastern Foundry.
A “sense of collaboration, advisement and mentorship” will come from the companies all being located in Crystal City, said Christina Winn, director of Arlington Economic Development’s Business Investment Group.
Board member John Vihstadt said such grants will help the county be less reliant on the federal government.
“This may seem like small potatoes to some, but frankly it’s part of the story where we really are working very hard to diversify Arlington’s economy away from federal contractors, away from the defense industry and towards really a 21st century economy, which is where the action hopefully is going to be,” he said.
Winn said AED spent two years developing the plan and ensuring there is little financial risk to the county. Board member Christian Dorsey said the requirement that SineWave repay the money if it fails to hit its targets is wise.
“These are not investments of the international high-risk equity variety,” he said. “These are of the safe variety, as if they don’t pan out we get our money back, which is the best investment to make because you can’t really lose.”
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Want a way to impress friends with a wild video camera trick, à la “The Matrix”? OrcaVue will spin your camera right round, baby, right round to create a professional-looking effect.
The idea was born in October 2014 when Daniel Rosenberry and his brother, Jonathan, owned a small production company and wanted to pull off a 360-degree camera shot, but they didn’t have the proper equipment and didn’t have the money to hire a crew.
Rosenberry came up with some rough sketches for a device and showed his father, who constructed the first protype from “a bunch of stuff from our garage,” Rosenberry said. “A coffee can, a lazy susan and random stuff… he essentially built the very first ‘garage’ version of what the OrcaVue is.”
The Rosenberrys told their friend, Adam Boussouf, about the camera rig idea and he suggested patenting it. “Really, we weren’t thinking about it as any sort of business endeavor” and didn’t know how to go about that, Rosenberry said. So Boussouf came on board and took care of the business aspects.
“My brother had the initial vision. I designed everything. Dad put it together. And our friend pushed us to form a business. So we’re the four co-founders,” Rosenberry said.
Soon after officially launching the business in early 2015, orders quickly piled up. “It was definitely chaotic,” Rosenberry said. “We started getting a lot of orders coming in… and we didn’t quite know what to do.”
They realized they had to manufacture a lot of units in a short time span and did research to find a machine workshop. They found TechShop in Crystal City, which still is OrcaVue’s home base and where the devices are manufactured.
As for the name, OrcaVue is an acronym, of sorts, for “orbiting camera view.” The team wanted to have an animal on its logo and they did an internet search for animals that are known for circling, to reference the product’s circling functions. Fittingly, they learned that orcas — also called killer whales — swim circles around their prey. Thus, the OrcaVue name and logo came full circle and was adopted.
The business has evolved to become less about selling the camera rigs and more about selling services. The OrcaVue employees now spend most of their time on equipment rentals and event production. They show up at weddings, red carpet events and new product launches to work the machine and shoot video of the events.
OrcaVue doesn’t simply have local customers, either. The device has been used to shoot videos for numerous high-profile national clients including Olympian Simone Biles, Twitter, the Golden Globe Awards, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks and the TV show Dancing with the Stars.
OrcaVue employees continuously work on product improvements to devise a bigger, better, lighter system that can go faster and support heavier cameras.
As far as general business goals, Rosenberry would like further expansion, both in terms of the number of employees and in product and service reach. “I’d like to… grow the business regionally as well as internationally,” Rosenberry said. He’s working on that by setting up a partnership in Sweden and Australia to more easily cater to international clients.
“We’ve already surpassed anything we imagined that could happen,” Rosenberry said. “We’re a pretty relaxed company. We basically hired my friends and we all work together on it and have a great time.”
Up to $250,000 would be paid over five years under the terms of the deal, depending on performance.
SineWave is aiming to develop a central hub of similar tech-focused venture capital firms, in an office building at 2231 Crystal Drive, to invest in new companies. SineWave provides early-stage investment in businesses that develop technology for potential use in the public sector, including in the fields of cybersecurity, data and networking.
The agreement stipulates that SineWave must attract five capital providers and partner companies to lease office space, and create at least 391 new full-time jobs. There are other goals for investment reviews and the provision of educational events for local entrepreneurs.
If SineWave has not achieved 90 percent of its targets, it will be required to pay the grant money back to the county. A staff report on the plan estimates Arlington will receive $430,000 gross tax benefit over 10 years; or $180,000 net tax benefit after the full grant is paid.
County staff wrote that the plan will help fill vacant office space in the area and attract new businesses.
“With respect to Arlington’s ongoing vacancy challenges, the Crystal City submarket continues to need companies and investment to diversify and rebuild its tenant base,” staff wrote. “The proposed partnership with SineWave aligns with the County’s economic development strategy to attract key co-working operators, business incubators/accelerators and venture funds; SineWave adds another critical piece to the budding technology ecosystem in Crystal City.”
Image via Vornado
Extended Day registration opens at midnight on March 1, meaning that those fighting for a spot in the popular program stayed up late trying to register — until APS finally notified parents that it was closing the registration indefinitely until the problems can be fixed.
The issues occurred less than 12 hours after the Arlington County website went down due to technical issues that affected numerous sites around the web on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the Extended Day glitch was related.
From a post on the APS Facebook page, published after 1 a.m.:
At this time we are aware of the server issues preventing families from registering for Extended Day services.
We are working to have the issues resolved as quickly as possible.
In order to allow all families the opportunity to register successfully, we temporarily suspended registration for Summer 2017 and School Year 2017-2018 until further notice.
We will provide an update tomorrow via APS School Talk and our website.
We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.
Here’s what one self-described “angry parent” said about the snafu, in an email to ARLnow.com:
If you haven’t heard, APS’ early registration system broke down last night. Registration began at midnight. If you don’t get in, you don’t get a slot for your child/children in the fall.
Every year, at midnight on March 1, working parents are forced to take part in this cruel system that requires them to stay up til midnight and beyond.
I was up until 2 trying to get on before giving up. So I’m at work today with only 4 hours of sleep. (APS expects me to deliver my daughter to school on time the next day.)
APS sent out a notice at 1:30 a.m. saying they will have to do it all over again.
I hope this incident sheds light on an unnecessarily cruel system that forces parents, who obviously have jobs to go to or they wouldn’t need aftercare, to stay up half the night hitting refresh buttons to make sure they have affordable aftercare.
“Please open registration at a reasonable hour,” another parent said in response to the APS Facebook post.
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) A widespread Amazon Web Services outage brought down the Arlington County website around 1 p.m. Tuesday.
As of 1:30 p.m. the site appeared to be partially back up, although images are not currently loading and some pages are still down.
A number of large websites and services are reported to be down or experiencing significant issues due to an outage of AWS’s web storage servers in the eastern United States. The outage was still ongoing as of 3 p.m.
Arlington County tweeted about the outage about half an hour after it started.
In the meantime, feel free to check out some of Arlington TV's most popular videos on YouTube: https://t.co/L66kiWjbPb
— ArlingtonVA (@ArlingtonVA) February 28, 2017
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The preceding post was sponsored and written by TechTrend.
Monday marked a milestone for the county’s multimillion dollar ConnectArlington fiber optic network: It has completed phase one of migrating Arlington Public Schools to the system and off of Comcast’s internet access.
But as APS prepares to enter phase two of the migration, it also has an open request for proposals (RFP) to build another fiber network, a potentially pricey project that it says is a “contingency plan.”
With phase one complete, 14 APS sites are now on the ConnectArlington network. Another 23 are expected be online by December.
Early last month, however, APS issued an RFP for a contractor to build a new fiber network for the school system. Proposals originally were due Monday, but the deadline has been extended to January 17. APS is supposed to choose a contractor for the project “as soon after that date as possible,” according to an addendum to the RFP. The RFP states that the new network must be constructed and functioning by April 2018.
APS says the additional fiber network is a contingency plan and ConnectArlington still will be its primary network. Therefore, APS will continue moving forward as planned with getting the next bunch of sites online with ConnectArlington by year’s end.
“APS is contracting for a backup system to remain in place until we know that ConnectArlington is complete and fully functional. With all of our instructional, testing, business functions and state reporting requirements, APS cannot risk not having a viable network infrastructure in place if ConnectArlington is delayed and not completed for any unforeseen reason,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
“Like the insurance policies we purchase to protect the investment in our buildings, buses and other critical components of APS operations, we hope we will never need the insurance, but those policies are in place — just in case,” said Linda Erdos, assistant superintendent for school and community relations
Arlington County communications director Bryna Helfer said that the remaining 21 county and 23 school sites included in the ConnectArlington project’s phase two — which begins in March — will continue to receive Comcast service until they’re fully migrated in December.
The county says that it cannot speak for APS’ desire for another fiber network but asserted that the ConnectArlington network has been performing for nearly two years without issue.
“We are completely confident that we will install fiber into every planned county and school facility by the end of calendar year 2017, based on our previous years’ experience with the construction and operation of this project,” said James Schwartz, deputy county manager for public safety and technology.
In addition to the 14 APS buildings and 33 county buildings on the network thus far, Schwartz said, more than 130 traffic signals have been connected. Plus, the public safety radio system — previously supported by microwave antenna — has been migrated to ConnectArlington and “is operating without a problem,” according to Schwartz.
“This system allows fire, EMS and police to communicate during emergencies and requires the highest reliability standard — that standard is being met by ConnectArlington,” he said.
APS spokespeople say the backup fiber network is eligible for federal E-Rate funds, which assist schools and libraries with obtaining affordable telecommunications and internet access. The Federal Communications Commission explains that the discount a school district receives depends on two factors: “(1) the poverty level of the population the applicant serves and (2) whether the applicant is located in a rural or urban area.”
“The RFP ensures that APS can receive a potential 50 percent reimbursement of [the backup fiber network] costs through the federal government’s E-Rate funds,” Bellavia said.
Teardown Business Booming — Arlington is one of the Northern Virginia areas that continue to see significant home teardown rates following the recession. The high land values make it more economical for many builders to tear down old homes and construct new ones rather than renovating existing structures. [Wall Street Journal]
Tech Company Moving to Arlington — Online stock video business VideoBlocks says it is moving from its long-time home in Reston to Arlington in 2017. The tech company’s growth is making the current 7,500-square-foot space too cramped, so the goal is to find an approximately 20,000-square-foot space in Arlington. [DC Inno]
Ninja Moves Prompt Police Call — Police responded to Paisano’s on N. Pershing Drive yesterday afternoon for a report of a man performing “ninja moves” outside the restaurant. There were no reports of anyone being harmed or of any arrests. [Twitter]
Free NYE Metro Rides — Metrorail and Metrobus rides will be free after midnight on New Year’s Eve (Saturday), courtesy of a sponsor: Miller Lite. Metro will stay open until 3:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day (Sunday). [WMATA]
Free Cab Rides Through Sunday — SoberRide will continue its seasonal free taxi service through Sunday. Users can call 1-800-200-TAXI for a free ride home, up to a $30 fare.
County Facilities Closed Monday — Like the federal the government, Arlington County will close its facilities on Monday in observance of Sunday’s holiday. Parking meters will not be enforced but trash and recycling collection will continue as usual.
Lubber Run Community Center Redevelopment — With voter approval of a “community infrastructure” bond that funds it, work is set to proceed on the redevelopment of the Lubber Run Community Center. Design work on the new four-story, $47 million facility will wrap up next year. Construction is expected to take place in 2018. [InsideNova]
Arlington to Keep One of the Last Kenneth Cole Stores — Kenneth Cole is closing 63 stores in the U.S. to concentrate on online and international operations. One of the fashion house’s two U.S. locations to remain open indefinitely: the store in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [Bloomberg]
TransitScreen Expands to Coworking Spaces — TransitScreen, which was founded in Arlington in 2013, is expanding its presence from apartment buildings to coworking offices. The creator of screens that show the schedules of various transit options — including buses, trains and Uber vehicles — has announced that it has struck a deal with another Arlington-founded company: MakeOffices. [Bisnow]
AED to Host ‘Arlington Premiere’ — Arlington Economic Development is continuing its outreach to startup businesses. Next month AED will be hosting an event called “Arlington Premiere,” which is billed as “an exclusive reception welcoming new businesses to Arlington County.” The event will take place in Crystal City and will include networking opportunities for business owners. [Arlington Economic Development]
Cat Stuck in Tree — The Arlington County Fire Department was called last night for a cat that was stuck in a tree. Yes, that does actually happen. [Twitter]
Arcing Insulator at Rosslyn Metro — An electrical issue on the Metrorail tracks outside of the Rosslyn station caused delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines during this morning’s rush hour. The arcing insulator prompted single-tracking and a large fire department response. [WJLA]
Beyer to Shadow DCA Worker — Today, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is expected to “accompany contracted wheelchair agents to learn first-hand their role helping passengers with disabilities at Reagan National Airport.” The workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, are fighting for a $15 per hour wage. Currently, they receive as little as $6 per hour plus “unreliable tips.”
Samsung Collecting Note 7 at DCA — Electronics manufacturer Samsung has set up a booth at Reagan National Airport to collect their now recalled and discontinued Galaxy Note 7 phones, which are banned from flights due to a propensity to randomly go up in flames. [Twitter]
I-395 HOT Lane Update — VDOT updated the Arlington County Board yesterday on its “managed HOV/toll lanes” project slated for I-395. County staff is currently studying traffic and noise impacts to Arlington and the project’s allocation of at least $15 million per year to transit along the corridor, which the county believes is insufficient. [Arlington County]
Tech Incubator Founder Moves to Arlington — Evan Burfield, the founder of D.C.-based tech incubator 1776, has moved to Arlington with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Burfield chose a $1.6 million home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood outside of Crystal City, calling it “a great buy on an up-and-coming area.” 1776 has a location in Crystal City that Burfield said is performing well. [Washington Business Journal]
Police: Arlington Man Called Reporter the N-Word — An Arlington man, 21-year-old Brian Eybers, has been arrested in Charleston, South Carolina on disorderly conduct and drug-related charges. A local TV reporter in Charleston says Eybers called him the N-word and then stood in front of his news van, blocking it from leaving. [The State]