Local Birds Suffer from Mysterious Ailment — “People should refrain from feeding birds until scientists determine the cause of a mysterious ailment that has blinded and killed hundreds of birds in Maryland, Virginia and the District since at least late May, a federal agency said Monday.” [The Washington Post]
Dogwood ES to Hold Meeting on Principal Selection — Dogwood Elementary School will hold a virtual meeting today (Tuesday) at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the process for selecting a new principal with staff, families, and community members. The meeting will be conducted through BlackBoard. [Dogwood ES]
Herndon IT Firm Officially Bought by Booz Allen — “McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, already the largest government IT contractor in the D.C. region, has completed its acquisition of Herndon-based Liberty IT Solutions for $725 million…Liberty IT Solutions has a backlog of more than $2 billion in IT modernization work. Booz Allen says the acquisition will immediately increase revenue growth and earnings.” [WTOP]
Reston Software Company to Be Acquired — “Investment firms Blackstone and Vista Equity Partners have reached an agreement to acquire Reston-based higher education software company Ellucian, according to an announcement from the companies released Monday…Ellucian provides enterprise resource planning software products such as student information systems, data analytics tools and graduation-tracking platforms for more than 2,700 higher education customers in more than 50 countries representing more than 26 million students.” [Virginia Business]
County Knew About Lawsuits Against New Police Chief — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says supervisors became aware of the lawsuits that Police Chief Kevin Davis faced while working in Prince George’s County during the hiring process. The Fairfax County NAACP has filed a FOIA request to get more information about the search, which McKay says tried to strike a balance between public transparency and confidentiality for candidates. [Patch]
Virginia Holds Vaccine Day of Action — Virginia wants residents to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts by joining a statewide “It’s Our Shot” Day of Action today. Ways to participate include making a plan to get vaccinated, sharing your vaccine story on social media, and becoming a COVID Community Ambassador. [Office of the Governor]
Tour de Hunter Mill Showcases County Cycling Options — More than 180 cyclists toured Reston, Vienna, and Tysons in the inaugural Tour de Hunter Mill on Saturday (May 15). The event was intended to highlight the multimodal transportation facilities that people can use to travel the district without getting in a car. [Patch]
Discount Available to Help Pay for Internet Services — Households struggling to pay for internet service due to pandemic-related hardships could get a temporary discount on broadband services with the Federal Communications Commission’s the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. Fairfax County Public Library will hold a virtual training on the program and application process from 2-4 p.m. today. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
One of the side-effects of the global pandemic and the resulting quarantine has been the difficulty of recognizing others after months of not seeing each other in person. There is the normal aging process that can alter our looks, along with little or no access to barbers and stylists, and a decline in interest to apply the usual make-up since no one is going to see you up close. All this can leave others looking quizzically at you with an “I believe I know you” look. Longer hair without additional coloring and a mask covering half your face can make it a challenge sometimes to even recognize our friends.
Facebook has or had a system to alert you if your photo appeared on someone else’s page. I have gotten dozens of such messages which when I investigated them found photos of persons who clearly were not me and for which I could find no resemblance. As clever as the technologists were who developed it, the use of facial recognition leaves serious questions about its application, particularly in law enforcement.
The challenges of recognizing even someone you know under today’s difficult conditions and the shortcoming of the systems now being used have raised questions about the propriety of collecting large numbers of photos and using them in criminal investigations. In the Washington Metropolitan area there is a little-known program called the National Capital Region Facial Recognition Investigative Leads System that has 1.4 million photos that can be used in criminal investigation but for which civil rights groups have little information.
Concerns about facial recognition technology came to the attention of Virginia legislators last year, and in the recent legislative session we passed a bill signed by the governor to require agencies that plan to use the technology to get specific approval of the legislature. With the high error rate in correctly identifying minorities among its other shortcomings, along with the civil liberties issues it raises, it is unlikely that such approvals are to be forthcoming.
Requests for legislation involving the use of new technologies are most often referred to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) which was created from legislation I proposed and of which I was chair for many years. Learning about new technologies is always interesting but precautions must be taken when there are issues of civil liberties involved.
JCOTS’ usual procedure is to appoint a technical advisory committee that may involve as many as 25 persons from the advocate community, adversaries of the proposals, representatives from academia, and other interested parties to work through the issues involved.
The legislature will not get involved in proprietary issues around a particular technology but instead will involve itself with the civil liberties issues, impact on the community, and trade concerns, among other matters. Regardless of the complexities involved with a technology it is imperative that the legislature provide appropriate safeguards for the community.
Reston Company Bets on National Security’s Tech Evolution — “The Reston information technology services company has a foot in both cyber operations — offering threat detection, malware forensics, penetration testing and other services — as well as several emerging technologies that have captured the interest of agency leaders, like artificial intelligence, big data analytics and even quantum computing.” [Washington Business Journal]
Dog Killed in Reston — A dog was found dead near a walking path on the 2200 block of Cocquina Drive in late February. Police believe that the dog died from an apparent gunshot wound. Animal Protection Police officers and detectives are actively investigating the case. [Fairfax County Police Department]
COVID-19 Restrictions to Begin Easing Today — Gov. Ralph Northam will ease some coronavirus-related restrictions today. Outdoor social gatherings will increase from 10 to 25 people and outdoor entertainment can operate at a capacity of 30 percent or 1,000 people, up from 250. [WTOP]
Applications for County Board of Appeals Due Today — The county is seeking two new members for the Board of Zoning Appeals. Applications are due by today. All applicants must reside in Fairfax County and serve as private citizens, not county employees. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Although access to county libraries is currently limited, staff are still finding ways to for library patrons to enjoy services offered by the county’s library system.
Reston Regional Library recently launched a take-home laptop program that allows residents to borrow Chromebooks. So far, the program is only in effect at the libraries at Reston, Sherwood, George Mason and Centreville.
To place a Chromebook on hold, customers must be age 19 or above and return the laptop to the same branch it was borrowed from. The laptops can be checked out for two weeks and cannot be renewed.
Library staff erase all personal data and reset the laptops once they are returned.
Here’s more from the library on things to know before taking part in the program.
Internet access/Wi-Fi is required to use the Google suite of tools. Internet access/Wi-Fi is not included with this laptop.
Chromebooks support the Google suite of productivity tools, including Docs, Sheets and Slides. These tools can access Microsoft office files, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
You can browse as a guest or use a Gmail account.
If you browse as a guest be aware that your documents and history will be immediately removed when the Chromebook sleeps, restarts or shuts down.
Laptop, cable and bag will be sanitized between borrowers.
Residents can place a hold on laptops online.
Photo via Fairfax County Public Library
Reston Association has shifted to cloud platforms amid an ongoing conversation on how to address IT security concerns. Some members of RA’s Board of Directors are pushing for the creation of a new IT committee that would guide RA staff on best practices for IT security.
The discussion comes after some board members expressed major concerns about how personal data is stored, why RA’s website was suddenly taken down that year, and allocated funding for IT-related projects.
In a letter to members today, RA noted that its IT department has taken ‘a number of steps to fortify and protect members’ information.’
Currently, no member data is hosted on RA systems, a shift from previous years. The organization transitioned to vendor-hosted software as well.
More from the letter is below.
RA member data related to annual assessment payments, recreational registrations, covenants records and other external business transactions are now on cloud systems managed by professional vendors who use the latest security standards to protect private information.
Additionally, internal business operations such as email and document-sharing systems have been migrated to Microsoft Office 365 cloud platform. The Microsoft platform offers increased security features that combat social engineering, phishing and other online threats.
As new technologies to address security issues are ever-evolving, RA’s IT team is constantly reviewing controls and policies to protect the organization and its members’ private information. RA wants to ensure members that their data and personal information is safeguarded by a robust cloud-based network of vendors that uses the industry’s highest standards to protect all data.
RA’s Board Governance Committee will review the proposal for a new IT committee on March 4. The meeting takes place via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.
This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
In 1998 I chaired a task force of business and community leaders to collectively document what Northern Virginia needed to do to be an “EV Ready Community.” Our work was part of a national effort involving ten communities under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas to prepare for the introduction of electric vehicles. Our inch-thick report was very comprehensive in detailing the infrastructure needed in charging stations, building and roadways, and other changes that electric vehicles would require.
We were ahead of our time. Within about a year of our report the first commercial electric car, EV1, was no longer available and other manufacturers were not offering electric vehicles. Move ahead less than two decades and electric vehicles are becoming commonplace in many areas. I even own one, and on trips in my community I always see more than one.
What happened in the meantime is a greater awareness of our transportation system’s contribution to greenhouse gases and pollution. In the United States alone in 2017, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of the nation’s total emissions of 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e (the CO2 equivalent of an individual greenhouse gas). Driven largely by the transportation sector’s emissions of fossil fuels, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have risen steadily since the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Interestingly, when there is a recession there is a corresponding dip in emissions.
In addition to the increased awareness of the adverse effects of our conventional transportation on the environment, there has been an increase in the number of entrepreneurs who are willing to make major investments in developing electric cars and other vehicles and increased competition from abroad. A Super Bowl commercial sponsored by General Motors lamented the fact that in Norway 54 percent of the new cars sold are EVs. The president of General Motors announced recently that the company would phase out gasoline vehicles and sell only electric passenger cars and trucks by 2035. Press accounts are that Ford Motor Company is making major investments in electric vehicles and VW that is about to move its US headquarters to Reston will be investing $37 billion in electric vehicles.
In the General Assembly I am a co-patron along with the patron Delegate Lamont Bagby of HB1965 that directs the State Air Pollution Control Board to implement a low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program for motor vehicles with a model year of 2025 and later. The legislation will help resolve the problem of consumers in Virginia who want to buy an electric vehicle but must go out of the state to do so. Along with a rebate program the vehicles will become more affordable for persons of limited income. There have been major investments in charging stations throughout the state enabling travel without the fear of running out of juice. You may have noticed the Wawa in Vienna that sells electric charging only but no gas.
I need to review more carefully that report of two decades ago to make sure we are ready for EVs. Ready or not, here they come!
Last year, Reston Association’s website was abruptly taken down because of outdated technology and stability issues. The loss of some financial records and limited backups was also cited as an issue in previous board meetings.
These challenges, along with other IT security needs, have prompted a call by four board members to create a board IT committee. If approved, the volunteer-run committee would be tasked with reviewing RA’s technology landscape, advising the association on procurement, data security and privacy, as well as other hands-on solutions. Board members Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, Bob Petrine, and Tom Mulkerin also worked on the plan.
Board member Ven Iyer, who described himself as an expert in security and IT infrastructure with 19 years of experience, said RA’s IT systems are “unfit”for conducting financial and Personally Identifiable data.
“If you were a bank or you were somebody handling PI data, you would be shut down. And you thoroughly need the help,” Iyer said at a special board meeting earlier this week.
He says RA’s IT issues are so severe that the institution of a board committee is necessary in order to make “RA capable of conducting business.”
But the proposal was met with some skepticism by other board members. Board president Julie Bitzer said the proposal needed a more thorough review before a board vote.
Four board members and RA’s legal counsel will revise the proposal in advance of another board special meeting on Monday, Feb. 15. The move was suggested by board member John Mooney and backed by Bitzer, Mike Collins, Caren Anton, and Aaron Webb.
“You don’t rush something important like this,”Mooney said.
Some board members questioned if it was appropriate to set up a board committee – which has more authority than an advisory or working group – to manage and advise RA on IT issues. Other board committees like RA’s Board Governance Committee and Board Advisory Committee have more authority than working groups or advisory committees.
Others simply said immediate action was necessary, especially since IT-related spending is a big-ticket spending item.
“The feeling was that you need to have the strength of the board like the fiscal committee does,” said D’Szousa.
Iyer, who said he has pushed for the creation of an IT committee for years, said the urgency of the need should not be underestimated.
Irwin Flashman, an RA member, said that residents would be more than willing to help support RA’s IT efforts and guide decision-making with expert advice.
“Reston is a technology center and many of those who work in the industry live in Reston and would be well qualified and willing, I feel certain, to lend a guiding hand to such an IT Committee and RA,”Flashman said.
‘We urge the board to act diligently and seriously. You hold the security of RA information in your hands. It is a great and serious responsibility.’
Within one day, RA staff quickly created a temporary website in July after the association’s IT team learned that the old website created a “potential security risk” to RA members and the DotNetNuke platform was no longer ‘technically supportable,’ according to past meeting materials.
Planning is underway to launch a new website with enhanced communication features later this year.
More than 30 companies in the D.C. metro area are looking to hire women for open positions in STEM-based fields at a Women in Technology Virtual Career Fair tomorrow (Thursday). Some of the companies include Amazon, Capital One, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
The career fair is sponsored by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Capital One as part of an ongoing series of virtual career fairs that the FCEDA has supported in response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to a press release from the FCEDA.
The first three virtual fairs in the series attracted more than 2,100 attendees, the release says.
“More girls and women need to be exposed to the high-paying jobs in the technology sectors that are a major part of the economy of Fairfax County,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.
Gross, who serves as vice chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, added that “efforts such as this career fair open up a wider talent pipeline for the companies that have so many job openings even during the pandemic.”
According to the release, only 26% of the jobs held by women in the workforce are computing-related jobs. The career fair on Nov. 5 will help connect technology professionals with top organizations in the D.C. metro area, seeking to help increase access to opportunity “in a field where women have been historically underrepresented.”
Participants will be able to browse companies through a virtual lobby, enter their booths, view open positions, engage in video conferencing, and talk with human resources representatives at the virtual fair.
“In Northern Virginia, we have more than 15,000 tech firms constantly hiring. In fact, tech job postings are growing more in Virginia than in California and New York,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said. “We are a region that not just embraces, but pioneers diversity: women are twice as likely to work in tech in Northern Virginia than in Silicon Valley.”
Participation in the career fair is free of charge. Employers interested in promoting their job openings can contact Mike Batt, the FCEDA Director of Talent Initiative Programs at [email protected] or visit the Employer Resources page.
Photo via the FCEDA/Instagram
Reston Hospital Center is now offering a new augmented reality system for spine surgeries.
The technology allows spine surgeons to see through a patient’s anatomy. Hospital staff described the tool as the “first AR guidance system to be used in surgery.” Currently, the technology is approved for minimally invasive spine implant operations.
Dr. Christopher Good said the introduction of the new technology — which he used at Reston Hospital Center — will “elevate” the hospital’s spine program to “an all-new level.”
“Bringing AR into the operating room has the possibility of leading to smaller incisions and less invasive procedures which means less pain and faster recovery for patients,” Good said.
Here’s more from the hospital on how the surgery works:
Similar to a real-time GPS, this “see-through” surgery lets surgeons know exactly where to place implants in a patient’s unique anatomy, and is bringing a new standard of personalization and care to the operating room.
The Augmedics xvision Spine System used at Reston Hospital Center is different from other image guidance systems, as it allows surgeons to maintain their focus directly on the patient, rather than on a distant screen displaying the patient’s anatomy.
Reston Hospital Center’s new surgical system consists of a transparent near-eye-display headset and all elements of a traditional navigation system. It accurately determines the position of surgical tools, in real-time, and superimposes them on the patient’s CT data. The navigation data is then projected onto the surgeon’s retina using the headset, allowing him or her to simultaneously look at both the patient and the navigation data. The xvision Spine System is designed to revolutionize how surgery is done by giving the surgeon better control and visualization, which may lead to easier, faster and safer surgeries.
Photo courtesy Reston Hospital Center
County Expands Early Voting… Early — The Fairfax County Government Center will be open for early voting his Saturday, Oct. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., one week earlier than planned. A total of 14 locations will open on Oct. 14. [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Cybersecurity Firm Acquired by Baltimore’s ZeroFox — “Cyveillance, a Reston-based business unit of LookingGlass Cyber Solutions Inc., has been acquired by Baltimore cybersecurity firm ZeroFox.ZeroFox CEO James C. Foster said his company will absorb Cyveillance’s more than 130 employees and over 100 customers through the acquisition.” [Washington Business Journal]
FCPD Visits Communities for National Night Out — “National Night Out is a way for residents to connect with their local police officers and engage in fun activities with neighbors. Fairfax County Police Department had more than 40 events scheduled throughout the county tonight, including a parade in Reston to stop and visit with community members.” [Local DVM]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Tandem Product Academy is looking for 20 existing Northern Virginia technology companies to guide and help succeed in the COVID-19 economy.
Amplifier Advisors, as well as a group of university, government and community partners, helped Tandem Innovation Alliance’s Academy launch a new cohort mentoring these technology companies on Sept. 14.
The academy will help the selected businesses find a business model that will sustain them throughout the pandemic and long after, according to a statement from the Academy. The program will commence on Oct. 21, 2020.
The professionally-run program will run virtually over a four-month period, alternating between all-cohort classes and individual company mentor sessions, according to the statement.
“The post COVID-19 economy is punishing for technology businesses that do not have the right product market fit, but as we can see from regional and national successes, when a technology business has the right fit, this is a great time to be in the technology industry,” said Jonathan Aberman, the founder of Amplifier Advisors.
“We want to help a group of promising technology businesses find their best opportunities to pivot what they have built into a market that will be rewarding for the current economy and what’s next,” said Aberman.
Amplifier Advisors is an innovation business led by Aberman, George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis and Marymount University’s Marymount Intrapreneurship Initiative, according to the statement.
The cohort’s teaching team includes Marymount University faculty and well-known technology entrepreneurs and investors, including Mark Walsh, Gene Riechers, Ben Foster, Erich Baumgarter, Tien Wong, Pat Sheridan, Elizabeth Shea and Jonathan Aberman.
Participants must be senior leaders of a business that has a technology product that has achieved some commercial adoption, according to the statement, and whose company has done any of the following over the past year:
- Had gross revenue of $500,000;
- Obtained at least $500,000 in capital from sources other than the founder’s immediate friends or family; or
- Received at least $500,000 in federal research and development funding.
Those interested can view more information and apply at the Tandem Innovation Alliance website.
Photo by Alesia Kazantceva/Unsplash
FCPS Investigates Ransomware Issue — The Fairfax County Public School System “continues to investigate the ransomware issue involving some of our technology systems. We are taking this matter and concerns about the personal information of students, staff and their families very seriously. The ransomware issue did not disrupt the distance learning program during the first week of school. However, we are working diligently with the FBI and our cybersecurity consultants to investigate the nature, scope and extent of any possible data compromise.” [FCPS]
Herndon Police Department Report Released — This year’s report highlights the department’s accomplishments, statical crime and use of force data. “The Herndon Police Department is staffed by highly trained officers and civilians who are committed to integrity and professionalism, meeting stringent training requirements and professional standards,” wrote Chief of Police Maggie DeBoard. [Herndon Police Department]
When Symptoms Begin for Local COVID-19 Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,300 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and 874 on Sunday. The cumulative case total is up to 133,814, while deaths stand at 2,724 and hospitalizations are at 10,244.” [Reston Patch]
Photo by Ray Copson
Northern Virginia’s ‘Livable’ Tech Hub — The Verge takes a look at how technology workers are considering relocating from hubs like Silicon Valley and New York City as Northern Virginia steps up to become a “welcoming, livable alternative.” [The Verge]
North Point District Listening Session Tonight — Reston Association’s Board of Directors will host a listening tonight via Zoom at 7 p.m. More listening sessions will follow in the coming weeks. [Reston Association]
How Local Police Fight for Mental Health After Officer Suicides — For the last three years, more police officers around the country have died by suicide than on the line of duty. The Fairfax County Police Department has tried to push for more support services. [NBC 4]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Several employers in Reston and Herndon ranked high in Military Times’ annual ‘Best for Vets’ list.
The ranking determines how companies nationwide have expanded efforts to recruit and retain former service members into the job market.
Of the 14 companies in Fairfax County that made it to the list, five are in Herndon and Reston.
Here’s a list of the local companies that made it to the list:
- ManTech International Corporation (2251 Corporate Park Drive) – #15, 48 percent veterans
- Leidos (1750 Presidents Street) – #39, 22 percent veterans
- MAXIMUS (1891 Metro Center Drive) – #54, six percent veterans
- Peraton (12975 Worldgate Drive) – #87, 19.6 percent veterans
- Constellis (13530 Dulles Technology Dr) – #133, 25 percent veterans
A total of 144 employers took part in this year’s survey. Military Times conducted the survey with ScoutComms, a marketing and research firm that focuses on the military community. The firm recently ceased operations due to COVID-19, according to its company page.
Firms responded to nearly 100 questions detailing their policies and practices related to veterans.
Here’s more from Military Times on the project:
The success in recent years is evident in veterans unemployment figures, which have fallen steadily from their peak a decade ago. Even with this year’s spike in joblessness due to the coronavirus, unemployment among veterans remains lower than among their civilian counterparts.
In recent years, more companies are focused on not just hiring veterans but making sure the veterans who are hired succeed in the long term.
“It’s not about a job. It’s about a career. It’s about fit,” said Rosalinda Maury, who serves as IVMF’s director of research and analytics.
Comcast NBC Universal topped the list, followed by Southern Company.
Rendering via Boston Properties