Reston’s Canvas has starring role in London


James Quigley, chief executive of Reston mobile application developer Canvas, with employees Abdullah Pathan (left), Kalliopi Vlastos and James Braun. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

Last fall, James Quigley got notice that the Olympic Delivery Authority in London had signed up for a free trial of Canvas, a service that allows users to create Web applications for data collection.

His Reston-based team did what they always do when a new customer registers: Picked up the phone and gave the organization a call.

“The Olympics found us the way that everybody else does — through our app store,” said Quigley, chief executive of Canvas. “We’ve never met them before in person, we’ve never been to London. They just started working with the product and loved it.”

More than 50 Canvas-based apps will be used during the upcoming Olympic games in London.

The apps are to be used for everything from tracking vehicles going in and out of the Olympic Village, to monitoring deliveries, operations and security. Quigley estimates that the summer games will end up bringing in tens of thousands of dollars for the company.

“There’s a lot of data that needs to be collected and shared at a big event like the Olympics,” Quigley said. “Instead of writing it down or picking up a walkie-talkie, we make it easy to tell someone in real time, ‘Hey, the buses are late’ or ‘There’s been a security situation.’ ”

Canvas users can go to the company’s Web site or app store, click a template (such as Education or Utilities & Energy), and start customizing it for their specific needs.

The app itself is free, but there is a service fee of $20 per user per month.

“Businesses are sharing more of the data they’re collecting, both with their employees or customers,” Quigley said. “Whether it’s exit-polling in Venezuela or analog figures that need to be typed in, all of the information is collected through our app and tossed up into the cloud in real time.”

The Olympics committee’s first app centered on safety and security of venues that were being constructed. Quigley said hundreds of Olympic staffers are registered to use the apps on event-issued iPads.

“With a number of apps, we don’t even know what they’re using them for,” Quigley said. “There’s a lot of sensitive, high-security stuff.”

Last July, Canvas raised $1.7 million in venture capital. The two-year-old start-up is currently in the process of seeking another round of $4 million.

But first, Quigley and his staff of about 20 are gearing up for the Olympics. They’ve assembled a team to provide technical help during the games and have cleared the company’s schedules.

“We’re delaying the release of a new product for the first time,” Quigley said. “We don’t want to be the ones who stopped the Olympics.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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