Protecting solar power - University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas (UoA) has announced that its engineering researchers are currently developing digital defences for solar power units.
Having received funding of US$3.6mn from the US Solar Energy Technologies Office, Alan Mantooth, distinguished professor and electrical engineering faculty director, will be leading a multi-institution team in its efforts to protect grid-connected solar technologies from cyberattacks.
“As U.S. energy policy shifts toward more diverse sources, particularly solar, the Energy Department understands the critical importance of protecting these systems and technologies,” said Mantooth.
“We’re already developing systems to protect the power grid from cyberattack, and this work will be a logical extension of that effort.”
Protecting a valuable source of energy
Although it has been slower to gain momentum than other regions, such as Europe, solar power in the US is gaining significant traction and the UoA’s research will be critical to ensuring that it is implemented safely.
The primary dangers for solar PVs (photovoltaic panels) connected to a power grid are ‘inverters’ - a type of electrical converter which turns the panel’s DC output into a utility-friendly AC output.
“They are the heart of the PV system,” Mantooth said in an article with PV Magazine.
“Inverters are one of the main connected devices and so if a hacker could take control; inverters would be a primary target because they are accessible and because they perform many smart functions to maintain stability and efficiency.”
By hacking into the PVs’ inverters, perpetrators could shut down the network, overload the batteries or destabilise the grid.
Leading the research
The project which Mantooth is spearheading will include other institutions and companies across the US, including the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois and Ozarks Electric Cooperative.
In addition to stepping-up solar PV protection, the team hopes to improve issues relating to supply chain security, develop real-time threat detection and identify digital defence weak spots.
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.