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In The Boardroom With...

Laura Ipsen
Senior Vice President and General Manager
Cisco Connected Energy Group Hi, Laura, thank you for being with us today. First, please tell us a little about yourself.

Laura Ipsen: I have been at Cisco for more than 16 years, 13 of which were spent running the Global Policy and Government Affairs Group. I am also the co-chair of the Cisco EcoBoard and our Connected Women's Advisory Group. In 2009 I was asked to start up and drive the Smart Grid Business Unit, and I jumped at the chance to lead such an exciting area of growth for the company. In 2011 we combined our efforts in home and business energy management with smart grid to form the Cisco Connected Energy Group. We believe that Internet Protocol (IP)-based networking technology will be the platform to transform how the world manages its energy, environmental and security challenges. It makes sense that Cisco security products can be used to protect energy supplies. Are we talking about video surveillance or cybersecurity or both?

Laura Ipsen: Cisco takes a holistic approach to security for critical infrastructure protection, such as energy supply. This includes mitigating cyberattacks and responding to threats, as well controlling access to sites and monitoring energy facilities. Video surveillance is a key element of any security plan, since energy producers commonly face threats like vandalism and theft. Many companies install a Cisco Physical Security solution on an Internet Protocol-based network to monitor assets with real-time video surveillance, and this video can be integrated with physical access controls.

Cisco solutions can also help companies centralize the management of their security systems, saving money and enabling faster incident responses. But what if, say, a substation is located in a remote area?

Laura Ipsen: Let's take a look at one of our customers, First Wind. They are an independent energy company focused on large, utility-scale wind projects in the U.S.

Physical security and substation automation are challenges at wind farms, which are often located in remote areas like shorelines, on top of hills or open plains. Turbines themselves are often spread over a wide range, making them difficult to access. First Wind's site in Milford, Utah, is a four-hour drive from the nearest airport, and the wind turbines are spread over 42 square miles. This is exactly where a unified IP-based communication infrastructure is most effective and efficient. So do security guards patrol the area, like park rangers?

Laura Ipsen: Not exactly. The Physical Access Control solution controls access to exterior doors, substation doors and laboratories where engineers and technicians work late at night. Doors remain locked at all times unless an authorized employee passes a card in front of a proximity reader. Video surveillance cameras are mounted near doors and in warehouse areas, so the company can monitor compliance with safety guidelines. In addition, cameras with pan-tilt-zoom controls monitor the exterior of all buildings and some turbines. Cisco Connected Grid switches and routers extend the corporate IP network to substations, as well. First Wind was able to meet its security goals with Cisco Physical Access Controls, Video Surveillance, and Cisco Connected Grid solutions via the IP-based wireless network. What about the nonphysical threats you mentioned, like those from hackers?

Laura Ipsen: Cisco provides enterprise-class network security capabilities such as firewalls, network separation and centralized monitoring to address this. First Wind uses Cisco ASA 5500 Series Adaptive Security Appliances in conjunction with the Cisco Connected Grid Switches and Routers to partition the corporate network and substation network. It also isolates traffic from the various vendors that access the network. Any anomalous behavior is reported to the Cisco Security Monitoring, Analysis, and Response System for event correlation. Do you see additional benefits for energy providers?

Laura Ipsen: Yes, for First Wind and other energy providers globally, this is just the beginning. Technological innovations will continue to help energy producers cut costs, strengthen security, improve customer interactions, meet regulatory demands and increase environmental sustainability. It's an exciting business and social opportunity, and we're only just seeing the tip of the wind turbine!