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Smart Anything Everywhere

Cyber-Physical Systems Engineering Labs is part of the Smart Anything Everywhere initiative.

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644400.

Cyber-Physical Systems

Collaborative Modelling

The CPSE Labs project exists in order to accelerate the transfer of scientific findings, research prototypes, and development tools into innovative products and services ready for commercial exploitation.

We particularly focus on rigorous design of embedded systems and CPSs. Many different technologies, engineering disciplines and software services are involved in CPS design, and many technology businesses are already developing or contributing towards CPSs without realising it.

Read on to find out if your business could be classed as a CPS provider.

What is a cyber-physical system?

CPSs are systems that link the physical world (e.g., through sensors or actuators) with the virtual world of information processing. They are composed from diverse constituent parts that collaborate together to create some global behaviour. These constituents will include software systems, communications technology, and sensors/actuators that interact with the real world, often including embedded technologies.

One CPS will often include components from many different manufacturers or service providers, and therefore many businesses are already contributing towards CPSs without necessarily being aware of it, as their products and services are integrated with others to create new CPSs. Alternatively, manufacturers with different fields of expertise might come together to jointly design a new CPS product.

A CPS presents a collection of challenges not always found in a classical business information system or embedded system. To construct a CPS, a combination of different engineering competencies is required, spanning the technical domains as well as the corresponding application sectors, in the form of a new discipline of systems engineering. A typical CPS might:

  • Monitor and control physical and organisational or business processes
  • Be a large-scale system with different - and even conflicting - goals spanning different application domains
  • Require integration of different technical disciplines and different application domains
  • Require a high degree of dependability
  • Involve substantial user involvement/interaction
  • Continuously monitor and optimize its own performance
  • Adapt and evolve constantly in response changes in the environment, through real-time (re)configuration, deployment or (de)commissioning
  • Require hierarchical decision systems with a high degree of autonomy on local, regional, national, and global level
  • Be a distributed and interconnected systems of systems

Example application domains

CPSs can be deployed in many different contexts and application areas. Here are some examples:

  • Improving efficiency and safety in homes and offices, for example by monitoring and controlling heat and humidity.
  • Supporting elderly people living alone, for example by detecting problems (such as illness or accidents) and raising the alarm automatically, using non-intrusive wearable sensors or detectors installed in the house.
  • Monitoring safety and movements of passengers in a public transport system, or of vehicles on a road network.
  • Optimizing crop yield and reducing pesticide/fertilizer use, by using CPSs to identify and deliver them only where they are needed.
  • Implementing intelligent, efficient production systems and manufacturing lines.
  • Monitoring health and wellbeing of livestock and raising automatic warnings of illnesses or injuries.
  • Monitoring and tracking shipments intelligently for optimal logistics and stock control.
  • Collecting environmental data to support decision-making and public policy-setting, or to generate warnings of environmental threats such as wildfires, earthquakes or volcanic erruptions.
  • Monitoring human health and fitness - of hospital patients or athletes, for example.

These are examples only - CPSs can be deployed to many other domains also. Please contact our service centre if you have questions about eligibility of your technology domain.

Relationship with other fields

CPS engineering overlaps with several other related fields.

CPS and embedded systems

An embedded system is a self-contained system that incorporates elements of control logic and real world interaction. Unlike a CPS, however, an embedded system is typically confined to a single device, whilst CPSs may encompass many constituent systems and devices. Embedded systems typically have a limited number of tasks to complete, with software and hardware elements designed specifically to achieve those tasks, typically with very limited resources.

In contrast, although embedded systems are very important elements for many CPSs, a CPS itself operates a much larger scale, potentially including many embedded systems or other devices and system as well, including human and socio-technical systems.

If your business works with embedded systems, particularly connected or networked collections of embedded systems, we can probably class your work as CPS. We recommend looking at some our available platforms, some of which you might find helpful.

CPS and the Internet of Things

CPS and the Internet of Things (IoT) have significant overlaps. The IoT is a vision of the future where many millions of devices and are connected over the internet, allowing them to collect information about the real world remotely, and share it with other systems and devices.

IoT and CPS share many challenges, but there are some distinctions. IoT has a strong emphasis on uniquely identifiable and internet-connected devices and embedded systems. CPS engineering has a strong emphasis on the relationship between computation and the physical world (e.g., between complex software and hardware aspects of a system).

If your business works with IoT, particularly if it includes interacting with the physical world via with sensors and/or actuators, we can probably class your work as CPS. We recommend looking at some our available platforms, some of which you might find helpful.

CPS and Systems of Systems

A system of systems (SoS) is a system composed of components, which are also independent systems in their own right. The constituent systems that are managerially and operationally independent, physically distributed, constantly evolving, and collaborating together to produce emergent global behaviour that they cannot produce alone.

CPSs and SoSs also have many shared interests. Many CPSs are comprised of independent constituents, and, like SoSs, CPSs also tackle challenges of coping with dependable emergence, evolution and distribution. However, although it is often the case that CPS constituent systems are independent, it's not a defining characteristic for a CPS. Likewise, although it's often the case that SoSs do incorporate elements of computation as well as real-world interaction, this is not a defining property of an SoS.

If your business works with systems of systems, particularly if it includes interacting with the real world via sensors and/or actuators, we can probably class your work as CPS. We recommend looking at some our available platforms, some of which you might find helpful.

Further reading on CPS engineering

Read why CPSs are so important for our society.

CPS engineering is currently the focus of many industrial and academic research projects. We recommend taking a look at some CPS-oriented projects. Examples of such projects are included below.

CyPhErs is a European Union-funded project to develop a cyber-physical roadmap and strategy; the project draws on inputs from researchers and industrial practioners.

Another European Union-funded project also drawing on research and industrial input is CPSoS (Towards a European Roadmap on Research and Innovation in Engineering and Management of Cyber-Physical Systems of Systems.

We also recommend reading an influential report by the German National Academy of Science and Engineering - acatech: Living in a networked world: Integrated research agenda Cyber-Physical Systems.