What Is Cyber-Physical System And How Will It Shape The Future?

Just as the Internet transformed the way people interact with information, cyber-physical systems are transforming the way people interact with engineered systems. Cyber-Physical Systems integrate sensing, computation, control and networking into physical objects and infrastructure, connecting them to the Internet and to each other. NSF is a leader in supporting advances in the fundamental knowledge and tools to make cyber-physical systems a reality. These advances hold the potential to reshape our world with more responsive, precise, reliable and efficient systems, enabling a revolution of “smart” devices and systems from smart cars to smart grids, collectively giving rise to smart cities.

Cyber-Physical System (CPS) is a computer system in which a mechanism is controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms. In cyber-physical systems, physical and software components are deeply intertwined, able to operate on different spatial and temporal scales, exhibit multiple and distinct behavioral modalities, and interact with each other in ways that change with context. Examples of CPS include smart grid, autonomous automobile systems, medical monitoring, industrial control systems, robotics systems, and automatic pilot avionics.

Mobile Cyber-Physical System

Mobile cyber-physical systems, in which the physical system under study has inherent mobility, are a prominent subcategory of cyber-physical systems. Examples of mobile physical systems include mobile robotics and electronics transported by humans or animals. The rise in popularity of smartphones has increased interest in the area of mobile cyber-physical systems. Smartphone platforms make ideal mobile cyber-physical systems for a number of reasons, including:

  • Significant computational resources, such as processing capability, local storage
  • Multiple sensory input/output devices, such as touch screens, cameras, GPS chips, speakers, microphone, light sensors, proximity sensors
  • Multiple communication mechanisms, such as Wi-Fi, 4G, EDGE, Bluetooth for interconnecting devices to either the Internet, or to other devices
  • High-level programming languages that enable rapid development of mobile CPS node software, such as Java, C#, or JavaScript
  • Readily available application distribution mechanisms, such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store
  • End-user maintenance and upkeep, including frequent re-charging of the battery

The importance of cyber-physical systems

CPSs are integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes: the combination of several systems of different nature whose main purpose is to control a physical process and, through feedback, adapt itself to new conditions, in real time.

CPSs are transforming the way humans interact with engineered systems, just as the internet has transformed the way people interact with information. Humans will remain crucial in this scenario. As the most flexible and intelligent “entity” in the CPS, humans assume the role of a sort of “highest-level controlling instance”, supervising the operation of the mostly automated and self-organizing processes.

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