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Cyber-physical systems

· 5 min read
Nicolas Lorenzi

Cyber-physical systems

At Luos, we often talk about embedded systems and edge, but a term often resurfaces in our everyday vocabulary: Cyber-physical systems (CPS).

This is the term that best describes the type of smart system Luos can manage since it is totally designed as a network of MCU that interact with each other through physical inputs and outputs. CPSs are, therefore, somewhat different from embedded and edge systems, which are autonomous interacting devices.

Cyber-physical systems: what’s it?

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are systems where physical and cyber systems are integrated and interact with each other to share data and feedback.

The physical system can be anything from a simple to a complex machine like a power grid or a transportation device. The cyber system is typically a computer that monitors and controls the physical one.

Both architectures are connected through a network, which can be anything from a simple wired connection to a wireless connection.

The goal of CPS is to improve the performance of the physical system by using the data from the cyber one to make decisions about how to operate the physical one.

It can be used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Transportation
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy
  • Healthcare
  • Buildings and infrastructure

Numerous scientific advances made by talented engineers have made it possible to increase the possibilities of CPS tenfold by playing on the speed of calculation and the links between the various physical elements.

This will improve the capabilities of cyber-physical systems in various dimensions, such as:

  • precision (example: surgery, flying an airplane);
  • security, safety (example: avoidance of accidents in transportation structure);
  • coordination, timing (example: for air traffic control or controlling the traffic lights on a road);
  • human augmentation (example: using an exoskeleton);
  • responsiveness (example: for collision avoidance);
  • efficiency (example: for positive energy buildings);
  • operation in hazardous or inaccessible environments (example: for rescue, firefighting, and deep-sea exploration).

When it comes to systems and computing, mathematics is never far away. The modeling of physical processes is, therefore, an issue to make CPS evolve with new algorithms and models of operating programs.

With smart pyramidal modeling (or rather rocket-ideal here), we can obtain a representation of the different levels of development of embedded and CPS. This model, divided into two parts, functions and attributes, allows us to understand and explore project design to collaborate, allocate the proper responsibilities, analyze the dependencies between the steps, and thus gain agility.

Functions and attributes of cyber-physical systems

What are examples of cyber-physical systems?

One example of a CPS is Tesla Inc.'s autonomous car, the Tesla Model S. The Tesla Model S is a car that uses sensors and computers to autonomously drive itself. They are integrated with the internet and can be controlled remotely.

Another example is a power grid. The physical system is the grid itself, and the cyber one is the computer that monitors and controls the grid. The two devices are connected through a network, which in this case is the wired or wireless connection between the grid and the computer.

When you're using software, CPS is all around you. Every time you use a GPS in your car or your smartphone, you interact with cyber-physical systems.

CPS can handle real-time and time synchronization. An MIT project was developed to dynamically collect real-time data about traffic in the Boston area to calculate the fastest routes based on time. It was carried out with different cabs traveling the road to get accurate real-time traffic information.

What is cyber-physical system in IoT?

The term “cyber-physical system” is often used to describe the interaction between physical and cyber systems in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT).

In the IoT, physical objects are equipped with sensors and actuators that allow them to interact with their environment and with each other. These objects are connected to a network, typically the Internet, which will enable them to share data and feedback.

The data from the sensors and actuators can be used to decide how to operate the physical system. For example, data from temperature sensors can be used to manage the heating and cooling of a building. Data from traffic sensors can be used to control the flow of traffic.

The term CPS is used to describe this type of architecture because the physical system and the cyber one are integrated and interact with each other.

What is the difference between cyber-physical systems and IoT?

Cyber-physical systems are systems where physical and cyber systems are integrated and interact with each other to share data and feedback. IoT systems are systems where physical objects are connected to the Internet and can collect and share data. The difference between CPS and IoT is that CPS is focused on the interaction between physical and cyber systems, while IoT is focused on connecting physical objects to the Internet.

Dr. Naoufel Boulila published an article to categorize and define CPS vs. IoT, he introduces the notion of Industry 4.0: “If IoT is the core infrastructure, then on top of that comes CPS, CPPS, and IoS, and together they constitute Industry 4.0”.

Industry 4.0 based on existing technologies. Boulila, Naoufel. (2019). Cyber-Physical Systems and Industry 4.0: Properties, Structure, Communication, and Behavior.

Industry 4.0 based on existing technologies. Boulila, Naoufel. (2019). Cyber-Physical Systems and Industry 4.0: Properties, Structure, Communication, and Behavior.

Cyber-physical system's security

When we see the different examples like traffic light management, energy, or healthcare, we think about security. Security and safety are paramount in the design of CPSs, as a breach in security could have catastrophic consequences.

There are many challenges associated with security, including:

  • The need to protect both the physical and the cyber components.
  • The need to protect against both intentional and unintentional attacks.
  • The need to protect against various threats, including viruses, worms, or denial-of-service attacks.
  • The need to design devices that are resilient to attacks.

To address these challenges, some CPS security technologies have been developed, including:

  • Intrusion detection devices
  • Intrusion prevention devices
  • Firewalls
  • Cryptography
  • Access control

In addition, security must be considered throughout the entire life cycle of the device, from design to operation.

What are the impacts and benefits of Cyber-physical systems?

CPSs have the potential to improve the efficiency of physical systems and make them more resilient.

One of the challenges is that they are often complex systems with many components that must work together. This can make it challenging to design, build, and operate.

Another challenge is that they are often built using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. This can make it difficult to ensure that the components work together as intended.

It is to make projects scalable and easy to design, build, and connect different components that we created Luos.

With our open-source library, we allow making CPS at the scale of micro-services. This vision will enable us to rethink the way developers create projects and how they anticipate their evolution. To get out of the complexity of components, our developers develop for the developers of tomorrow. Try it now and give us your feedback!

The future of development in CPS holds much promise for improving the efficiency of physical systems and making them more resilient to disruptions. Future projects will likely focus on developing more secure and reliable architectures.

Let's hope that in the future, developers will also focus on making CPS more user-friendly so that a broader range of users can adopt them more easily.

The future looks very promising with the cloud, 5G, and other technologies. Cloud applications will allow for real-time monitoring and control of physical systems. 5G will enable CPS to be more widely deployed and provide the high-speed, low-latency connectivity wich is currently critical.

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