Nowadays, Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and Internet of Things (IoT) are twin paradigms of the digital transformation impacting all economy sectors and society levels. Last decade, CPS and IoT have been growing, in parallel, in foundations and developments by sharing Internet, embedded systems and common targets such as tailored sensors and actuators, platforms and frameworks but also emerging methods and computational architectures. Recent study of NIST demonstrates that both paradigms have more in common rather than remarkable differences .
Among hot topics in CPS and IoT such as sensors and actuators, hardware designs and development platforms, architectures and computational frameworks, modeling, control and optimization, and potential applications, let’s focus on sensors, commenting on a one single case-study as a grain of sand. Indeed, COVID19 is a new unexpected and undesired factor to be taken into account in the research, development and innovation approaches, mainly when most research and working activities have moved into the virtual world . It is therefore quite interesting how the number of engineers and technicians willing to accept a pay cut appears to be growing when working from home permanently, but this is another interesting topic to be covered in future posts.
Certainly, the next ten years require a big effort to produce new research-driven knowledge and breakthrough technologies to produce a qualitative change toward Society 5.0 and Industry 4.0 , the new paradigm led by Japan and included in the Horizon Europe framework programme . The original IoT concept expanded over time to include “things” with sensors, offering new, more complex data streams that could be used for measurement and analytical purposes and to create value-added features and services. On the other hand, CPS are recognized as a top priority in research and development. Although approaches in software engineering (SE) and control engineering (CE) exist, their synergy to address the challenges of CPS in a holistic manner remains an open challenge in a System of Systems new paradigm.
CPS and IoT are becoming large-scale pervasive systems, which combine various data sources to control real-world ecosystems such as intelligent traffic control, smart production systems, smart buildings, urban water management, precision agriculture, among others. IoT and CPS have to control emergent behavior, be scalable and fault tolerant. In this post, some impacts on the basic science panorama, potential applications and key challenging areas are analyzed.
What is the current trend? What about sensors and actuators?
It is rather beyond the scope of this blog to address all worldwide running initiatives in the field of CPS and IoT from the perspective of sensors and actuators. Some tech pillars have been evolving very fast in the last years driven by the technological demand of sectors such as automotive industry and autonomous driving challenge. Special attention has received Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors and related technologies. It is clear that stone-paved path among research, development, patenting, validation and industrial production has been shortened.
In 2017, a seminal research paper  claimed the development of machine learning library to facilitate the design and evaluation of obstacle detection in a transportation cyber-physical system where LiDARs have a relevant role. The focus was on modelling and simulation of virtual on-chip light detection and ranging sensors in a CPS.
Less than one year after, in 2018, a patent of Ford Global Technologies LLC (US 10055675 B2) put the attention on a training algorithm for collision avoidance using auditory data . In this patent, a vehicle controller incorporates a machine learning model and estimates the presence and/or location of a parked vehicle with its engine running based on actual sensor outputs input to the machine learning model. Simultaneously, a self-tuning method for increased obstacle detection based on Internet of Things LiDAR sensor was proposed in another article , showing a clear interaction towards real impact of knowledge generation.
Flagship companies such as Velodyne are pushing hard in this world race, but not alone at all. One year ago, Waymo announced that the company will sell its short-range Lidar. The company stated that the short-range lidar insures against blind spots and can also quickly produce a 3-D snapshot of an entire room, enabling key capabilities such as near-object detection and avoidance . Just a few months ago, Volvo Cars partnering with Silicon Valley–based lidar manufacturer Luminar announced to deliver genuine hands-free, eyes-off-the-road highway driving beginning in 2022 , the two shown prototypes incorporate a single laser and receiver, rather than the bulky, expensive, stacked arrays. The race is on the way, and last July Toshiba knocked the door with a prototype with a highly efficient silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) that enables non-coaxial Lidar to employ off-the-shelf camera lenses to lower costs and help bring about solid-state, high-resolution LiDAR .
Therefore, sensors have much to say in IoT and CPS in a near future to enable the new cooperating and coordinated work among sub-systems, with key requirements such as low-power, highly-integrated and low memory, as well autonomous operation with embedded AI-functionality for self-reconfiguration and self-resilience to guarantee a reliable and efficient performance.
CPS and IoT are also relevant for XXI-century smart production systems where modeling, control, optimization and human-machine interaction and cooperation are necessary ingredients in the cooking recipe. However, this will be addressed in the second part of this story. In any case it is much recommended to read first the “Old Man and the Sea”  to settle down the expectations.
In future posts, we will be continue writing about technology and business trends for enterprises. Furthermore, we recommend consulting the following literature to continue your digital transformation journey:
- Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success, MIT review
- The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives, by Simon & Schuster
- Artificial Intelligence: The Insights You Need, by Harvard Business Review
- The Year in Tech, 2021: The Insights You Need, by Harvard Business Review
- The Deep Learning Revolution, by MIT Press
- Competing in the Age of AI, by Harvard Review Press
The objective of this blog is to provide a personal vision of how digital transformation trends will be impacting in our daily activities, businesses and lifestyle.
Senior Researcher, his research interest includes Process Automation, Industry 4.0, Smart-Control, Cognitive Control Architectures and cyber-physical systems.