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Industry 4.0: What are Cyber-Physical Systems?

Posted by Charing Kam on Dec 5, 2018 3:00:00 PM
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As part of an ongoing series of Industry 4.0 articles to help manufacturers embrace the fourth Industrial Revolution, we will be going through some concepts, theories, and practical examples. Some of the articles include those about Industry 4.0 success stories, Equipment-as-a-Service, Industrial Internet of Things, and more. To keep up with the series, sign up for our newsletter.

Cyber-Physical systems (CPS) are named as one of the fundamental building blocks when it comes to Industry 4.0, but what exactly do we know about them? We’ve mentioned the term briefly before in our Industry 4.0 glossary, but we have not gone into detail about what these building blocks do in the architecture of Industry 4.0 theories and solutions.   

What are Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)?

As per the definition from our glossary, taken from UC Berkeley’s Ptolemy Project, CPS are:

 “integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes. Embedded computers and networks monitor and control the physical processes, with feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa. The technology builds on the older discipline of embedded systems, computers and software embedded in devices whose principle mission is not computation, such as cars, toys, medical devices, and scientific instruments.”

What this means is that CPS become the base from which physical, embedded and IT systems are connected and integrated. If you changed one of them, you should be able to control the others through a feedback loop.

Characteristics of Cyber-Physical Systems

According to Dr. Martin Törngren in a presentation by the Cyber-Physical European Roadmap and Strategy (CyPhERS), a project that was co-funded by the European Commission, the characteristics of a CPS are:

  1. directly records physical data using sensors and affect physical processes using actuators;
  2. evaluates and saves recorded data, and actively or reactively interacts both with the physical and digital world;
  3. is connected with other CPS and in global networks via digital communication facilities (wireless and/or wired, local and/or global);
  4. uses globally available data and services;
  5. has a series of dedicated, multi-modal human-machine interfaces

You could also learn what CPS is by comparing it to other similar concepts; for example, CPS is a type of embedded systems, but one that encompasses many systems and devices, instead of being confined to one device and a set number of tasks. Internet of Things (IoT) and CPS are also commonly linked, especially in the age of Industry 4.0, which includes both as defining factors within the new digital transformation process. However, IoT generally focuses on internet-connected devices and systems, while CPS emphasises on the “relationship between computation and the physical world (e.g., between complex software and hardware aspects of a system).”, as per CPSE Labs, another EU-funded project.

A concept map by the Ptolemy Project shows the detailed breakdown of CPS:

CPSConceptMap (1)

Credit: Ptolemy Project

Cyber-Physical Systems and Manufacturing

So how does CPS affect manufacturers? In cybermanufacturing, data and evidence provides the environment upon which your manufacturing processes can be transformed. As per a 2016 research paper:

“the translation of data from interconnected systems (can be made) into predictive and prescriptive operations to achieve resilient performance. It intertwines industrial big data and smart analytics to discover and comprehend invisible issues for decision making.” - Lee, Jay & Bagheri, Behrad & Jin, Chao. (2016). Introduction to Cyber Manufacturing. Manufacturing Letters

This links CPS with a concept we’ve covered before, Predictive Maintenance. In a bid to increase customer satisfaction and to embrace business models such as servitisation, manufacturers are looking to predictive maintenance. Another 2015 research paper looked at the “Impact of Cyber-physical Systems on Industrial Services in Manufacturing”, and came away with this:

“CPSs are transforming the service business in manufacturing and offer new opportunities for business innovation in the servitized manufacturing industry.” -  Herterich, Matthias & Uebernickel, Falk & Brenner, and Walter. Impact of Cyber-physical Systems on Industrial Services in Manufacturing.

Or, in detail, there’s this breakdown of the 5C architecture for CPS:


Credit: Design World Online

In the end, what we know is that CPS in manufacturing, or cybermanufacturing, will transform the way that manufacturers compete. Those who embrace CPS, and Industry 4.0 technologies, could benefit from a huge increase in productivity and performance due to increased visibility into their systems. As one last research paper succinctly recaps:

“The biggest changes happen where cyber-physical systems cause disruptive innovation. This development requires strong interdisciplinary partnerships between IT and manufacturing companies, which will strengthen the links in existing ecosystems. Companies, consumers and products will be massively interconnected due to digital networks, which lead to increased network effects and a joint value creation in ecosystems.” - Monostori, Laszlo & Kádár, Botond & Bauernhansl, Thomas & Kondoh, Shinsuke & Kumara, Soundar & Reinhart, Gunther & Sauer, Olaf & Schuh, Günther & Sihn, Wilfried & Ueda, K. (2016). Cyber-physical systems in manufacturing.

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Charing Kam

Written by Charing Kam

Charing is responsible for In Mind Cloud's Inbound Marketing initiatives. A content marketing enthusiast, she works to find out how consumers make decisions and aims to help them along the way.

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