What Is A Cyber-Physical System?

By Marin Ivesic

CPS is a broad, umbrella term for technologies that connect our physical world with the cyber world. It describes situations in which we find a fundamental intersection of computation, communications and physical processes without suggesting any particular implementation or application.

In addition to IoT, the cyber-physical systems term also includes Industrial Control Systems (ICS) – those setups that manage large-scale civil and industrial operations such as smart factories, water supply and power production and distribution, as well as technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), robotics, drones, connected and autonomous transportation, building management systems, connected environmental controls and a myriad of other things. In essence, these are software-enabled collections of sensors, processors, and control components that automate entire, or large parts of, human operations. And they are already all around us.

Definitions of CPSs vary and many are excellent, but one that is particularly relevant to the topic is a definition I coined for the Cyber-Physical Systems Security Institute (CPSSI) in 1998: “Cyber-physical systems are physical or biological systems with an embedded computational core in which a cyberattack could adversely affect physical space, potentially impacting well-being, lives or the environment.” This definition goes beyond a technical assessment of a system’s makeup to recognize its potential impact on the world around that system. It identifies the inherent threat of cyberattacks and the dangers they inevitably pose to human life.

For more on this topic by Marin, Check out his article in the Summer issue of ThinkTWENTY20 at https://thinktwenty20.com/index.php/498-summer-2020-issue-free-copy

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