The Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)

These terms refer to the science and technology underwriting an expanding global market for increasingly intelligent devices that connect to other devices or systems through Internet protocols.  These connections promise to enable more scalable intelligent automation (i.e., monitoring and control) solutions across a wider range of commercial, industrial and governmental applications.

One measure of their importance is the large, albeit widely varying, estimate of the number of IoT devices expected by the year 2020.  Estimates range from 10-50 billion devices, from sensors to manufacturing systems, cell phones to entertainment systems, from satellites to cameras, buildings to thermostats, traffic control to self-driving cars, and from smart electric grids to light bulbs.  Some estimates include devices yet to be invented whose viability is justified by applications yet to be designed and whose value propositions have yet to be proven.

Nevertheless, the automation market is a globally competitive innovation frontier where significant and accelerating growth is expected that depends on production of new IoT “edge systems” that support advanced applications dependent on reliable interconnection of  distributed  intelligent devices.

To accelerate progress in this space U.S. and other governments, through their respective R&D funding agencies, are making considerable investments.  In the U.S., the National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) and National Science Foundation (NSF), are funding basic science, technology development and associated standards related to IoT (i.e., cyberphysical systems.)

The wildest growth estimates are naturally offered by the marketing arms of firms that stand to profit from selling IoT devices into home, industrial and military markets.  The “killer applications” motivating these estimates, if reasonable and commercially viable, vary significantly in their promised benefits.  For the most part, their use-cases have yet to be clarified, demonstrated and validated.  They are compelling, if largely intuitive, with benefits in areas such as home and building automation, self-driving cars, and infrastructure in smart cities.

The promises in these domains include belief that “off the shelf” intelligent IoT/CPS devices will be purchased, configured and interconnected to create automation (i.e., monitoring and control) “systems” supporting applications providing sufficient value to justify the expense of the devices, the secure network infrastructure required to interconnect them, and the systems engineering of the end-use applications.

Herein lies the basic challenge to IoT growth predictions: the cost of IoT devices represents a fraction of the total cost to develop, operate and maintain system level killer applications.  At present there are only a few immature standards for constructing such solutions and, more importantly, relatively few application engineers up to the task.  Further, as IoT device volumes grow it is expected that their costs will continually drop as they are commoditized, thus contributing a smaller fraction of the total cost of ownership of the resulting engineered solutions.

Stratum 4 provides architecture and engineering capabilities for realizing IoT/CPS R&D and system application solutions.