The fields of application of CPS are actually boundless – apart from purely industrial (but rather future-oriented) fields of application such as intelligent manufacturing and production environments in various industries (“smart factories”), CPS are already being used in other fields. These include intelligent power grids (“smart grids”), electronic health, age-appropriate assistance systems, but also intelligent traffic monitoring systems or automatic early warning systems in disaster control.
Some examples should make you aware of the integration of CPS already taking place in the world:
Industry 4.0 – Smart Factory
Imagine that there is a production environment that controls itself autonomously, knows what to do depending on the product and component, and also independently makes its processes more efficient. That would be something! At the same time, this would be called the “final level of Industry 4.0”, so to speak.
In fact, some companies are already busy trying to integrate CPS in their industrial production. The automotive industry, in particular, is already using CPS in some cases to automate work steps. However, the industry is still far away from complete networking, as not all the necessary technologies have been sufficiently researched yet.
Smart Factory is already a big topic in the automotive industry, as you can see in the graphic above. So, if you want to make a name for yourself in the automotive industry, you know what you or your company have to deal with!
Maintenance of machines
One of the biggest cost items in industrial companies is the maintenance of the machines. CPS already help industrial companies to save costs here. Take a look at the following comparison:
Maintenance without CPS
Here, either reactive or preventive maintenance is carried out.
Reactive maintenance: Production simply continues until the machine stops working – this has extremely low maintenance costs at the beginning, but you risk long downtimes and high replacement costs.
Preventive maintenance: Regardless of the actual failures, maintenance is carried out at regular intervals, i.e. parts or entire machines are replaced – this is quite safe, but expensive in the long run.
Maintenance with CPS
The machines can determine themselves when maintenance would be due via their sensors. As a result, wearouts can be detected very quickly and maintenance can be carried out more efficiently.
In addition, possible failures can be “predicted” and reacted to or prevented accordingly.
Smart Grid – the Internet of Energy
Even a power grid can become “intelligent” with CPS. Why is this even necessary? Nowadays, electricity is being generated in an increasingly decentralized manner. This means that in most cases (especially in rural areas) there is no longer a single, central source where the electricity comes from, but many smaller sources such as wind turbines, photovoltaic systems, biogas plants, etc..
This is complex and requires a system – especially in the area of load control (i.e. which device is currently using how much power). It’s a good thing that CPS exists. It allows all players in the electricity grid (generation, storage, supply and consumption) to exchange information with each other fully automatically and in real time.
As a result, devices communicate to the power grid how much power must be generated and made available. These devices react, can select the source accordingly and, in the event of an overload, can also block the current.
Civil protection, military defence and transport
CPS can also be real life savers. CPSs, which can detect and warn of natural disasters such as tornadoes or earthquakes days in advance using appropriate sensors, have become indispensable in evacuation situations. CPS can also provide assistance in environmental issues – for example, they can automatically detect soil conditions and draw conclusions about plants and animals in the vicinity based on changes in these conditions.
This is not so different from industrial applications: After all, here too, efficiency is to be increased and the time and costs required reduced.
But CPS are also used militarily. Modern air defence systems and military drones are networked with each other using such systems in order to be able to react quickly and in a coordinated manner.
Traffic also benefits from CPS and is actually an obvious example of real-time system regulation. Traffic jams, accidents and road damage are registered in real time and appropriate diversion measures or road closures are implemented – thus relieving traffic and preventing further congestion or accidents. Even completely autonomous vehicles are conceivable in this way. However, this is still a dream of the future, as the corresponding road infrastructure has to be built first.
In addition to public and corporate applications, every single person can also benefit from CPS on an individual basis. One example is the keyword e-health (electronic health, i.e. the electronic processing of health data).
Prevention, monitoring, diagnosis, treatment and management can be linked electronically. The electronic health file in Austria (also called ELGA) is part of e-health, as are online pharmacies or smartwatches and fitness trackers (devices worn on the wrist that detect health data such as pulse rate or register falls).
A patient is diagnosed with diabetes. He is given a digital blood collection device to monitor his blood sugar regularly. This is linked to his smartwatch, which uses the data transmitted to make recommendations for action with regard to sport, nutrition and medication.
In an emergency, the smartwatch reacts and can autonomously alert the rescue. When the rescue arrives, the paramedic is informed via the smartwatch that the patient is a diabetic. The paramedic can then take the appropriate measures quickly.
Another area of application is (age-appropriate) technological support – Ambient Assisted Living
This is essentially about people who need support in some way for a self-determined life – whether due to age-related problems or physical limitations.
CPS are used here to create technologies that can respond to people’s specific needs. Support is not only provided to them, but also to nursing staff and relatives for example.
For example, homes can be designed in such a way that voice can be used to control heating, operate blinds or activate lighting. This could also be done automatically, e.g. by switching off the lights and the stove whenever the person leaves the apartment. This would save some manual steps for older people. In the event of a fire hazard, the fire brigade can be automatically notified in addition to the alarm.
A point of criticism: The operation of such systems must, however, be relearned beforehand – e.g. which voice commands must be used. This can be difficult for disabled or elderly people. So, special attention must be paid to the simplicity and user-friendliness of these systems.
CPS offers a number of application areas, some of which have already been implemented, others are planned for the future.
Some examples are:
Social areas of application
Ambient Assisted Living