Cyber-Physical Systems

As these systems grow in scale, complexity, and integration levels, there is a need to move towards a science of embedded systems, addressing the foundational aspects of design. Now that we have a better understanding of the basics of embedded systems, it is equally important to branch out to the application of such systems. This requires addressing domain-specific issues and the scale-up in complexity introduced by what is referred to today as Cyber-Physical Systems. Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) are systems-of- systems that tightly couple their cyber (i.e. computation, communication and control), and physical components (sensing and actuation) in the context of applications such as (but not limited to): automotive and transportation, manufacturing, power distribution grid, medical and healthcare, robotics, civil infrastructure, avionics, etc.. Thus, these Cyber Physical Systems marry knowledge from the fields of embedded systems, networking, sensors, real-time systems and control as well as domain-specific knowledge to realize systems that are of untapped complexity and scale. At the national level, CPS has been promoted in major funding initiatives as presented in several reports from funding agencies (e.g., [4,5,6,7], and on a global scale, the European Union has allocated over $7 Billion to fund research in the area of embedded and cyber-physical systems as part of their Vision 2020 initiative. Japan has also launched similar initiatives. Essentially, the following domains have been identified as major thrust areas in CPS (although other areas are constantly being added to the list).

  1. Advanced Manufacturing: smart production equipment, processes, automation, control, and networks; new product design.
  2. Transportation/Automotive: intelligent vehicles and traffic control, intelligent structures and pavements.
  3. Smart Infrastructure: smart utility grids and smart buildings/ structures, civil infrastructure, smart homes.
  4. Health Care: body area networks and assistive systems, elderly home care and monitoring, networked implantable devices.
  5. Emergency Response and Cyber-Enhanced Security: detection and surveillance systems, situational awareness, communication networks, and emergency response equipment.
  6. Sustainable development: Water, pollution, waste, etc..

In a key report commissioned by NIST [4], it was stated that “… a key visionary element of the future of education for CPS is the availability of recognized educational programs that offer the fundamentals of CPS though a multi-disciplinary curriculum.” The report goes on to recommend several transformative ideas, one of which is to “.. reward Masters’ programs in CPS”. The report also points to a major barrier which is the “…Lack of a CPS degree that cuts across multiple disciplines, hindered by stove piped nature of university structure.” This degree will be a first in the US to focus on both Embedded and Cyber-Physical Systems. Being managed by a center that falls at the intersection of Engineering and Computer Science disciplines is likely to overcome the hindrances observed by the NIST report. Graduates are expected have an integrative knowledge of systems fundamentals that include software, hardware, sensing, and actuation control and hands-on knowledge through practical projects in a targeted application domain.

The proposed program will complement our undergraduate degree offerings quite well. Graduates of our undergraduate programs (BS EE and CpE in EECS and BS CS in CS, and CSE jointly managed by both departments) are ideally suited to apply and enter the MECPS program. In recent years, we find that as these undergrads work on senior design projects they get familiar with Embedded and Cyber-Physical Systems and gain an appreciation for the domain. Indeed, many of these students state that hands-on knowledge of systems is a highlight of their educational experience at UCI, and want to see more of it in the future. We feel that the MECPS program directly addresses that point through the project students are required to do to fulfill their MECPS graduation requirement.