How heavy is the physical internet

Cyber-physical systems

1. Generally: Cyber-physical systems are systems in which information and software technology are connected to mechanical components, with data transfer and exchange as well as monitoring and control taking place in real time via a network such as the Internet. Essential components are mobile and moving equipment, devices and machines (including robots), embedded systems and networked objects (Internet of Things). Sensors register and process data from the physical world, actuators (drive elements) act on the physical world so that, for example, points are set, locks opened, windows and doors closed, and production processes started, changed and stopped. The challenges are standardization and integration of components, verification of systems, reduction of complexity and increased security. The sciences and disciplines involved include (business) computer science, business administration, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and robotics. Cyber-physical systems have a central function in Industry 4.0.

2. Areas of application: The application areas of cyber-physical systems include production, logistics, mobility, energy, the environment and defense. This also includes central topics of Industry 4.0. Vehicle production with process control and automation systems and stationary or mobile robots (Smart Factory and Smart Production) plays just as important a role as the establishment of control systems for train, air and car traffic. Smart grid connects small and large energy providers and a wide variety of systems. This should enable higher efficiency and better effectiveness in energy supply. Networked systems for monitoring and influencing the environment control and manipulate artificial and natural systems in order to prevent damage to humans and the environment caused by earthquakes and floods, for example. Military drones, which are part of the Unmanned Aerial System, which also includes the ground station for take-off, landing and refueling and the station for controlling and monitoring the flight, fly remotely or (partially) autonomously and are based on constant inputs from the Internet and information systems and rely on high quality sensors. In turn, they can be part of more complex defense systems for air surveillance and missile defense.

3. Criticism and Outlook: Advantages of cyber-physical systems, as well as of Industry 4.0, are adaptability and changeability, resource efficiency, improvement of ergonomics and increase of (certain forms of) security. The disadvantage is that the complex structures are extremely vulnerable and create internal and external dependencies. Autonomous systems can make wrong decisions, either because they follow inappropriate rules or because they incorrectly interpret situations and processes. Mobile robots can injure people and cause accidents, which social robotics is supposed to prevent. Embedded networked systems depend on current data and correct information as well as on a functioning power supply. Information ethics examines the possible failure of cyber-physical systems, such as their hostile takeover and self-inflicted failure, in a moral relationship, while machine ethics tries to improve the decisions of (partially) autonomous systems in moral terms.