New opportunities linked to new connections

Cyber-physical systems used to collect and analyse data to improve operating modes

Cyber-physical systems link the physical world to “the cloud”. The ultimate goal is to develop new opportunities in the physical world based on data collected in the cybernetic world. IK4-TEKNIKER is currently working on this know-how so it can be applied to a number of sectors such as manufacturing, energy, health and transport.

A cyber-physical system (CPS), on the one hand, features a physical component that, in its most simple version, could be a sensor or, in its most complex version, a machine or a robot and, on the other, a connection with the virtual world, usually in the “cloud” where data collection and analyses take place allowing the physical world to be influenced as an end result.

An important concept must be taken into consideration when developing a system, namely the degree of “coupling” between the engineering and development of a system and its utilization. It is important to bear in mind use experience when the time comes to upgrading a system’s behaviour. The aim is to record and analyse this experience and, based on the outcomes of this analysis, to improve the mode of operation. Learning possibilities will be greatly enhanced if this experience is shared by a set of systems. This, in fact, is one of the main goals of a cyber-physical system.

A fitting example of this concept can be found, for instance, in the area of oil analysis sensors developed by IK4-TEKNIKER. Particularly with regard to optical sensors that, when connected on-line to a hydraulic circuit, detect particles in lubricating fluids and prevent potential failures involving lubricated mechanical elements. This sensor must learn from previous experience of use and react appropriately to future situations involving new materials and lubricants. The detection algorithm must learn and evolve with use under different circumstances.

Cyber-physical systems can be applied in multiple sectors. At IK4-TEKNIKER it is believed that those applied to manufacturing, energy, health and transport are more relevant than others.

Listed hereunder is the technological research carried out at IK4-TEKNIKER to address this challenge that has been brought about by the implementation of these systems:

  • Engineering for cyber-physical systems: development methodologies and tools for life cycle support
  • Reference, interoperability and communication architectures
  • Autonomy and adaptation
  • Analytics and Big Data

This allows for the development of new generations of solutions focused on:

  • Monitoring the condition of a machine or, in more general terms, of a system and the optimization of its operation and maintenance strategy
  • Controlling machine tools or wind turbines to optimise performance
  • Collaborative robots that take context information into account and learn from each other