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Modelling and Simulation of Cyber-physical Systems

The Stakes are High; Time to up Your Game

Modelling and Simulation of Cyber-physical Systems

5-minute read
Sinothile Baloyi - February 22nd 2024


Modelling and Simulation of Cyber-physical Systems

In 2006 Dr Helen Gill, then program manager of the United States National Science Foundation (USNSF) coined the term Cyber-physical Systems. Before that, we had Cybernetics, a term invented by mathematician Norbert Wiener. And before that we had the Greek word kybernan; to steer. So cyber-physical systems are, therefore, systems involving the steering of physical entities of some kind.

A lot like you, with your nervous system forever in a feedback loop with the rest of your physiological systems, making endless decisions that translate into all sorts of physical actions. Or a dormant plant with sensors that pick up temperature changes in spring and communicates them to the rest of the plant’s structures so that its shoots emerge, leaves form, and it bursts, once again, into life.

Back to you. You, human, are complex. Possibly made more so by the fact that your attempts to understand yourself are all being conducted– well, at least communicably– by other humans like you. Mainly though, it’s because you are made up of, and subject to, so many complex dynamic systems, all attempting to work together harmoniously, all the time. This complexity is endemic to all cyber-physical systems and increases with the size of the system.

An electric toothbrush that senses you’re brushing your teeth too hard and flashes a warning light is simple enough, but what about an autonomous vehicle navigating a traffic junction with pedestrians and other road users, including that food delivery bike rider who’s just decided that he really can’t get another terrible rating for being late again and suddenly comes pedalling furiously around the corner? The stakes just got much higher than any potential dental issues arising from your incorrect brushing technique. So now you have a crazy number of source lines of code to handle. You then have to navigate how your organisation- colleagues and decision makers – works, as well as how the processes in your organisation work. All so your cyber-physical design does not critically fail when faced with the complex situations in the real world in which it will operate. Now, you are aware that cyber-physical systems are at the core of Industry 4.0; they really are what will define the next era in industrial evolution, so staying out of the game is not an option. So, you need to figure this out.

You arrived into the world tiny but pretty much fully formed, and nobody knew what you’d get up to; everyone just crossed their fingers, counted yours, and hoped whatever was in that skull was good. You can’t do that with your creation (sorry) because it has to be validated before it gets out there. So, then you have the modelling and simulation to carry out because building a physical prototype to test is very, very expensive.

Now, perhaps your organisation already has a robust modelling and simulation strategy in place. Question is, does it fully take into account the rapid growth in product complexity that has come about in the last decade as expectations have rapidly expanded to encompass everything from demand for greater ease of use, to increased connectivity and environmental considerations?

Well, we at NAFEMS love nothing more than helping you up your game; it’s what drives us. With that in mind, we invited Eric Landel to present a webinar on the numerical modelling and simulation of cyber-physical systems. And with this webinar, ‘New Stakes for Numerical Modeling and Simulation of Cyber-physical Systems, Eric helps you unpick the complexities of numerical modelling and simulation in the cyber-physical age and shows you what you need to look at in order to meet the challenges. His background and experience might be in the automotive industry, but cyber-physical systems are united by core characteristics - computation, communication, and control - and the webinar offers many lessons and takeaways that cut across all engineering industries.

So, steer yourself here and sign in/sign up to access the webinar for free.