Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are integrations of computation and physical processes. Embedded computers and networks monitor and control the physical processes, usually with feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa. The economic and societal potential of such systems is vastly greater than what has been realized, and major investments are being made worldwide to develop the technology. There are considerable challenges, particularly because the physical components of such systems introduce safety and reliability requirements qualitatively different from those in general-purpose computing. Moreover, physical components are qualitatively different from object-oriented software components. Standard abstractions based on method calls and threads do not work. This paper examines the challenges in designing such systems, and in particular raises the question of whether today's computing and networking technologies provide an adequate foundation for CPS. It concludes that it will not be sufficient to improve design processes, raise the level of abstraction, or verify (formally or otherwise) designs that are built on today's abstractions. To realize the full potential of CPS, we will have to rebuild computing and networking abstractions. These abstractions will have to embrace physical dynamics and computation in a unified way.




Download Full History