November 23, 2015

Connecting To Information With Cyber Physical Systems

By Scott Andersen

CPS Device Trends On The Rise

It isn’t, “Do you remember who starred in XYZ Movie?” It’s, “Can you look it up please?

Did you ever think you would sit at the dinner table, and when a question came up, someone would look up the answer and share it with everyone?” The words echoed at the table. Actually, I had always dreamed of that. Connection to information is something I have driven for my entire career. The question did, however, get me thinking.

Our devices have three types of information:

Information that is available online that the device can go and get, information that is local to the device and can be accessed quickly, and information that is produced by the device and then shared with the user.

Altogether, that cellular phone is an automation hub, information hub, and Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) device. I found out recently that collecting data from a lot of accelerometers can actually tell you the severity of an earthquake. An aggregation of hi-gain microphones can do the same thing.

That got me thinking about what else your smart phone can do today. So I did an internet search—”add-ons for cellular devices.” I found an incredible number of things you can do with your smartphone to make it into a CPS sensor. All of the devices I found are available today. All include the sensor and the software, usually a free download from the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Cyber Physical Systems Now Shipping

The following is a list of the many devices now shipping that integrate a sensor, software, and information: breathalyzers, laser measurements, 3d scanners, infrared cameras, Geiger counters, UV detectors, weather stations, wind meters (including wind direction), blood pressure cuffs, and any fitness device you could ever want! Want to know how you are driving? A device automatically plugs into the management port of your car and connects to your phone, telling you how you are driving.

My second search was for software that would allow me to use my cellular phone as a CPS device. Again, there are a number of software packages you can download: a seismograph (using your accelerometer), a sonar measuring system (using sound and your microphone), blood monitoring (using the camera), and of course the already pretty standard GPS and camera.

The information your device can produce continues to expand. This brings me, in a circuitous way, to my point. CPS devices are expanding with 10 billion-plus deployed today. As we move further into this market, it is critical that we have a number of new standards. Two of them are critical for the expansion of CPS in the short term. The first is the implementation of an agreed upon management standard for CPS devices. This would include support for the management of one or many CPS devices, including logging, updating, and replacing components of the deployed CPS device from a single enterprise console. The second standard supports the first and is the need for a unified integration framework for CPS devices. Today, many devices produce information only into their unique or custom application. The value for all the devices I’ve listed is in being able to consume that data from any application on your cellphone or laptop.

Standards Of The Future

The reason for the standards has to do with tomorrow. I suspect that many of the sensors you can get for your cellular device today will, in the future, be integrated into devices such as your car and home. That integration will make it easier for your cellular device to connect. But that integration will require the ability to provide management of those devices. They will need software updates, monitoring, and integration of reporting.

Tomorrow’s conversation will not be like the conversation that prompted the question I led off with: “Did you ever think you would sit at the dinner table and, when a question came up, someone would look up the answer and share it with everyone?” said in response to two people quickly grabbing their cell phones and providing the answer to the question of who was in XYZ Movie. The question of tomorrow may be something like “How did you get a sunburn? Didn’t the house tell you the UV reading was high today?” The answer would then be something like “It did. I fell asleep outside reading a book.”

By Scott Andersen

Scott Andersen

Scott Andersen is the managing partner and Chief Technology Officer of Creative Technology & Innovation. During his 25+ years in the technology industry Scott has followed many technology trends down the rabbit hole. From early adopter to last person selecting a technology Scott has been on all sides. Today he loves spending time on his boat, with his family and backing many Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects.
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