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Researchers, industry, and government agencies studying cyber-physical systems are working collaboratively to share ideas, problems, and solutions quickly in the Web portal of the Cyber-Physical System Virtual Organization (CPS-VO), built and operated by ISIS.

creating communities

"The CPO-VO provides a collaboration platform for cyber-physical system stakeholders," said Chris van Buskirk, principal investigator for the NSF-funded project and ISIS research scientist.

The immediate goal of CPS-VO is to disseminate emerging research rapidly among stakeholders, increasing the impact and effectiveness of the ongoing work, and reducing time to transition it to practitioners. But the broader goal focuses on helping communities form to tackle the "grand challenges" of cyber-physical system science and engineering.

Cyber-physical systems, the next generation of engineered systems, merge the physical world with computation and are generally software-driven, with multiple applications from aerospace to automobiles to civil engineering and medicine.

"Significant progress in the study of cyber-physical systems requires lowering the disciplinary boundaries between computer science and more traditional, 'physical' fields of engineering, as the solutions necessitate a systems-oriented approach," explained van Buskirk.

THe CPS-VO includes participants from the broad cyber-physical systems research community and is assisted by a collaboration-enabling platform consisting of a community website, a repository, a source of educational materials, and a social networking facility. The Web-based interactions are augmented by conferences, seminars, and workshops that foster in-person interactions.

The CPS-VO provides the primary source of information about cyber-physical systems research. The services it provides to members are essential for nurturing a scientific community, including opportunities for publication, a merit-based peer-review system, a source for interesting research challenge problems, discussion forums, and an independent technology review system geared towards facilitating technology transition, van Buskirk said.

creating communities

The goal of the CPS-VO is to encourage communities that come together through cyber-physical systems research initiatives funded by NSF, the National Security Agency (NSA), and other sponsors to tackle common challenges arising in their fields, ranging from devices to solving larger problems, such as how to improve traffic flow and prevent accidents.

"There's a huge social aspect to this," van Buskirk explained. "We have lots of small communities with their own expertise, but there's not as much cross-disciplinary interaction as we need to solve significant and pervasive cyber-physical systems problems."

Launched in 2011, the CPS-VO immediately yielded productive connections between participants with common interests, including a new group that is developing education curriculum to teach CPS concepts to the next generation of scientists and engineers. This recently founded Education Working Group has as its goal the wide dissemination of materials for cyber-physical systems education, including course outlines, modules for insertion into other courses, new degree program development, and integration into K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.

The group serves as a clearinghouse for publicizing recent research results and will tackle the complex task of assembling an array of modules to provide a variety of curricula for instructors to integrate into their teachings.

In addition, the CPS-VO is now home to several research conferences and workshops focusing on cyber-physical systems, including:

  • creating communitiesThe NSF Cyber-Physical System Program's National Principal Investigator Meeting;
  • The High Confidence Software and Systems Conference, which focuses on new scientific and technological foundations that can enable entirely new generations of engineered designs that are becoming essential for effectively operating life-, safety-, security-, and mission-critical systems;
  • The National Workshop on the New Clockwork for Time-Critical Systems, providing new directions for research on technology for time-critical systems;
  • The National Security Agency's Science of Security Community Meeting;
  • The Workshop on Medical Device Innovation Using Cyber-Physical Systems, and
  • The Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace Program of the NSF.

In addition, the CPS-VO serves as an important tool for the DARPA Adaptive Vehicle Make Program (see page 22), which uses the site to distribute research results and prototype toolsets for the design, manufacture, integration, and verification of air and ground vehicles of substantial complexity.

"We've just begun to scratch the surface of cyber-physical system capabilities," said van Buskirk. "It's exciting to consider the possibilities that will emerge from the energy of the groups that are forming under the auspices of the CPS-VO."