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Cyber Physical Systems and Internet of Things Program


The definitions of cyber-physical systems (CPS) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are converging over time to include a common emphasis on hybrid systems of interacting digital, analog, physical, and human components in systems engineered for function through integrated physics and logic. CPS and IoT enable innovative applications in important economic sectors such as smart cities, energy, manufacturing, transportation and emergency response.  The CPS/IoT Program develops and demonstrates new measurement science and promotes the emergence of consensus standards and protocols for advanced cyber-physical systems and IoT that are scalable, effective, measurable, interoperable, trustworthy, and assured.  The Communications Technology Laboratory's Smart Connected Systems Division also provides leadership to support NIST-wide CPS/IoT program coordination with the Information Technology, Engineering, and Physical Measurement Laboratories.



Objective - Enable scalable, dependable design methods and reproducible performance measurement for effective and trustworthy (reliable, safe, secure, resilient and privacy-enhancing) cyber-physical systems and IoT, by means of new measurement science, advanced testing and assurance capabilities and a community-driven perspective.      

What is the problem?

Measurement science is lacking to support conceptualization, realization and assurance of composable, scalable, and interconnected CPS and IoT in and across multiple “smart” domains, including in complex smart cities environments. CPS and IoT have been identified as national priorities for federal R&D. Recent OSTP guidance prioritizes “investment in AI, autonomous systems, …” and “… systems enabled by the industrial internet of things (loT)…” and “infrastructure investments that enable shared resources and improve capabilities across a range of disciplines.”  Deployment of next-generation CPS and IoT across the transportation, energy and health sectors alone could boost U.S. productivity growth by as much as 1.5 percent, with worldwide CPS/IoT market size reaching tens of trillions of dollars per year by 2025. However, to reach this potential economic impact, issues of scalability, composability, modularity and interoperability in next-generation CPS and IoT will need to be addressed. For example, the McKinsey report “The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value beyond the Hype” identified the importance of interoperability between IoT systems as required for 40% of potential value. The design and engineering of a cyber-physical system or IoT, from initial concept through successful operation, requires a new systems science and engineering approach. Advanced CPS and IoT can be so complex that existing approaches for performance prediction, measurement, management, and assurance are inadequate. And much current work is done in isolation, focused on solutions limited to a single domain such as health care or manufacturing, with limited cooperation across the commercial, academic and government sectors.

What is the technical idea?

The key technical ideas can be summarized as follows.

  1. The first measurement science challenge is the need for robust formal foundations for cyber-physical systems and IoT engineering that supports the full range of CPS and IoT use cases, including integration across a broad range of disciplines and domains. The research plan provides for continued development and refinement of automated reasoning methods for decision support and design assurance based on NIST’s CPS Framework.   The research plan also enables discovery of common principles applicable to all CPS/IoT implementations, and the identification of critical gaps in standards and metrics.  
  2. The second measurement science challenge is the need for a platform for CPS/IoT experimentation and validation.  The research plan provides for the development of an integrative, reconfigurable, reproducible, scalable and usable CPS testbed and its Universal CPS Environment for Federation (UCEF) to support NIST CPS/IoT measurement science. The plan also provides for applying advanced testbed capabilities to studying measurement concepts for emerging smart grid architectures with new market models and for assessing trustworthiness in vehicles with automated driving systems. 
  3. The third measurement science challenge is the need to apply emerging empirical and theoretical measurement concepts to real-world CPS/IoT concepts at scale and use the results to guide and inform continuing refinement of the CPS framework and associated engineering concepts. The research plan provides for combining the powerful technical insights and extensive, real-world experience gained through public-private partnerships in NIST’s successful challenge program to the premier CPS/IoT challenge: smart cities and communities. The plan includes leading technical work across multiple sectors, identifying and promoting innovation and industry-led technical convergence, and contributing to selected smart city activities of Standards Development Organizations (SDOs). 

What is the research plan?

The research plan consists of three elements as follows.  The first focuses on new approaches enabling the design and engineering of CPS and IoT from initial conceptualization through realization (including successful operation) and assurance. This requires a new systems science and engineering approach that introduces system decomposition based on logical and physical implementation of function, and enables design and analysis of CPS/IoT based on a comprehensive set of engineering concerns. Principles for integrating logical and physical concepts, and developing concern-driven methodologies include: 

  • integrated concepts from engineering, computer science, physics, and materials science (e.g. “better security through physics”); 
  • approaches for interoperability, modularity, and composability;
  • designed-in trustworthiness in reliability, safety, cyber- and physical-security, resilience, and privacy;
  • interconnected data and analytics between systems; and 
  • lifecycle support for all phases of development from initial concept to manufacturing and deployment and retirement.

The first element of the research plan applies these principles to enable new, scalable CPS/IoT measurement approaches. This work includes development and refinement of formal methods based on the CPS Framework and its associated concepts (facets and aspects). This work provides the foundation for subsequent development of standards for interoperability and composability across architectural layers and between components and systems.  An additional activity is the development of specific topics identified in the CPS Framework, such as trustworthiness (reliability, resilience, safety, security, and privacy) and multi-characteristic risk management strategies. The results are essential to developing CPS and IoT for use in sensitive applications such as health care and assisted living; in safety-critical applications such as automated driving systems; in time-critical applications such as the smart grid; and in critical infrastructures for disaster resilience, traffic management, and municipal water systems. In addition, UML and XML tools and tailoring of the CPS Framework for selected domains (transportation, for example) are being developed to enable the CPS Framework to be effectively transferred to industry.

The second element of the research plan focuses on the capabilities required for experimental orchestration, measurement and evaluation of the performance of more capable and complex cyber physical systems. In this context, CPS/IoT performance metrics include efficiency and sustainability, agility and flexibility, reliability (including time critical performance), resilience, usability, safety, security, and privacy. Research in this second area focuses on the development of a comprehensive abstraction infrastructure comprising tools, platforms, testbeds, and integrated design environments to enable the application of formal methods and standards to the co-design of heterogeneous, interacting components. The plan provides for applying testbed capabilities to develop robust measurement methods for real-world CPS/IoT systems in emerging smart grid architectures and new automated driving systems for intelligent vehicles.

The third element of the research plan focuses on leveraging technical insights and public-private partnerships emerging from previous challenge work to support innovation and identifying industry-led technical convergence in the development, deployment and understanding of measurable and replicable smart cities and communities applications, in diverse sectors such as transportation, energy, manufacturing, and healthcare. NIST’s previous smart city program has nurtured a number of public working groups (“SuperClusters”) that collected a range of sector-based examples and technical solutions deployed in cities and communities in partnership with municipal governments. NIST will work to collect and consolidate these insights and technical approaches and organize them into a portfolio of publications and guidelines, and to make contributions to the smart city activities of Standard Development Organizations (SDOs).  This effort will help cities and stakeholders to converge towards a consensus standards-based foundation supporting interoperability, replicability, and trustworthiness across systems, and measurement science for performance comparisons and evaluation, validation, verification, and management. 

Created March 9, 2016, Updated April 6, 2022