CPS/IoT Ecosystem: Preparing Austria for the Next Digital Revolution

Radu Grosu, Schahram Dusdtar, Gerti Kappel, Tom Henzinger, Manfred Gruber, Hermann Kopetz

Looking back at the time Bill Gates was one of his brilliant students, Christos Papadimitriou a Harvard professor and world-renowned computer scientist, concluded that one of the greatest challenges of the academic community is to recognizing when an IT revolution is on its way. He did not see the PC revolution coming, but his student did.  Since then several others happened, such as the Internet and the Mobiles revolutions. Another imminent one is in the making: The CPS/IoT revolution.

The worldwide academic institutions and especially the Austrian ones have a responsibility to ask the following important questions: Are we prepared for the CPS/IoT revolution? Do we have the proper infrastructure, software tools and courses? The answer is unfortunately NO and we have to act NOW.

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are spatially-distributed, time-sensitive, and multi-scale, networked embedded systems, connecting the physical world to the cyber world through sensors and actuators. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the backbone of CPS. It connects the swarm of Sensors and Actuators to the nearby Gateways through various protocols, and the Gateways to the Fog and the Cloud. The Fog resembles the human spine, providing fast and adequate response to imminent situations. The Cloud resembles the human brain, providing large storage and analytic capabilities.

CPS research is strongly anchored within the academia. For example, we teach two graduate courses at the TU Wien on this topic: The Logical Foundations of CPS and The Stochastic Foundations of CPS. There are also many important CPS conferences around the world. For example, we hosted this year the most important international CPS event in Vienna, the CPS Week, with a large scientific and industrial participation. However, IoT research and education went pretty much under the radar of academia. This is not the case in industry. With a $15 trillion business forecast for the next 20 years, 50 billion devices connected by 2020, and 50 terabytes of data per day from the avionics industry alone, all the big IT and industrial players are dedicating immense resources to IoT. In the US alone, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, General Electric, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and many others compete with each other for a piece of the IoT. In Germany the big players are Bosch, Kuka, Siemens and Telekom. In Austria the most important player is TTTech, who recently joined efforts with Kuka in buying Nebbiolo, a Silicon Valley startup, in order to build a Real-Time (RT) Fog. It is more than telling that the IoT World Congress to be held in Barcelona, October, this year, has talks by CEOs of most of the companies mentioned above, but almost no talk of any academic researcher. This will change for sure. For example, the next edition of the CPS-Week event will include an IoT conference, too.

What drives this excitement and sense of urgency within the industry? The four pillars: Connectivity, Monitoring, Prediction, and Optimization. Connectivity and monitoring have been already enabled by the technological developments over the past years. The next step, which is expected to radically change every aspect of our society, is prediction and optimization. The huge number of sensors to be deployed in areas such as manufacturing, transportation, energy and utilities, buildings and urban planning, health care, environment, or jointly in smart cities, will allow the collection of terabytes of information (Big-Data), which can be processed for predictive purposes. Moreover, the huge number of actuators will enable the optimal control of these areas and drive market advantages. For example the predictive maintenance of assets is expected to save up to 12% in scheduled repairs, reducing maintenance costs up to 30%, and eliminating breakdowns up to 70%, according to a GE survey[1].

According to the same survey, 73% of companies are already investing more than 20% of their overall technology budget in big-data analytics and more than two in 10 are investing more than 30%. Moreover, three-fourths of executives expect that spending level to increase just in the next year. Across the industries surveyed, 80% to 90% of companies indicated that big-data analytics is either the top priority for the company or in the top three. This finding is especially strong in the aviation industry, with 61% of those surveyed having it as the top priority. This number drops to 28% for power distribution, 31% for power generation, 31% for oil and gas, 24% for mining.  In 53% of respondents the board of directors is the primary influencer of their big-data adoption strategy, more than those citing the CEO (47%) or the CIO (37%).  Strong board-level support can also be seen in industries such as manufacturing (67%), rail (60%) and wind (45%).  A staggering 89% say that companies not adopting big-data analytics in the next year risk losing market share and momentum.

In unison with the executives mentioned above, we strongly believe that there is a great risk for the Austrian society in not taking a swift action now. Without an active participation within the CPS/IoT revolution, the Austrian companies will lose confidence in their ability to grow and the companies of other countries will gain market share at their expense. So what has to be done?

  1. Education: We have to prepare the next-generation work force for CPS/IoT, by creating an Austrian IoT infrastructure, where students can learn and deploy novel CPS concepts related to connectivity, monitoring, prediction and optimization. In a first phase, we plan to create a CPS/IoT Prototype-Ecosystem in Vienna, connecting TU Wien, AIT, and IST. Once we have a proof of concept, we plan to deploy a similar infrastructure at the universities in Linz, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, and Salzburg. Our ecosystem will take advantage of our own buildings and offices, and of the Center for Digital Production (CDP) established at the TU Wien.
  2. Research: We plan to take advantage of our own national strengths in order to make Austria a major player in the area of Real-Time CPS/IoT. TTTech is already a worldwide leader in Real-Time Ethernet, and we plan to collaborate with it in establishing a Real-Time Fog and Cloud. Infineon, ams, AVL, Grassfish, and other Austrian companies, are worldwide leaders in the production and use of sensors and actuators. We plan to involve all these companies in the CPS/IoT Ecosystem, such that they can experiment with new ideas and technologies, and develop an Austrian know-how in the area of CPS/IoT. This effort will be aligned with the Austrian-wide, strategically most relevant, BMVIT-Industry initiative, Silicon-Austria.

We plan to acquire thousands of sensors and actuators from Austrian companies, and deploy them with the help of undergraduate and graduate students within the CDP building and within the offices of TUW, AIT and IST. This will give the students a hands-on experience with CPS/IoT. It will also allow them to experiment with our RT-Fog / RT-Cloud future solution, or with existing IoT platforms such as Amazon’s AWS-IoT, Bosch’s IoT-Suite, Cisco’s Jasper-Control-Center, Fog-Director, and Connected-Analytics, General Electric’s Predix-OS, IBM’s IoT-Analytics, Intel’s IoT-Platform with hardware security, Microsoft’s Azure-IoT-Suite, and Siemens’ Digital-Enterprise-Software-Suite. Apple’s and Google-Nest’s Home-Automation-Kits could also offer ideas for smart-buildings automation.

For TTTech, dealing with thousands of sensors, and constructing RT-Fog and RT-Cloud solutions will be a great challenge, which will lead to many innovations. For Infineon, ams, Grassfish and the other Austrian Sensor-Actuator companies, the CPS/IoT Ecosystem will be a fantastic test-bed where they can rapidly deploy their innovative chips, and create sales demos for their solutions.

Due to the obvious constraints we face as academic and research institutions, we will mainly target manufacturing, transportation, smart-buildings, smart health-care and smart-city application areas. Manufacturing will be enabled and supported by our CDP. Smart-buildings, by our own offices, smart transportation by our robotics infrastructure, smart health-care by our NSF-Expeditions and NSF-Frontiers projects, and smart-city by the convergence of all the above areas. Besides connectivity, monitoring, prediction and optimization, the CPS/IoT Ecosystem will be a catalyst for launching a wide range of applied and theoretical-research projects, targeting openness, uncertainty, robustness, safety, security, privacy, self-adaptation, self-awareness, and swarm-intelligence, in CPS.

[1] Industrial Internet Insights Report: http://www.ge.com/digital/sites/default/files/industrial-internet-insights-report.pdf