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What’s the difference between cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things?



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Foto: Fraunhofer IML

The Internet of Things uses special sensors (e.g. cameras or RFID readers) to identify products and materials. Those products and materials contain special information about, for example, what should happen with them. This means that they can communicate with production or material flow systems and tell them what the next step in the manufacturing process should be. The technology thus removes any need for human involvement. Cyber-physical systems are when the mechanical and electrical systems (e.g. sensors and communication tools) embedded in products and materials are networked using software components. The result is a complete merging of the virtual and physical worlds. Cyber-physical systems use shared knowledge and information from processes to independently control logistics and production systems.  They are therefore the bridge that connects the Internet of Things with higher-level services – known as the Internet of Services. In this virtual world, software providers, service providers, brokers and users collaborate to develop flexible applications that can be dynamically integrated with one another. If we are to achieve the goals of the fourth industrial revolution, scientists need to embrace both cyber-physical systems and the basic idea and technologies behind the Internet of Things.

Christopher Kirsch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics answered this question.