As with any set of technologies primarily focused on enabling automation, the core objective of cyberphysical systems is to improve efficiency and safety. Yet the real value comes from ongoing improvements in outcomes through enhanced understanding of how the whole system operates. For example, the Japanese construction company Komatsu created a cyberphysical system to help coordinate partners and suppliers across its wider business ecosystem, combining drone-based sensors with smart construction equipment to improve access to site-specific information. Time spent on projects was halved, and risk was reduced.
The possibilities are almost limitless, with the ultimate manifestation in the concept of “Society 5.0”—a system of systems in which multiple interconnected networks, technologies, organizations, people, and needs all converge through shared data and self-correcting automation to create a highly efficient, constantly self-improving, human-centric, tech-powered ecosystem on a vast scale.
There are risks, though. The biggest threat comes from the potential for cybersecurity breaches, which manifest in three ways due to the fundamental interconnections between physical and digital:
- Physical–cyber attacks, in which attacks in the physical world impact the digital, disrupting the system by attacking physical infrastructure
- Cyber–physical attacks, such as ransomware shut-outs or denial-of-service attacks, which originate online but are designed to prevent physical systems from operating
- Cyber–kinetic attacks, launched online to cause physical damage—not just inconvenience—to property and people
But even with such substantial threats, the potential of cyberphysical systems makes them a worthwhile area to explore—provided there is robust governance and risk management.
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