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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

CPSDA 2016: Part 1, Creationists Rejoice

August 18th, 2016 by Peggy Aycinena

This is Part 1 of a 5-part discussion
of the International Workshop on Design Automation for Cyber-Physical Systems co-located with the Design Automation Conference in Austin in June. Attending this all-day event on Sunday, June 5th, required a commitment of 9 hours and a $200 registration fee, albeit it came with a generous box lunch.

Over the course of the day, 10 speakers expounded on everything from complexity to reliability, from resilience to resource management, from smart buildings to smart grids to smart cars, and threw in a large dollop, as well, of how to deal with those miscreants among us who see opportunities in the emerging world of CPS to do small, medium, and large amounts of harm to our fellow humans and institutions.

Now it’s true, the thought leaders who spoke at CPSDA were consistently articulate, intelligent and well-informed. Nonetheless – even after 9 hours of intense listening, and quite a bit of caffeine – I was still not exactly sure what a cyber-physical system is. So let’s be creative and make up our own definition.

A cyber-physical system is a construct that entails a loop that [probably] looks something like this:

* sensors
* data collection strategies
* algorithms for crunching that data
* large compute platforms [possibly local, possibly remote] to host the algorithms
* plenty of communication strategies
* actuators to act upon the decisions generated by the algorithms
* rinse and repeat

Of course, what you see in this ‘loop’ is lots of hardware and lots of software. What you don’t see in this ‘loop’ is the human – except as the creator, of course.

Which is kind of crazy, because had I known in advance that humans aren’t really necessary to complete the sensor-data-crunch-actuate-rinse-repeat loop, I might not have sat through the whole 9 hours – albeit it came with a generous box lunch.

After all, I’m not really ready to be made irrelevant by a cyber-physical systems world.

If the whole ‘loop’ thing doesn’t need a human, then what the automation of CPS design is actually attempting to achieve is machine-driven design of machine-based systems. Systems, let me repeat, that do not include humans in the ‘loop’.

Oh, how sad. And here we were, just finally getting the hang of this human-as-intelligent-being thing.

Of course, as yet we are still the creators of these CPS dealy-bobs, according to what I learned on June 5th, so perhaps my sorrow is premature. And with that, this multi-blog discussion commences.

We’ve established the context – machines, sensors, data, actuators, people, food, caffeine, Austin, more machines, more caffeine, a dab of automation – and we are ready for Part 2 of CPS @ DAC.

Please stay tuned …


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