In 2018, the Working Group From IoT to SoS officially started. The Chair of this Working Group is Paolo Azzoni (EUROTECH).
The active and dynamic interaction between entities of the physical and digital world is one of the strongest driving forces that will shape the digital innovation and will influence the evolution of future markets, potentially in every vertical domain. The possibility to create a digital twin of almost every entity of the physical world is the first step of this evolution and, when the physical entities can be virtually connected together, entirely new digital ecosystems can evolve, bringing the concept of Systems of Systems (SoS) to life and generate commercial value.
We often identify the first stages of this evolution with the concept of Internet of Things (IoT), a technology that enables heterogeneous and distributed objects to physically and/or virtually connect, communicate and cooperate to achieve common goals. However, IoT is not just an enabling technology, but rather a conceptual approach adopted to solve classical problems with a new recipe based on advanced devices and sensors, connectivity, interoperability, embedded intelligence, actionable data streams, delocalized computation, and agile business models.
Sensors, actuators, embedded and cyber-physical systems are the atoms and simple molecules of an IoT-based system: these elements can interact together through the internet, having some kind of embedded connectivity, and can form more complex molecules, capable to collect, store, elaborate and share vast amounts of data. These streams of data are subsequently collected on cloud platforms, where the application of analytics and big data technologies generate new knowledge, new services and unique value propositions.
With a similar approach, the IoT could represent the enabling factor for the creation of more complex information systems, where the individual components are complex systems themselves, i.e. Systems of Systems.
The concept of “Systems of Systems” is widely used in science and industry, with different connotations focused on engineering methodologies, social aspects, business models, legacy support and vertical domains. Among these, a shared connotation considers SoS as the result of the dynamic cooperation of distributed and heterogeneous systems to achieve common objectives and provide new rich functionalities.
According to Jamshidi (2009), SoS can be defined as “large-scale integrated systems which are independently operable on their own, but are networked together for a common goal…costs, performance, robustness, etc.”
Large-scale SoS are characterized by an inherent diversity, and are composed of heterogeneous and interoperable constituents that evolve in time. Each constituent has a sort of operational independence, being autonomous and capable to operate to achieve its objectives even if detached from the SoS. SoS are also managerial independent because their constituents are self-controlled and self-managed. At the same time, this independence is contrasted by the fact that SoS overall goals are attributed to the SoS, not to the individual constituent, and by the fact that the constituents become interdependent, relying on each other to reach SoS common goals. Typically, SoS are geographically distributed, with constituents spread in several locations and, potentially, in very different contexts. As constituents can evolve and change continuously, also SoS evolve and change, generating new emergent behaviors that result from the dynamic interaction of their constituents.
IoT and SoS share several characteristics, like heterogeneity, autonomy, connectivity, geographical distribution and are both capable to evolve generating new behaviors, functionalities, services, etc. From this perspective, IoT can be considered also as a system of IoT-based systems, and represents the first stage of the evolution from IoT to SoS.
However, the evolution to SoS could also be pushed by completely different factors. For example, there could be limited and diminishing returns in continuing to include sensors, chips and network capability into devices, no matter how cheap the hardware is. In several domains it could be more advantageous to consider SoS rather than connected, intelligent and embedded things.
SoS frequently combine constituents, information and functionalities from multiple domains and sources, leading to the further evolution step of connected domains. Connected domains represent a cross dimension of SoS and create a wider shared understanding of the context and situation, producing more useful services, richer functionalities, better user experience and value proposition. This evolution step could involve real verticals as well as virtual domains, allowing applications and services to extend beyond the traditional perimeter of the enterprise and across time and space.
ARTEMIS vision that mankind should benefit from a major evolution in our society is strongly supported by intelligent systems and SoS. This vision inspired ARTEMIS since the very beginning and Artemis-IA played an important role in the definition of a strategy that, during the last decade, has written part of the IoT history. Nevertheless, the IoT evolution to SoS is just at the initial stage, requiring further research and innovation, and many questions are still fully open.
How IoT will evolve? What driving factors will influence its evolution? How Embedded Systems and CPSs will contribute to create Systems and Systems of Systems? Are IoT technologies SoS enablers? What challenges this evolution will introduce? Which business models will be capable to sustainably support IoT and SoS?
The Working Group “From IoT to SoS” will try to answer these questions monitoring the evolution of the driving forces that will influence IoT and SoS: pervasive technologies, digital platforms, global standards, data governance, engineering tools and business models.
The role and main objectives include: