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CPS definitions

The original definition of CPS dates back to around 2005/2006 when a group of academics in the United States realized that embedded systems were evolving into systems where physical aspects played a fundamental role. The interaction between the intelligence provided by distributed processors that were interconnected with networks of growing complexity AND the physical world where they were immersed could not be ignored or considered of secondary importance. The initiative was recognized by the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, eventually resulting in the launch of a multidisciplinary research program on CPS by the National Science Foundation (a program that is still active).

Since its introduction, the use of CPS has spread and it has also been adopted within several industrial domains, notably in the form of Industry 4.0 initiative in Germany, as a manufacturing domain interpretation of CPS. A large number of definitions of CPS have been introduced over the years.

This wiki page provides an overview of some representative definitions.

  1. “The integration of physical systems and processes with networked computing has led to the emergence of a new generation of engineered systems: Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). Such systems use computations and communication deeply embedded in and interacting with physical processes to add new capabilities to physical systems. These CPS range from minuscule (pace makers) to large-scale (the national power-grid).” - This US definition was part of the initial CPS initiative, (click here for more details).
  2. “A Cyber-Physical System (CPS) is a system with embedded software (as part of devices, build-ings, means of transport, transport routes, production systems, medical processes, logistic processes, coordination processes and management processes), which, (i) directly records physical data using sensors and affect physical processes using actuators; (ii) evaluates and saves recorded data, and actively or reactively interacts both with the physical and digital world; (iii) is connected with other CPS and in global networks via digital communication facilities (wireless and/or wired, local and/or global); (iv) uses globally available data and services; and (v) has a series of dedicated, multi-modal human-machine interfaces." This more detailed definition was provided by acatech, the German National Academy of Science and Engineering in its work on an Integrated Research Agenda for CPS.
  3. Cyber-Physical Systems or "smart" systems are co-engineered interacting networks of physical and computational components. This represents a more recent definition as part of the NIST CPS framework initiative.
  4. Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are ‘Embedded Intelligent ICT Systems’ that make products smarter, more interconnected, interdependent, collaborative and autonomous (ARTEMIS SRA 2016).
  5. In future information systems will sense, monitor and even control the physical world via Cyber-Physical Systems and the Internet of Things (HiPEAC Vision 2015).


Further CPS definitions can be found here. For discussions about these definitions and what characterizes CPS, see these blog postings.