Our constantly evolving world is characterized by technological advances that aim to facilitate our living conditions. Among the different technologies available, smart systems have emerged as innovative solutions. This article looks deeper into the concept of smart systems integration and what it entails.
Defining smart systems
Smart systems is a term used to describe different technological systems that are autonomous or collaborative and have combine functionalities including the ability to sense, actuate, and control a given situation in order to describe and analyze it. These systems are capable of predicting, deciding or assisting to make decisions based on available data, thereby performing smart actions using highly sophisticated interfaces between systems and users (EC, 2011). The indication of ‘smartness’ of the system derives from autonomous operation based on the elements of closed loop control, energy efficiency and networking capabilities. The previous result in different functionality and excellence in self-reliance and adaptability (EC, 2011).
Three generations of smart systems have been identified in the literature:
– First generation smart systems include object recognition devices, driver status monitoring, and multifunctional devices for minimally invasive surgery
– Second generation smart systems are those active miniaturized artificial organs, advanced energy management systems, and environmental sensor networks
– Lastly, third-generation smart systems incorporate both technical “intelligence” and cognitive functions. This way the offer an interface between the virtual and the physical world.
Smart components integrated
Smart systems at most are an evolution of microsystems. They combine technologies and components from microsystems technology such as miniaturized electric, mechanical, optical, and fluidic devices, alongside other disciplines like biology, chemistry, nanoscience, or cognitive sciences. Typically, smart systems consist of diverse components such as sensors for signal acquisition, elements transmitting the information to the command-and-control unit, command-and-control units that make decisions and pass on instructions based on the available information, components transmitting decisions and instructions, and finally actuators that perform or trigger the required action. These smart components exhibit enhanced performance and functionality through re-use of nano-electronic processes and building blocks (EC, 2011).
Any consistent implementation of smart systems in our daily lives does not come without challenges. One of the biggest of these relates to the large amount of diverse components, developed and produced in diverse technologies and materials. The primary intention is on the design and manufacturing of new products and services for applications that are either specialized or aimed at mass consumption.
This merging of the functional and technical abilities through combination of different components is referred to as ‘smart systems integration’. The term describes the challenge of incorporating different technologies, component, and materials into one interoperable system.
Developing smart systems therefore requires combining interdisciplinary knowledge and solution. Therefore challenges arise in terms of the skills, tools, and equipment needed to research, design and manufacture integrated smart systems.
Smart Systems apart from uniting multiple technologies, can be tailored to address the needs of sectors such as transport, energy, healthcare, security and safety, ICT, and manufacturing. Smart systems integration can potentially deal with environmental, societal, and economic challenges like limited resources, climate change, population ageing, and globalization. These features make Smart Systems imperative towards agile and innovative use in our contemporary societies. The relationship between Smart Systems and application sectors has been emphasized in the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) of the European Technology Platform on Smart Systems Integration (ECSEL, 2015). In fact working within the grounds of this research agenda, Bombieri et al. (2005) developed SMAC, a Smart Systems co-design platform. The SMAC platform, addresses the challenges of the integration of heterogeneous and conflicting domains that emerge in the design of Smart Systems (Bombieri et al., 2005).
Some of the areas where smart solutions can be implemented include the use of smart solutions for environmentally sustainable solutions such as energy management and distribution, smart control of electrical drives, smart logistics, or energy-efficient facility management.
In automotive industry, smart systems integration can be used for pre-cash systems and predictive driver assistance features. Further to these, smart systems are thought of as fundamental for sustainable and energy-efficient mobility, e.g., hybrid and electric traction.
One key area where smart systems can contribute is the Internet of Things, due to their smart functionalities for everyday objects. These smart objects including industrial foods or food products could support the elderly and the disabled and enhance food supply and quality.
Smart systems technology has a crucial role to play in improving the healthcare sector with better diagnostic tools, real time monitoring, treatment, interactions and quality of life for patients by reducing costs of public healthcare systems. Finally, of the most innovative solutions using smart systems would be smart miniaturized devices and artificial organs.
Today, advances in digital technology and novel communication have important implications for smart systems integrations, allowing for new capabilities by bridging the gap between components and products. The goal should be the development of competitive eco-system of smart integrated systems (or integrated smart systems), to become building blocks of the digital economy.
Bombieri, N., Drogoudis, D., Gangemi, G., Gillon, R., Grosso, M., Macii, E., Poncino, M., and Rinaudo, S. (2015) Addressing the Smart Systems design challenge: The SMAC platform, Microprocessors and Microsystems, 39 (8), pp. 1158–1173.
ECSEL (2015) Smart Systems. Retrieved from: http://www.ecsel-austria.net/eposs.html. [Accessed 14th December 2015].
European Commission, EC (2011) Objective ICT-2011.3.2: Smart components and smart systems integration. EXTRACT FROM WORK PROGRAMME 2011. Retrieved from: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/micro-nanosystems/docs/smart-systems-factsheet-wp2011_en.pdf [Accessed 14th December 2015].