Societal Automation is coming out of Age
The 4th Industrial Revolution and emerging Societal Automation initiatives deeply rooted in advances in Electronics, Communication, and Computer Science has been heralded by numerous visionary initiatives sponsored and advanced by industry, private consortia, and governments alike, all over the industrialized world – to mention smart factories, smart grid, smart homes, smart buildings, smart highways, smart transportation systems, urban automation, etc. The household names of the Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems provide conceptual and architectural frameworks for those initiatives.
The functional and technical scope of those initiatives is broad. Various application domains intersect at the crossroads of the initiatives. Vision is necessary to carve the image of the initiatives, but insufficient for their realization. At the root of the success in implementing and deploying visions is technology. Technology is a tangible “realization” of solutions, which arise from innovative thinking. Specific technological solutions and arising engineering infrastructure to be blended around the adopted architectural framework need sophisticated software tools underpinned by solid formal methodologies to assist in and guide through the design, validation, testing, deployment, and monitoring phases of the system life-cycle.
Technology and arising solutions are fast penetrating practically all areas and facets of our life; from pocket and wearable automation, to robotic companions, to home and building automation, to energy and transportation systems, to city/urban automation. In future: space colonies. Societal Automation, as this rapidly expanding human-centered technology penetration of our life can be called, has many aims: to make human-made engineering systems intuitive and safe in use; to strive to improve quality of our life; to provide comfortable and safe living habitat without degrading the surrounding natural environment to mention some - in addition to fulfilling other geo-engineering requirements and societal needs.
Themes of Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems and applications are well represented in the body of articles and papers published in journals and presented at conferences. However, the presented ideas and actual developments are far from disruptive. The heralded over ten years ago a rapid evolution of man-made engineering systems drawing from the IoT and CPS paradigms never eventuated. This situation is acutely reflected in the unwillingness of the Venture Capital and Private Equity firms to fund small incremental developments which offer little prospects for major return on investment. It becomes increasingly clear that the lack of architectural and technological frameworks to base future developments on leads to this stalemate. It is also evident the vision of what is to be achieved is not in place and clear.
The concept of Cities of the Future, for instance, offers a potential to stimulate research and development in diverse areas of engineering and computer sciences in the framework of Societal Automation. There are many other areas, such as Web, human companion or merging humans and machines to mention some.
Cities of the Future, which are, most likely, going to be designed from scratch to a specification - at least the kernel of the urban ecosystem – are examples of ultra complex large scale systems. Uncharted waters for the engineering, economic, and social sciences. This type of systems are expected to require entirely new engineering perspective and approaches as well as technologies and tools for their conception, design, validation, orchestration, monitoring, control, assessment, and growth.
Technology development tends to be expensive. Funding is typically provided by public and private sectors. The motivations may differ. Public good, or profit. Irrespective, investors need to know the cost of development. Private sector, in addition to the profit projections, considers a range of issues before committing. That may include likelihood of the success and arising from that loss, likelihood of others developing disruptive technologies making further investment problematic, and also monetary value of the developed technology in various time frames to mention some.
The second edition of the Conference on Societal Automation will attempt to look in a holistic way at the Societal Automation domain in order to try to determine what solutions, technologies, architectural frameworks, and design tools are going to be needed in the design, development and deployment of future human-centered life-quality improving solutions and systems such as Cities of the Future, as well as economic aspects of innovation and technology development.