What are Cyber Physical Systems? (Design Elements & Factors)

Last updated on by Editorial Staff
What are Cyber-Physical Systems?

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are changing the world as we know it. These systems integrate digital technologies with physical processes, and they have the potential to revolutionize many different industries.

This blog will helps readers with the definition of cyber physical systems with its design elements, factors, security threats, and applications. The post will also discuss how it differs from IoT.

What is a Cyber-physical system?

Cyber-physical system is a term used to describe fully integrated applications across hardware and software, allowing them to complete well-defined functions.

In it, computational, physical, and cyber systems are integrated and interact with each other to share data and feedback. It aims to improve efficiency, safety, and security by monitoring and controlling physical processes using data from sensors and computers.

Design elements

Common design elements of CPS include sensing and actuation, information processing and communication, control, and human interfaces.

Design Elements of Cyber-Physical Systems

Sensing and actuation components

Sensing and actuation components allow a CPS to interact with the physical world. That could involve embedded sensors that measure parameters like temperature or pressure.

The data collected by these sensor networks must be processed and communicated to other parts of the system, so that appropriate decisions can be made, for example, turning a heater on or off in response to changes in temperature.

Information processing and communication components

These are necessary to decide how to actuate on the physical system. For example, that could involve an embedded processor that runs algorithms to make decisions based on sensor data.

The processed data must then be communicated to other parts of the system to take appropriate actions.

Control components

Control components ensure that the system behaves as intended. That could involve a controller that regulates the flow of information and controls the system’s actuation.

The control component must be designed to ensure that the system meets its objectives while considering uncertainties in the physical world. 

Interfaces with humans

Allow people to interact with the information system. That could involve a graphical user interface that enables users to monitor the system and input commands.

Again, it is essential to consider how users will interact with the system to ensure that it is easy to use and understand.

CPS design factors

When designing, it is vital to consider the following factors:

Cyber-Physical Systems Design Factors

Cyber security

Cyber security is critical when designing a CPS, as attackers often target these systems. It involves resilience, Detection, Protection, and response to unauthorized access or activities that could harm the system.


It must be designed to meet the specific requirements of the application area. For example, a system for a smart grid must be designed to collect and process data from the electrical grid to improve its efficiency.


Safety is another important consideration when designing a CPS, as these systems often control safety-critical systems. It includes identifying potential hazards, minimizing the risk of accidents, and responding to emergencies.

Improved design tools

Improved design tools can help reduce the cost and time required to design it. In addition, these tools can provide a way to generate code, verify designs, and test systems automatically.

Design methodology

A well-defined design methodology can help ensure that it is designed correctly. That includes specifying the system’s requirements, designing the system, and testing the system.

Security threats

There are several security threats associated with CPS, including:

  • Unauthorized access- This could allow attackers to access and control the system. It can be avoided by using authentication and authorization mechanisms.
  • Data tampering- This could allow attackers to modify the data being collected by the system. It can be avoided by using digital signatures and cryptographic techniques.
  • Denial of service- This could prevent the system from being able to collect data or perform its intended functions. That can be prevented by using security mechanisms such as intrusion detection and prevention systems.


  • Smart gridsThe Smart Grid is a type of CPS that uses information and communication technologies to gather and analyze data from power plants, electricity transmission, distribution systems, and consumers to improve the electrical efficiency, reliability, and security grid.
  • Autonomous vehicles – are designed to operate without the need for a human driver. Instead, these vehicles use a variety of sensors, such as radar and cameras, to navigate the road. They also use computer algorithms to decide when to brake, turn, and accelerate.
  • Aerospace systems- Aerospace systems like aircraft, satellites, and missiles use cyber systems in sensors, control algorithms, and communication systems to improve the safety and efficiency of these systems.
  • Medical systems- Medical systems are CPS used for diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention. These systems can monitor patients, detect errors, and provide decision support.
  • Building control systems- These systems use cyber methods to manage buildings’ heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting. They use sensors, actuators, and control algorithms to improve the efficiency of these systems.

Difference between Cyber Physical Systems and IoT

There is a considerable debate in the tech community about which is better, Cyber Physical Systems or the Internet of Things (IoT)? While both have their merits, some key differences make one preferable over the other. Here’s a breakdown of each technology and how they compare. 

Cyber Physical SystemsIoT
Embedded systems that interact with the physical world. That could be anything from a fitness tracker to an industrial control system.IoT is a network of devices connected to the internet. These systems can be anything from home appliances to industrial machines.
For example, if you wear a fitness tracker, it would use sensors to track your heart rate and steps taken and then use this data to give you feedback on your progress.For example, if you had an IoT-enabled washing machine, it could use sensors to track the amount of laundry in the machine and then use this data to adjust the washing cycle accordingly.
Often, a graphical user interface allows users to input commands and monitor the system.IoT devices often do not have a graphical user interface.
It controls safety-critical systems, such as power plants and nuclear reactors.IoT devices are used for less critical applications, such as controlling home appliances.


What is Cyber Physical Systems Research?

It studies systems where computation and physical processes are integrated and interact with each other to create intelligent, behavior-rich systems.

What is the role of the National Science Foundation in CPS?

The National Science Foundation is one of the leading funding agencies for cyber system research. It supports advances in the basic knowledge and systems to make it a reality.


Cyber Physical Systems are embedded systems that interact with the physical world. They transformed the way people interact with information and computational resources and have the potential to revolutionize many industries, such as transportation, healthcare, and manufacturing.

While it has many benefits, they also come with some challenges, such as ensuring the security of these systems. We hope this blog post has enabled you to understand CPS and how they work.