On Thursday, the National Science Foundation (NSF), with co-sponsorship from CRA, presented an open-house luncheon briefing on cyber-physical systems (CPS). Held in the Hart Senate Office Building, the luncheon briefing allowed industry and academic experts to share their insights into an area of IT that has been the subject of increasing attention from Congress since a 2007 report of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology called it out for increased priority.
From the press release:
Cyber-physical systems are “smart” technologies that are beginning to transform our lives. Today’s research will lead to tomorrow’s autonomous, smart vehicles for safe transportation; homes filled with smart appliances; intelligent, earthquake resistant buildings and bridges; robots that assist us at home, at work, and at play; and unobtrusive assistive technology for healthier living.
Cyber-physical systems technologies will affect sectors critical to our well-being, security and competitiveness, including aerospace, automotive, chemical production, civil infrastructure, energy, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, materials and transportation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid provided opening remarks by praising the efforts of scientists whose work is vital in bringing about smarter technology that will help save lives, improve energy efficiency and transform economic competitiveness. Due to health reasons, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV was unable to attend. Other speakers included Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director of the National Science Foundation; Dr. Cora B. Marrett, Acting Deputy Director of the NSF; Dr. Jeannette Wing, Assistant Director for Computer & Information Science and Technology, NSF; Mr. Don Winter, Vice President of Engineering & Information Technology, Boeing Phantom Works; and Dr. Julian Goldman, Medical Director of Partners HealthCare System Biomedical Engineering.
Dr. Wing spoke about the important function of the NSF in fostering an environment where scientific innovation can flourish and be shared across disciplines. The NSFs role, she highlighted, is to coordinating these innovations among the sectors of industry and academia so that they can be instantiated in other areas. Dr. Goldman provided a glimpse into the challenges of medical information technology. In high-risk environments like a hospital operating room, system failure can lead to patient injury or death. While CPS Innovations in systems that prevent human error have been developed in some high-risk environments, Goldman explained that the barrier of interoperability has prevented widespread development and deployment of such systems in health care.
Researchers, ranging from Baltimore high school students to professors and graduate students, presented a variety of demonstrations representing the latest research on CPS. Many of the exhibits highlighted robotic and human-machine systems that could help people with disabilities, be used as tools for behavior studies, assist surgeons in operating rooms, drive autonomous vehicles, or be capable of haptic interaction. Other systems included those that could reason about human or environmental activities.
In addition to CRA, other co-sponsors of the event included the Coalition for National Science Funding, the American Chemical Societys Science & the Congress Project and the Association for Computing Machinery.