In 2017 the Wayne State University Board of Governors approved the establishment of a graduate certificate program in Cyber-physical Systems (CPS) in the College of Engineering.

As the world gets "smarter" and more connected, Wayne State is demonstrating a commitment to innovation in connectivity and influence in transforming how people interact with and manipulate the physical world. This certificate program is the first of its kind in Michigan, focusing on mechanisms known as CPS, which are designed as a seamless network of physical components (also known as the Internet of Things) and computational algorithms instead of as standalone devices.

Research from College of Engineering faculty and input from industry partners provide a framework for the program that provides project-based training using CPS principles and techniques to solve real-world challenges. The program weaves core scientific and engineering concepts with diversification options to give students a foundation in CPS for a wide range of domains such as transportation, water and energy, industrial automation, advanced manufacturing, health care and public safety.

What is CPS?

The deep embedding of sensing, computing, networking, and control into physical systems and processes is expected to bring about cyber-physical systems (CPS). While there is no single definition of what CPS is, essential attributes of CPS are the deep interdependencies and feedback loops between the cyber and physical processes.

A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine defines CPS as "engineered systems that are built from, and depend upon, the seamless integration of computational algorithms and physical components." In this definition, "cyber" refers to the computers, software, data structures, and networks that support decision-making within the system, and "physical" denotes not only the parts of the physical systems (e.g., the mechanical and electrical components of an automated vehicle) but also the physical world in which the system interacts (e.g., roads and pedestrians).

CPS vs. related disciplines

CPS draws knowledge and approaches from multiple areas of engineering and may have significant overlap with other areas of engineering, but CPS has begun to take on a distinctive character and may be emerging as a distinct field of engineering.

CPS vs. embedded systems

Embedded systems often concentrate on low-cost, simple devices or large and complex systems embedded in closed or very controlled environments. Today, most new embedded systems are in environments that are open via connections (giving us the "cyber" in CPS) to the wireless world and the Internet. In addition, the scope of CPS tends to be much broader than that of traditional embedded systems. At smaller scales, for instance, CPS enables pervasive sensing, computing, networking, and actuation in nano-medicine, artificial retina, as well as smart and connected pace makers. At larger scales, CPS enables cooperative sensing, computing, networking, and actuation in areas such as collaborative, networked 3D vision for public safety surveillance and driving safety.

CPS vs. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT does overlap with CPS, but it does not cover all of the foundations needed for CPS [2], and it does not address the feedback loops between cyber and physical worlds in general. CPS also tends to have much broader scope than IoT:

  • CPS encompasses both isolated and networked systems, while IoT usually focuses on the latter. For instance, CPS encompasses both isolated page makers and those pace makers that may be connected to other health monitors and actuators.
  • CPS encompasses both time-insensitive and time-sensitive systems, while IoT usually does not focus on time-sensitive systems. For instance, both longer-timescale vehicle traffic flow optimization and real-time control of connected and automated vehicles belong to topics of CPS.
  • CPS encompasses both open-loop and closed-loop control systems, while IoT usually focuses on open-loop systems. For instance, both dynamic pricing for indirect/human-in-the- loop load control and closed-loop microgrid control belong to the topics of CPS.

CPS vs. classical robots

Several examples of CPS, such as autonomous vehicles, could be considered robotics, but classical robots do not necessarily draw on the CPS principles needed for autonomous vehicles: real-time, safety- critical, large-scale, wireless communication environments and operation in unconstrained environments.

CPS vs. systems engineering

Systems engineering also contributes heavily to CPS. However, systems engineering typically concentrates on the organization, management, and integration required for large systems but does not deeply address the detailed technological needs that arise in combining the physical with the cyber.


Weisong Shi
CPS Program Director
Professor of Computer Science

Nikki Taylor-Vargo
Program Manager
5057 Woodward Ave, Room 3004
Detroit, MI 48202