Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Europe Region Special Section: Big trends

Connected Things Connecting Europe

communication connections on map of Europe, illustration

Credit: Garry Killian

It is estimated that personal computers, datacenters, and other technologies constitute less than 1% of all microprocessor usage;10 embedded systems represent the remaining percentage and can be found in our washing machines, microwaves, remote controls, and PC peripherals (such as keyboards and mobile phones), with modern cars containing many tens of embedded microcontrollers.18 Modern embedded-system microcontroller and transceiver technology advancements have brought forth the kinds of systems we have in the past defined as pervasive, ubiquitous, and embedded computing, and for some time in Europe, "embedded intelligence." However, today they are better known as the Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems (CPS); see the figure here.

The jury is still out regarding a definition of the latter two terms or indeed how to differentiate them, but people generally tend to refer to IoT as embedded devices that connect to the Internet to exchange data, optimize processes, monitor environments, and typically consist of sensors, actuators, and low-power compute infrastructures. CPS is a term first coined in 2006 in the U.S. to characterize "the integration of physical systems and processes with networked computing" for systems that "use computations and communication deeply embedded in and interacting with physical processes to add new capabilities to physical systems."22 CPS is generally put forward as the more systems notion, while IoT emphasizes communication and analytics, yet IoT-like devices need not always use Internet protocols to create a CPS, hence the ambiguity. The European Commission debated for two years whether to call its embedded intelligence programs CPS, with the latter winning out in the end. In this article, we embrace these terms fluidly and name them IoT/CPS; for other definitions, see the sidebar "Some Definitions."


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.