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Standardised safety assurance is on the horizon for infinite possibilities of interconnectivity

The internet revolutionised the way people interact with data, and now cyber-physical systems are connecting it all with things like cars, surgical instruments and factory robots. The SafeCOP project has produced a generalised framework to ensure the safety and security of these complicated interconnected systems.

Digital Economy
Security

From driverless smart cars to smart electricity grids to the Internet of things, what was once the stuff of science fiction and cities of the future is beginning to take shape all around us. Critical tools are needed to certify, develop and manage the complexity in a secure and reliable way, ensuring the transformation does not result in unpredictable and perhaps even dangerous system behaviours and data leaks. The EU-funded SafeCOP project developed the tools that will enable safe and secure wireless collaboration among cooperative cyber-physical systems. An extra layer of wireless safety and security that is protocol-independent will ensure the same holds true in tomorrow’s systems as well.

Standardising the infinite possibilities

The ability to create cyber-physical systems that connect physical objects and infrastructure to each other and to the internet through sensing, control and networking capabilities is revolutionising fields including transport, health, environment and security. Given the increasing interconnectedness of objects and our rapid march towards the Internet of things, the potential applications of cyber-physical systems are limited only by the limits of human imagination. This creates important challenges for certification and regulation of these systems-of-systems and the reasonable evaluation of risks and guarantee of safety and interoperability. Currently, different systems or devices are certified by different ‘rules’. For example, car electronics must conform to ISO 26262. Adding a new system to the system-of-systems would have required enhanced and complex recertification. SafeCOP has developed the simulation methods and tools needed to produce the safety assurance evidence required for certification of cooperative functions. The team has submitted proposals for certification and deployment standards to certification authorities and standardisation committees. Project coordinator Detlef Scholle of Alten Sweden explains: “The SafeCOP safety assurance approach will enable the cost-effective certification of cooperative cyber-physical systems, and the work on security will ensure that security issues will not jeopardise safety.”

Safer wireless communication and a ‘safety manager’ to boot

According to Scholle, “the major achievement of the project is its proposed protocol-independent application-level ‘safety and security layer’ on top of existing protocols to ensure safe and secure distributed cooperative mechanisms.” It will enable new safe applications in areas beyond the project use cases, such as intelligent mobile robots in Industry 4.0 scenarios. SafeCOP also defined a runtime management architecture for detection of abnormal behaviour at runtime, triggering quality-of-service management with respect to an adapted safety-degraded mode. The architecture supports safety-related cooperative functions in application areas covered by the SafeCOP use cases, including healthcare, shipping and transport/traffic management, and is expected to be a reference for future applications.

Head in the clouds, feet firmly on the ground

The possibilities for applications of cyber-physical systems-of-systems are mind-boggling and, until now, the path to their development, certification and deployment was a long, difficult and expensive one. As Scholle summarises, “the SafeCOP framework and technology enable development of wirelessly collaborative cyber-physical products from multiple vendors and a simple, low-cost safety assurance process.” Results have been disseminated to relevant standardisation committees for the next step in regulation and widespread use.

Keywords

SafeCOP, safety, security, cyber-physical systems, certification, cooperative, safety assurance, wireless, Internet of things, standardisation

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