Feature Topics

Cyber physical systems

Cyber physical systems might sound like it belongs in a science fiction novel, but in fact it has the potential to change our economy to the same extent as PCs did.  Abbreviated to CPS, cyber physical systems is our future - a future in the physical world of machines, equipment and devices is networked with the virtual world of the internet or cyberspace. Early signs of this quantum leap can be been in navigation devices, which already provide real-time data on traffic jams and calculate the movement profiles of other road users to improve the quality of alternative route suggestions. The example indirectly demonstrates that the foundations for cyber physical systems are already in place.

  1. According to some estimates, almost 98 percent of today’s microprocessors are employed to control machines, equipment and devices. Electronics is a key determinant of the functionality of products in both the workplace and at home.
  2. In terms of ICT, the internet has networked the world. More and more business is transacted online and services are increasingly provided over the internet. Even software and computing itself looks set to become virtual (cloud computing).
  3. The next step will be the networking of machines, equipment and devices via the internet. Once this takes place, this part of the physical world can no longer be controlled by defined processes or organized centrally. Intra-communication will be largely subject to control strategies that are highly dependent on context and situation. Workpieces will find their own way through the manufacturing process and respond flexibly with other workpieces  if a machine fails.

According to a policy paper by the German Academy of Technical Sciences, science and research is facing a number of new challenges: What is the best means of handling heterogeneous, networked objects, that require a holistic, systemic approach and interdisciplinary cooperation between engineering, electronics and IT.  How can cyber physical systems be mastered technically, how should they be built, controlled and serviced? (see, in German, Manfred Broy (Editor): Cyber-Physical Systems. Innovationsmotoren für Mobilität, Gesundheit, Energie und Produktion (acatech POSITION), Heidelberg u.a.: Springer Verlag 2011.)

Fraunhofer IZM is advancing this area by developing technologies for:

  • Wireless sensor technology
  • Application-specific sensor packaging

Wireless automation technology

In wireless automation technology, Fraunhofer IZM’s primary research areas are power supply, networking, robust communication and application-specific assembly of sensor nodes.

The availability and demand for power is a key topic in the implementation of autarkic sensor nodes. In fact, it is often decisive in determining just how competitive an autarkic sensor solution is. Fraunhofer IZM’s work promotes the energy-efficient design of sensor nodes, power supply via fuel cells, application-specific batteries and environmental energy conversion. Communication between the nodes and a central receiving unit is our second key research area. Here too, energy efficiency plays a central role, however issues such as the robustness of the wireless connection and the antenna design are also addressed. Finally, Fraunhofer IZM researches and develops sensor node packaging and identifies which technologies can be harnessed for individual customer-specific or, more precisely, the application-specific sensor nodes.

More information


Application-specific sensor packaging

Sensors for automation technology can almost be said to perform miracles. They have to collect data extremely accurately, often while exposed to the harshest environmental conditions. Packaging takes on a crucial role here. It has to protect the sensors from environmental influences without affecting their functionality. Fraunhofer IZM specializes in:

  • Stress-free packaging, such as for pressure, Hall effect and acceleration sensors
  • Highly robust packaging, such as when resistance to media, high-temperature or vibration is required
  • Optical sensor packaging, such as miniaturized camera systems, spectrometers and fiber optic sensors
  • Sensor packaging with openings, such as for moisture and gas sensors
  • MEMS packaging, including in wafer composites

More Information about Sensor Packaging