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References - Smart Systems primer


Smart Systems are self-sufficient intelligent technical systems or subsystems with advanced functionality, enabled by underlying micro- nano- and bio-systems and other components.

They are able to sense, diagnose, describe, qualify and manage a given situation, their operation being further enhanced by their ability to mutually address, identify and work in consort with each other.

They are highly reliable, often miniaturised, networked, predictive and energy autonomous.

      • Smart Systems are autonomous or collaborative systems.
      • They bring together sensing, actuation and informatics / communications  to help users or other systems perform a role.
      • By their very nature these systems combine functionalities.
      • They may extract multiple functionalities from a common set of parts, materials, or structures


The concept of the Knowledge Base separates Smart Systems from systems which, although they may be automated, remain purely reactive.

As an example, the “automatic” camera of a decade ago would simply measure light intensity and adjust the shutter speed and lens aperture so that the photograph is properly exposed.

The typically “Smart” digital camera of today, by comparison, not only measures light intensity, but analyses the subject for signs of motion, for colour balance (including also the detection and optimisation of flesh tones), for facial expressions (smiles, closed eyes) and for contrast, to ensure that the focus is set for critical sharpness.

All these parameters are compared with a Knowledge Base inside the camera, which essentially distils the skills and experience of over 150 years of photography and applies it to the camera settings to produce a high quality image whilst being very simple to use.

Generations of Smart Systems

The three classes below do not necessarily succeed each other in time: the nomenclature “generation” in this case indicates increasing levels of “smartness” and autonomy, not that one generation seeds the next.

1st-generation-Smart Systems include sensing and/or actuation as well as signal processing to enable actions.
For example: Personal alarms for emergency and falls are in wide use.

2nd-generation-Smart Systems are predictive and self-learning.
For example: The reliable, predictive detection of the possibility of a fall by a person at risk could trigger the visit of a carer before the event.

3rd-generation-Smart Systems simulate human perception/cognition.
For example: The remote real-time analysis of an active implanted neurological device could directly monitor and analyse a patient’s brain function, through a Brain Computer Interface, for applications that extend far beyond healthcare.