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Current trends are pushing towards a vision of computational and physical processes that seamlessly, continuously interact to provide novel kinds of services, applications, and solutions. Such tightly integrated processes are carried out by Cyber-Physical Systems (CPSs), namely networks of “cyber” and ...

Current trends are pushing towards a vision of computational and physical processes that seamlessly, continuously interact to provide novel kinds of services, applications, and solutions. Such tightly integrated processes are carried out by Cyber-Physical Systems (CPSs), namely networks of “cyber” and “physical” components engineered by emphasizing the three “C”s of communication, computation, and control. It is expected that our environments (bodies, homes, buildings, cities) will be increasingly filled with devices capable of situated action as well as decision making through their computational counterparts (cf. digital twins), which may be supported on-board or remotely. In many cases, these CPSs are able to move about their environment making them mobile CPS. The more devices get deployed, the more the emphasis moves from what an individual cyber-physical device can provide to what an entire collective of mobile cyber-physical devices can provide. Swarms of robots, crowds of augmented people, ICT infrastructures, wireless sensor and actuator networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and smart grids, are all examples of Mobile Cyber-Physical Collectives (MCPCs), namely collections of mobile cyber-physical elements sharing tasks or aiming at global goals or “social benefits”.

While opportunities of emerging CPSs such as MCPCs arise, research is devoted to addressing theoretical and practical challenges inherent to distribution, coordination, control, and operational requirements. In MCPCs, the collective nature adds more challenges related to collective decision making, emergent behavior, and scalability, which fosters decentralized architectures and solutions. Additionally, given the large number of components involved in CPCs, heterogeneity would be omnipresent and an element to be considered. This brings about different space and time scales with which we need to deal. System-level adaptation to environmental change is another prominent issue to be addressed and studied in fields like self-organizing systems (SOSs) and collective adaptive systems (CASs) engineering, where natural phenomena and processes (cf. ant colonies, force fields, cellular systems, chemical reactions) are often used as inspiration for devising novel methods and mechanisms. Moreover, nowadays, ICT infrastructures are getting more complex and intensely exploited, enabling multiple possibilities for communication and computation across the edge-fog-cloud continuum; this provides alternatives for deployment of cyber elements and hence different guarantees and non-functional outcomes for communication CPSs.

To address these challenges, this Research Topic invites original, high-quality work presenting novel research on mobile Cyber-physical Systems operating as collectives. Featured articles should present novel strategies that address issues in different aspects of collective CPS such as methods, architecture, design, validation, verification, and application of cyber-physical collectives.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

• Digital twins for large-scale CPSs

• Bio-inspired distributed computing approaches

• Multi-disciplinary approaches to collective behaviour design

• Decentralised algorithms for collective decision-making

• Models and tools for heterogeneous socio-technical systems

• Architectures and patterns for CPC systems design

• Methodologies for CPC systems engineering

• Programming languages and non-conventional paradigms for collective systems

• Techniques for soft or hard real-time coordination of collective activity

• Organisational paradigms for multi-agent systems

• Privacy and security in cyber-physical ecosystems

• Formal methods for analysis and prediction of emergent collective behaviour

• Verification and validation approaches for cyber-physical CAS (collective adaptive systems)

• Soft computing approaches to collective systems

• Mobility computing approaches to CPSs

• Approaches to crowds of augmented people and smart devices

• Approaches to swarm robotics

• Approaches to CI (collective intelligence)

• Case studies and applications involving CPCs (e.g., in context like smart cities, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, security, healthcare)

Dr. Paul Harvey is Research Lead of Rakuten Mobile Innovation Studio, whose research focuses on autonomous networks and edge computing. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interest with the theme of this Research Topic.

Keywords: collective systems, cyber-physical systems, digital twins, systems-of-systems, nature-inspired approaches, verification & validation, swarm robotics

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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