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Critical Infrastructure Systems

According to the European Commission, a critical infrastructure is defined as an asset or system, which is essential for the maintenance of vital societal functions. The principal examples are electric power systems, water distribution networks, telecommunication networks and transportation systems. Without these, other basic infrastructures (e.g., banking, hospitals, schools, tourism, etc.) cannot operate as intended. Critical infrastructures provide the foundation on which communities are built and, when properly functioning, they enable economic growth and social well-being.

As urbanisation increases, critical infrastructures worldwide are expanding and are becoming more complex, necessitating greater efficiency and improved capabilities in order to sustain their effective operation. Equipment failures are also occurring more frequently as large segments and components of critical infrastructures become old and outdated. Such failures may lead to serious degradation in performance or, even worse, to cascading overall system failure and breakdown. Moreover, the safety and security of critical infrastructure systems against malicious attacks (such as denial-of-service) and natural disasters are becoming crucial issues for citizens, businesses and governments who expect that these infrastructures will provide uninterrupted service 24/7 and under any circumstances. Furthermore, unexpected events will always occur (accidents, earthquakes etc.) which will create emergency conditions that require immediate response to prevent fatalities and limit damages.

Electric power systems
Water distribution networks
Telecommunication networks
Transportation systems

The problem of monitoring, control, management and security of Critical Infrastructures Systems (CIS) will become even more challenging in the future. Whereas 49% of the world population currently lives in urban areas, it is predicted that by 2050 around 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will be urbanised. However, existing critical infrastructures were not designed to accommodate such enormous demands. Moreover, due to wide-ranging deregulation, the use of renewable energy and a massive expansion of wireless communications, critical infrastructures, as well as the associated data, software and management systems, are becoming increasingly more heterogeneous, distributed and inter- dependent making the seamless integration of all components that make up the CIS an immense challenge requiring special research attention.

Critical infrastructures have a lot of similarities in their underlying dynamics, as well as in the dynamics of the impact of possible component faults. Moreover, various forms of interdependencies between CIS are becoming more prevalent as digital instrumentation and communications mature on a global scale. For example, the normal operation of water supply and telecommunications requires the steady supply of electric energy. On the other hand, the generation and delivery of electric power relies on the water supply for cooling and on the telecommunication network for data and control command transfers to power plants and substations. This increasing interdependence between critical infrastructures, leads naturally to concerns about the vulnerability of these interconnected systems and the possible effect of cascading fail- ures between various infrastructures.

The scale, heterogeneity, complexity of dynamics and interdependencies of critical infrastructures require new approaches for monitoring and control that would seamlessly integrate all components, boost the trustworthiness of automation procedures and enhance their reliability, fault-tolerance and sustainability. The emergence of networked cyber-physical systems, in which sensor/actuator networks are integrated with software algorithms, facilitates the development of advanced monitoring and control applications, where a large amount of sensor data is collected and processed in real-time in order to make optimal decisions with respect to the control objectives. However, despite recent advances, the digital revolution pro- vides mainly the information and communication technologies (ICT) platform for collecting and process- ing data, not the intelligence for using data to make smart decisions, especially for highly complex and uncertain infrastructures. To enhance the intelligence of monitoring and control methods, there is a need to leverage technology advances in machine learning, computational intelligence and data analytics, com- bined with algorithms for fault diagnosis, adaptive estimation and feedback control, which are among the areas of expertise of the KIOS CoE team.