An individual can be very powerful, but when you get many people working together to accomplish a task, the result can be much better than if each person solved the problem independently. Clearly, the reason that the group is stronger than the sum of the parts is because each person can work on that portion of the problem that they are most suited for, and there can be an efficient division of labor. Obviously, this group needs to be well organized so it can work together efficiently, and there must be frequent communication between the people.
This example of people working together on a complicated task is not unlike “Systems of Systems (SoS) Engineering.”
When designing a very simple system, one could imagine doing the job by themselves, with very little need to consult a larger group, or enlist the services of other engineers. This may not be the case, however, for a very large and complex system.
Although a simple System may be made of individual components, a complex system will likely be made up of a group of individual systems. Designing a complex system made up of many simpler systems is referred to as SoS Engineering. In fact, each of the Systems in a SoS may itself be a SoS. So, as the title of this blog implies, you could actually have an SoSoSoSoS.
For example, we might consider an Air Traffic Control System to be a SoS. This SoS would be comprised of many smaller systems; airport, airplanes, cars, traffic control systems, etc. If we look at one of these systems, cars for example, we notice that it is actually a SoS; brake system, motor, chassis, etc. And, we could even drill down further as each of these systems might actually be a SoS.
To determine if a complex system qualifies as a SoS, it has to have five characteristics;
-Each of the Systems that comprise the SoS has to have operational independence. If you removed the system from the SoS, it would still operate as designed.
-Each of the Systems that comprise the SoS has to be managed independently. Each System has to manage its own operation, but no system should affect the management of the SoS.
-The SoS must perform a task that could not be accomplished alone by any individual system. When Systems are combined into a SoS, there is an expectation that “Emergent Behaviors” will result, and the SoS will accomplish tasks that could not have been performed by any one of the systems by itself. Of note, sometimes Emergent Behaviors can be undesired, and when that occurs, the engineer must address that issue.
-Each of the individual systems are geographically distributed
-Each of the systems are being constantly reviewed to ensure upgrades are not required to allow the system to continue to contribute positively to the SoS.
ATI offers a class which will teach you about designing an effective SoS.
To learn more about our System of Systems Class, you can read about it here. If you would like to take this class, please let us know so we can schedule an open-enrollment offering. Or, if you would like ATI to teach this class to a larger group at your facility, please contact us and inquire about our Custom Courses.