Decision Support Systems and Integrated Platforms: New Approaches for Managing Systems of Systems


Nowadays, in different contexts of strategic relevance there is an increasing need of integrating and coordinating previously autonomous elements and systems, in order to reach a common goal otherwise not achievable. Thus, the need to formalize a structured and unifying framework to support decision makers leads to the introduction of the concept of Systems of Systems (SoS), i.e., “large-scale integrated systems that are heterogeneous and independently operable on their own, but are networked together for a common goal”.

The main peculiarities of SoS are: hetereogenity (they are composed by different elements), emergent and unpredictable behavior (due to their architectural complexity); large-scale dimensions (they are constituted by a large number of elements or subsystems).

In order to deal with such aspects of SoS, novel modeling, simulation, analysis and management techniques are necessary. In particular, the problem of modeling and managing SoS with different purposes can be efficiently based on the concepts of Decision Support Systems (DSSs) and Integrated Platforms (IP).

Integrated Platform is a generalized term for digital platforms that perform various business functions and services for different actors. In addition, a DSS is an interactive computer-based system, which helps decision makers to utilize data and models to solve unstructured problems.

The talk enlightens how the different peculiar features of SoS make them particularly suitable for the application of DSS and IP approaches: i) the possible dynamic reconfiguration of the system derived from the managerial independence of the components; ii) the continuous system evolution during its operation; iii) the possibility of emergent behavior, i.e., the overall system non predictable behavior derived from the interaction of the single components; iv) the coexistence of different, and often competing, objectives and priorities of the single components.

In particular, DSSs can handle all the peculiar aspects of SoS by: integrating, analyzing and processing the huge amount of heterogeneous data made available by the continuous monitoring and control of the system performed by several distributed computing elements; applying mathematical models, simulations and optimization techniques in order to obtain a powerful connection and synchronization among all the involved systems; constantly interacting with the system, predicting all the possible future critical situations and proposing effective solutions in a proactive approach.

The talk discusses some practical applications of the DSS and IP paradigm in different SoS of great interest, such as logistic systems, multimodal transportation and Industry 4.0.


Maria Pia Fanti received the Laurea degree in electronic engineering from the University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy, in 1983.

She was a visiting researcher at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, New York, in 1999. Since 1983, she has been with the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering of the Polytechnic of Bari, Italy, where she is currently a Full Professor of system and control engineering and Chair of the Laboratory of Automation and Control.

Her research interests include discrete-event systems; Petri net; consensus protocols; fault detection; management and modeling of complex systems, such as production systems, logistic and healthcare systems.

She has published +270 papers and two textbooks on these topics.

Prof. Fanti was General Chair of the 2011 IEEE Conference on Automation Science and Engineering and of the IFAC Workshop on Dependable Control of Discrete Systems 2009. She is Editor of the IEEE Trans. on Automation Science and Engineering and Associate Editor of the IEEE Trans. on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Systems. She is member at large of the Board of Governors of the IEEE SMC Society, Co-Chair of the Technical committee on Discrete Event Systems of the IEEE SMC Society, and of the Technical Committee on Automation in Logistics of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.