From the CONET project:
"“In the abstract sense, a Cooperating Object is a single entity or a collection of entities consisting of:
* sensors, * controllers (information processors), * actuators or * cooperating objects
that communicate with each other and are able to achieve, more or less autonomously, a common goal.
More precisely, sensors are devices that act as inputs to the Cooperating Object and are able to gather and retrieve information either from other Cooperating Objects or from the environment.
Controllers are devices that act as data or information processors and, obviously, must interact with sensors and actuators in order to be able to interact with their environment. Furthermore, controllers are equipped with some kind of storage device that allows them to perform their tasks. The amount of “effort” devoted by a particular controller to either information processing or storage tasks is determined on an individual basis. This way, the sensor network might be composed of controllers that mostly provide information processing capabilities, whereas others might be specialized in the storage of data.
Finally, actuators are devices that act as output producers and are able to interact and modify their environment.
It seems clear that if sensors, controllers and actuators need to interact with each other in a distributed environment, all of them need to be equipped with communication capabilities. These might of course be based on wired or wireless technology. The inclusion of other cooperating objects as part of a cooperating object itself indicates that these objects can combine their sensors, controllers and actuators in a hierarchical way and are, therefore, able to create arbitrarily complex structures.”
From this definition, it is apparent that this new vision is more powerful and has a larger scope than each of the individual system concepts out of which it evolved.
The vision of Cooperating Objects is, therefore, quite new and needs to be understood in more detail and probably extended with inputs from the relevant individual communities that compose it. This will enable us to better understand the impact on the research landscape and to steer the available resources in a meaningful way." (http://www.cooperating-objects.eu/about/conet-background/)