What Is a Control System?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

In computing, a control system is a set of devices that are used to manage the activities inherent in a computer network and the devices connected to that network. The components that make up the control system are configured to aid in managing the overall function of the network, including the processing of commands between components and overseeing the interaction of those components with other networks. When functioning efficiently, the system is able to manage all key commands and make sure that the allocation of resources throughout the network is operating at optimum levels.

Sensors and encoders make it possible to automate tasks that require exact positioning and have minimal tolerance for error.
Sensors and encoders make it possible to automate tasks that require exact positioning and have minimal tolerance for error.

There are several different classes or types of control system configuration in common use today. One example is the sequential system. This configuration is often helpful when the network involved is engaged in the repetitive task of performing specific actions in a prescribed sequence. An example of this type of activity would be a computer-driven assembly line in which the system controls the incremental assembly of some type of component. Devices connected with the network activate in a specific sequence to perform each step of the task that ultimately leads to the creation of a finished product.

Another type of control system is known as the linear system. Here, the focus is on the activation of certain responses when and as certain events come to pass. This type of system is often used to manage the flow of natural gas through a system, with the control mechanism releasing more of the flow when demand is present and lowering or even shutting down the flow if some sort of breach in the system is detected.

There is also a hybrid type of control system that seeks to combine the functionality of both a sequential and a linear system. With this approach, the system will have the ability to manage repetitive tasks with ease but also make use of sensing equipment to slow or even stop that sequence if certain events should arise. Systems of this type also tend to allow manual intervention, a feature that can be helpful when there is a need to make repairs of some type.

The exact structure of a control system will depend on the types of tasks that are involved in the overall process. With computer technology playing a significant role in the automation of many tasks that were once performed by hand, it is necessary to make sure a control system is designed to manage as many contingencies as possible, while also allowing for the ability to intervene manually if necessary. To that end, many system configurations today include self-diagnostics that check the efficiency of the controls and report any anomalies that are discovered. This makes it possible to make any necessary repairs to the control system with minimal disruption to the operation.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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