The role of computers in control

  • Computers can respond very rapidly to change.
  • Systems can run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Control systems can operate in places that humans would find dangerous or awkward.
  • Outputs are consistent and error free.
  • Computers can process data quickly and machines can operate faster than humans.

Computers are now used to control many types of devices such as:

  • air conditioning and central heating systems in large buildings
  • security systems and burglar alarms
  • manufacturing processes
  • traffic lights and pedestrian crossings
Traffic control sensors transferring feedback from sensor to workstation to server
Glossary
  1. analogue Continuous data, eg the second hand on an analogue watch displays each second and the space in between.
  2. data Values, typically letters or numbers.
  3. digital Information stored as discrete values usually represented as numbers. This contrasts with analogue data which is represented by continuous data, usually in waves.
  4. infrared Radiation which transfers heat energy. Part of the electromagnetic spectrum with a longer wavelength than light waves but a shorter wavelength than radio waves.
  5. output Either an exit or changes which exit a system and which activate or modify a process.
  6. processor Shorthand for central processing unit (CPU).
  7. program Sequences of instructions for a computer.
  8. sensor A device that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal to be read and interpreted.