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Topic 7 - Control - Student Booklet

By M Brooke

Centralized control systems

Key Terms

Control systems



Input devices


Output transducer


A computer control system is like many other systems and is made up of three parts:
7.1.1 Discuss a range of control systems.
Centralised control systems use a computer/processor/microchip to control the movement of
an object. Control systems exist in all areas of life such as:
Automatic doors, heating systems, taxi meters, elevators, washing machines, process
control, device drivers, domestic robots, GPS systems, traffic lights,

7.1.2 Outline the uses of microprocessors and sensor input in

control systems.

The role of microprocessors in control

The role of computers in control have several advantages and disadvantages.

Pros Cons

Computers can respond very rapidly The software for the control system is
to change. specialist and may cost a lot of money
to develop
Systems can run 24 hours a day, 365
days a year. If the computer malfunctions the
system will not work
Control systems can operate in places
that humans would find dangerous or If there is a power cut the system will
awkward. not work

Outputs are consistent and error free. The computer cant react to
unexpected events like a human
Computers can process data quickly could. It can only respond in the way it
and machines can operate faster than has been programmed to.
It can cause some concern if total
control for a system and the decisions
are handed over to a computer.

The role of sensors in control

Sensors are used to measure physical quantities such as temperature, light, pressure,
sound, and humidity. They send signals to the processor. For example:

A security alarm system may have an infrared sensor which sends a signal when the
beam is broken.

A heat sensitive sensor in the corner of a room may detect the presence of a person.

Temperature sensors could be used to control the heating in a large building.

Magnetic sensors are used to detect metal and can be placed in roads to monitor
traffic flow.

Other physical quantities that can be transmitted directly to the computer's processor

rainfall/water levels

radiation level

pH level

oxygen level

Analogue to digital conversion

Data such as pressure, light and temperature is analogue data. Analogue data is
continuously changing data. Computers can only work with digital data. In order to convert
analogue to digital data discrete points on the analog signal must be sampled. The more
samples you take the more accurate the digital representation. This is known as a sample
An example of sample rates is 44100Hz sample rate that sound engineers use to digitise
analogue sound. This means there are 44100 samples every second. At this rate the
digitised sound is indistinguishable from the original when played back. The example below
show discreet samples on a basic sound wave.

Note the sample take place over equal amounts of time and the corresponding sample
allows the signal to be digitised. If we decreased the time intervals then the digitised signal
would more closely approximate the original signal. The more samples you take per second
means a better quality digitised signal but requires a lot more storage.
An interface box or analogue to digital converter (ADC) is needed to convert the analogue
data from the sensors into digital data the computer can process.
The picture below show the analogue to digital unit (ADC) which converts the analogue data
from sensors to digital data which is then transmitted through a USB cable to the computer.
Once the data is in the computer it is easier to analyse and represent using graphs. [2]
7.1.3 Evaluate different input devices for the collection of data
in specified situations.


Heat Temperature Central heating

Humidity Water vapour in Greenhouse,

the air swimming pools

Infra-red Radiation Security alarm


Light Light levels Security lights.

PH Acid/Alkali Environmental
levels monitoring.

Pressure Pressue Automatic doors,

alarm systems

Smoke Levels of Fire alarm

smoke in air systems.
Sound Sound level Alarm systems,
voice controlled
noise pollution

Tilt Angle of tilt windows in alarm

systems, aircraft

Touch Detects contact Robots

7.1.4 Explain the relationship between a sensor, the processor

and an output transducer.
A control system typically comprises of a computer or microprocessor, a control program
which handles data from sensors and sends signals to output devices and an interface box
to convert signals between the sensors and the processor.
The output devices tend to be actuators which can control real world events.
Some examples of actuators are shown below:

Light bulb or LED Creates light

Heater Increases temperature

Cooling Unit Decreases temperature

Motor Spins things around

Pump Pushes water / air through

Buzzer / Bell / Siren Creates noise

There are two types of control system:

1. Open loop system

2. Feedback system

The first type will only look at the input signal in order to decide what to do. For example a
microwave oven will run for the set amount of time and switch off. It will take no account of
any other factors such as whether the food is too hot or too cold. You set a light switch to
come on at 1900 at night. This light will come on at that time irrespective of whether it is dark
outside. Feedback systems are discussed in more details below.

7.1.5 Describe the role of feedback in a control system.

In a feedback system the output of a system affects the input.

This is best explained by taking a real life example.such as a control system that has to
maintain a constant level in a water tank.

1. water level falls too low

2. sensor detects water level is too low

3. valve opened to let water in

4. sensor detects water level is too high

5. valve opened to let water out

This process will run indefinitely

7.1.6 Discuss the social impacts and ethical considerations
associated with the use of embedded systems.


Surveillance is the use of IT to monitor the actions of people. For example, monitoring may
be used to track, record and assess employees performance. It can be used to support
claims for promotion or to ensure that employees follow the organizations internet policy
appropriately. IBO ITGS Syllabus
There are several types of surveillance systems such as those that monitor employees in the
workplace[3], students in the classroom[4], prisoner tagging (see below), secret service

Prisoner tagging

Source: BBC News, 2004, Satellite tracking for criminals. [24 July 2005].[6]
Convicted criminals can be fitted with a tracking belt and electronic transmitter on
their ankles (item 1 in the picture). The Government officials at the control centre (item 4 in
the picture) are able to pinpoint their exact position using a computer (item 5 in the picture)
at any time. These devices enable criminals to live in the community rather than being kept
in prison.
There are several pros and cons related to this
Pros Cons

Government no longer needs to house or feed Risk of devices being removed and prisoners
the prisoner in a prison so there is a cost offending.
saving. Does not necessarily prevent any future
Can be safer for the community as people crimes
who may not normally be sent to prison can System is expensive to set up.
be effectively monitored. System may not be reliable and there may be
Families who rely on convicted person can areas where the system does not cover.
continue to live with them and receive Extra people are required to monitor and
financial/emotional support. intervene when there are problems.
There may be improved rehabilitation as There may be privacy issues.
offenders are not removed from society and The security of the system is important as
put in a criminal environment. any hacking would reveal sensitive data.


Closed-circuit television (CCTV), also known as video surveillance, is the use of video
cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors.[7]
Many CCTV units are used for security reasons in private areas. However many CCTV
systems exist in public spaces and there are many privacy and security issues surrounding
the use of CCTV systems in public spaces. This article[8] discusses such issues in the wake
of the recent Boston bombing incident. it is good to use this as a basis for thinking about
whether the pros outweigh the cons.

Improved safety systems

There are many examples of where computer systems are used to improve the safety of
systems. On good example is in the car industry where active safety systems are used
extensively to protect the driver and passengers. .

Distributed systems
7.1.7 Compare a centrally controlled system with a distributed

Key Terms

Centrally controlled system

Distributed system

Autonomous agents

Distributed Computing

A type of computing in which different components and objects comprising an application

can be located on different computers connected to a network.[9]
Pros Cons

Cost Network bandwidth

Performance Security
Scalability Software complexity
Video on distributed control systems:

Climate modelling

7.1.8 Outline the role of autonomous agents acting within a

larger system

Now test yourself
Michael Brooke

[1] "An Algorithm for Music: The Discrete Fourier Transform." 2012. 21 Sep. 2015
[2] "LogIT Black Box Datalogger | Rapid Online." 2014. 21 Sep. 2015
[3] "Employee Monitoring: How Far is Too Far? - Innovative ..." 2014. 18 Sep. 2015
[4] "Should school children have tracking chips? - Science ..." 2013. 18 Sep. 2015
[5] "U.S. Confirms That It Gathers Online Data Overseas - The ..." 2013. 18 Sep. 2015
[6] "BBC NEWS | UK | Satellite tracking for criminals." 2004. 18 Sep. 2015
[7] "Closed-circuit television - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." 2011. 18 Sep. 2015
[8] "After Boston: The pros and cons of surveillance ... -" 2013. 18 Sep. 2015
[9] "What is distributed computing? A Webopedia Definition." 2002. 21 Sep. 2015
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