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Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

Mechatronics, robotics and components for automation and control

IFAC milestone report
A. Ollero a,*, S. Boverie b, R. Goodall c, J. Sasiadek d, H. Erbe e, D. Zuehlke f
Grupo de Robótica, Visión y Control, E.S. Ingenieros, Univ Sevilla, Camino de los Descubrimientos, Sevilla, Spain
Siemens Automotive, BP 1149, 1, Ave. du Mirail, F-31036 Toulouse Cedex, France
El. Engineering Department, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel by Dr. Ottawa, Ont. K1S 5B6, Canada
Technische Univ. Berlin, Inst. F. Berufliche Bildung, Zentrum Mensch-Maschine-Systeme Sekr, FR 4-4, Franklinstrasse 28/29, D-10587 Berlin, Germany
Institute of Production Automation, University of Kaiserslautern, P.O. Box 3049, 67653 Kaiserslautern, Germany
Received 8 July 2005; accepted 16 February 2006
Available online 13 July 2006

This paper is devoted to the analysis of the broad technological field of mechatronics, robotics and components for automation and control
systems. Several sub-fields are considered: (i) components and instruments, involving sensors, actuators, embedded systems and communications;
(ii) mechatronics concepts and technologies; (iii) robotics; (iv) human–machine systems, including technical issues and social implications; and (v)
cost-oriented automation which is a multidisciplinary field involving theory, technologies and application as well as economical and social issues.
First current key problems in this field are considered then, the accomplishment and trends are analysed. Finally, the forecast is presented to discuss
issues relevant for future developments.
# 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Components for control; Mechatronic systems; Robotics; Cost oriented automation; Human–machine systems

1. Introduction This paper pays significant attention to the field of

components and instruments for control including sensors,
Control technologies and applications have experienced actuators, embedded systems and communications.
highly significant developments in the last 10 years. These The paper also devotes particular attention to mechatronic
developments have been driven by progress in innovative systems. For many years control engineers have been using
sensors and actuators, and the increasing performance sensors and electronic processing to enhance and/or alter the
of computer systems, including embedded systems for performance of mechanical systems, in many cases to provide a
control. level of functionality that is not possible without the electronics.
In addition, recent developments of communication tech- The sophistication which has more recently been possible
nologies have also led to novel distributed control technologies, through increasingly powerful processing devices and heigh-
including systems with wire and wireless communications in tened software skills has resulted in an increasing trend towards
the control loops and networked systems with multiple embedded mechatronic solutions involving a synergetic
interconnected objects (see for example http://www.em- combination of mechanics, electronics, software and comput- The application domains are very large; ing. This necessitates a multi-disciplinary understanding of the
including process control with very complex interconnected relevant scientific and engineering principles, and the
systems, factory automation as well as robotics, building individual knowledge of the mechatronic engineer must be
automation, and transportation systems, which is today one of sufficiently comprehensive to be able to create the innovative
the most ‘‘pushing’’ domains. combination that makes up mechatronic solutions.
Robotics is a relatively new field in science and engineering.
The broadly accepted definition is that robotics is an intelligent
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 95 455 6871; fax: +34 95 445 6849. connection of perception to action. Robot perception is
E-mail address: (A. Ollero). performed by sensors. Sensors allow robots to sense and

1367-5788/$ – see front matter # 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
42 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

interact with the changing environment. Information acquired intelligent components. The process monitoring and defect
by the robot is then processed using intelligent algorithms. The detection methods play a fundamental role to improve the
resulting commands are passed on to the actuators—devices quality of the result at reduced manufacturing costs.
that drive joints and actuate parts of the robots. This paper also As far as communications are concerned, Field Buses have
focuses on Robotics. been extensively used. These are special purpose networks that
The study of interactions between human and machines is an are basically used in real time applications for connecting field
important aspect in the adoption of control technologies equipment and control devices (see for example FET, 2003).
involving both technical issues and social implications. Field buses have been developed for more than 20 years by
Human–machine studies consider all conditions, where humans different companies or consortia. Today, they are one of the key
(individuals as well as groups) use, control or supervise tools, components of automation systems, which is a good reason for
machines or technological systems. It fosters analysis, design, the lack of current standardization, even though a lot of standards
modeling and evaluation of human–machine systems (HMS) have been created (too many standards kill the concept of
which includes: decision making and cognitive processes, standard!). Current research topics are related to all the layers of
modeling of human performance (reliability, mental work load, the protocol stack, from the physical to the application one. The
predictability), real and virtual environments, design metho- underlying problems in the study of wireless field buses are the
dology, task allocation-sharing and job design, intelligent connectivity of the stations, and the impact of perturbation on the
interfaces, human operator support, work organization, and upper protocol layers, and on the real time constraints. Ethernet
selection and training criteria. Over the last few decades a shift systems can be also considered under the perspective of field
from the more hardware oriented HMS-topics to the more buses. The main problems are: (i) the determinism or the
software and system oriented topics is recognized, which may predictability of the communication and then of the application
be characterized by cognitive ergonomics. All these aspects behaviour; and (ii) the robustness of such distributed applica-
related to human–machine interactions are also considered in tions. In addition, the proof of properties (as stability, coherence
the paper. or consistency) of networked controlled systems is one of the
Finally, it should be noted that the paper also discusses the major research trends for the current decade. Despite a lot of local
implications of cost oriented automation, or affordable or specific solution elements are known, current modelling
automation, which is a cross-sectoral field involving theory, techniques are generally not suited to reach these goals, and the
technology, and application as well as economical and social theory to prove distributed systems is rather weak. Thus a strong
issues. Therefore the focus is not upon cheap components and research effort should be dedicated in that direction within the
instruments for control tasks, but upon the life-cycle of next years.
automation systems regarding cost-effectiveness. Maintenance Components and instruments are likewise essential within
is a crucial point, and therefore has to be considered integrated the transportation/automotive application fields. For nearly a
with a performance-oriented product- and process-develop- century the automobile has been the principal means of
ment. An agile human–human and human–machine collabora- transport in the industrial world. The past 25 years have seen a
tion to fulfil this demands has to be developed. profound evolution in behaviour. This is linked, on one hand, to
This paper is an update of the corresponding sections of the the awareness of automobiles contributing to the catastrophic
previously published report (Ollero et al., 2002), originally rise in environmental pollution, and on the other hand to the
presented at the15th IFAC World Congress. It presents new continued search for driver comfort, safety, and security.
developments and trends in the above fields. The paper is The implementation of severe regulations related to
organized as follows. Current key problems are addressed in emission controls, fuel consumption, the search for improved
Section 2. Section 3 is devoted to the accomplishments and trends. drivability and output, as well as the improvement of safety in
The forecast of the involved technologies is presented in Section road traffic corresponds to an increasing demand from a
4. Sections 5 and 6 are devoted to the conclusions and references. majority of users as well as to a social and economical
necessity. These new requirements have inevitably led to the
2. Current key problems need for more and more precise control of vehicle operation.
Therefore, today, more and more vehicle functions are
2.1. Components and instruments performed through strategies implemented in various type of
electronic control units (for example ABS, ECU and injection
Partitioning a complex system into more manageable units is ECU). Over the last decade, the automobile became a very
essential to cope with today’s increasing complexity of process significant market for the electronics industry, accounting for
control and biomedical applications. In this set of units, more than 10% of the overall turnover. The electronic functions
intelligent sensors play an essential role in the operation of initially applied to the management of the engine have
complex real-life distributed systems. The aim of intelligent progressively encroached upon safety areas (i.e. ABS, air-bag
sensors is to sample raw data in order to extract some and obstacle detection), security areas (access control,
information, where information can be defined as a measure of immobilizer), comfort areas (air conditioning), and of course
how well the data fit into information patterns. The field of large driving aids.
distributed control systems (like power plants and manufactur- The development of these new functions is related to the
ing processes) remains the main area of application of the introduction in the automobile application field of more
A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54 43

cally-based products and processes can be assured by careful

design of critical components, supported by targeted main-
tenance regimes, which as far as possible avoid dangerous
failures. However failure modes for sensors, electronics and
software are much more diverse and integrity now has to be
provided through functional and analytical redundancy. The
traditional approach for new solutions has often been: first
create the outline scheme (i.e. the synergetic combination of
mechanics, electronics, software and computing); then carry
out detailed design of the controllers to meet performance
Fig. 1. Benefits of mechatronics.
requirements; then finally consider fault tolerance. However it
is possible that the fault tolerance could have been achieved
sophisticated sensor concepts (see Grace, 2002). These easier/better/cheaper had it been taken into account at the very
‘‘intelligent’’ sensors will be able to provide synthetic first stage, and so a general theory and/or methodology for
information to the decision algorithms whether directly to handling the synthesis problem for complex multi-disciplinary
the driver. It implies the adjunction to the ‘‘basic sensing systems to meet multiple objectives and constraints, including
device’’ of upper signal processing levels, which allow to those related to fault tolerance, is needed to maximize the
extract the pertinent information from a set of measurements, to impact of mechatronics.
fuse the information provided by several sensors, to classify A final key issue is related to human factors. Early
them. (i.e. vision sensor with dedicated image processing, mechatronic products required only limited human interaction,
radars with data extraction process). whereas their ever-broadening applicability means that many
products are now used on daily basis and human factors need to
2.2. Mechatronics have correspondingly increased importance. In part this again
comes back to the skill base of the mechatronic engineer, but also
As explained in Section 1, mechatronics involves bringing the contribution of the design tools needs careful consideration.
together electronics, processing and the mechanical system to This observation also links strongly with many of the ideas
create something new, the benefits of which are varied, as identified in human–machine systems (see Section 2.4).
illustrated in Fig. 1.
The key problems for future developments in mechatronics 2.3. Robotics
focus around the multidisciplinary requirements of both
engineers and the tools that they use. The actual creation of The key problems in robotics are related to control systems,
the system structure (i.e. the appropriate balance of form and perception systems and advanced mechanical design. Robot
function between the contributing disciplines) has been largely control systems are responsible for guidance and navigation
a human-dominated process that relies upon the insight and and control of robots in changing dynamic environments.
ingenuity of the engineer, and it is likely that this will continue Position and force/torque control is still an important problem
to be the case. Nevertheless their endeavours need to be despite major advances made in that field. Non-linear control
supported by usable, efficient, accurate design tools, and the systems could be identified as one of the key problems in that
availability of an effective design interface and easy access to area. The second is control of autonomous systems.
multi-objective optimization techniques are critical. However Perception systems are based on sensors that supply
there is a key issue related to the choice of models, and it’s information about the robot’s surroundings. Clearly, an
important to distinguish between the design model and the understanding of the operating environment is essential for
simulation model: the former is a simplified model used for an intelligent, autonomous robot. Information from sensors are
synthesis of the control strategy and algorithm, whereas the integrated (Sasiadek, 2002) in the process called sensor/data
latter is a full-complexity model to test the system performance. fusion. This sensor fusion process became one of the most
Modern model-based design approaches are often required to important problems related to intelligent robotics (Sasiadek &
handle the complexity of the systems being developed, either Wang, 2003).
for the controller itself or for estimators to access difficult or The key problem in robot’s mechanical design is human–
impossible to measure variables, in which case the controller robot interface and interaction. Humans are used to interact
and/or estimator assumes a dynamic complexity equal to or with other humans, animals or machines that are designed and
greater than that of the design model. The design model must made to human ‘‘scale’’. Very often this human scale is seen in
therefore be sufficiently accurate for the purpose, but not so the perspective of customs and evolutionary changes and
complex as to make implementation impossible. adaptation. Contemporary robots vary because their design and
Another issue arises because the integrity/reliability/avail- purpose. In general, the robots could be divided into two
ability required of the mechatronic solution is increasingly of groups: stationary and mobile. The stationary robots are
general importance (i.e. not only for safety-related applica- designed in form of manipulators. These manipulators have
tions), and so a vital mechatronic skill is in the area of fault different types of kinematics but the most often they use the
diagnosis and tolerance. Generally the integrity of mechani- ‘‘arm’’ kinematics that is similar to the biomechanical design of
44 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

our own hand. However, very often mobile robots do not have product and process realization has to consider several aspects
any ‘‘friendly’’ interface and it is difficult for humans to interact regarding automatic control: virtual manufacturing supporting
and communicate with them. The major challenge for robots integrated product and process-development, tele- or web-
designers is to make them easy to use by, and communicate with based maintenance (cost reduction with e-maintenance systems
humans. in manufacturing), and SME-oriented agile manufacturing.
Also, the application of new micro-electro-mechanical Agile manufacturing here is understood as the synthesis of a
systems (MEMS) to robots poses challenging design problem. number of independent small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
MEMS are systems (components) that integrate sensors and forming a network to join their core skills, competencies and
actuators on the silicon substrate and are made using the capacities to be capable of operating cost effectively in a
microelectronics and micromachining technology. The key competitive environment of continual, and unpredictable,
problems are the large-scale manufacturing, reliability, and changing customer demands.
successful integration of MEMS with microprocessors. As mentioned in Section 1, life-cycle management of
automation systems is important regarding the cost of ownership.
2.4. Human–machine systems The complete production process should be considered
respecting its performance where maintenance is the most
Over the last years a fast and steady increase in complexity important part regarding the cost. Maintenance is still today
of modern industrial systems can be recognized. This either reactive or blindly proactive. Degradation of parts is
complexity is characterized by a huge increase of functions largely invisible to human users, even though a great deal of
and data, by linking single machines to system networks thus technology has been developed that could make such information
extending the mental workspace and by more and more visible. Many sophisticated sensors and computerized compo-
replacing visible mechanical by invisible computerized nents are capable of delivering data about the machine’s status
functions. In many research projects it can be proven that and performance. When machines are networked and remotely
these developments have become key problems for human monitored, and when their data are modelled and continually
operators, and the integrity of the human decisions and control analyzed with embedded systems, it is possible to go beyond
have thereby suffered. Whereas a lot of research work was mere ‘‘predictive maintenance’’ to intelligent ‘‘prognostics’’
carried out over the last decades in high-risk areas like nuclear (condition based maintenance). Morel et al. (2004) considers the
power generation or aviation, the problems were recognized performance of the complete automation system, that interests
much later in the more low-risk areas. the owner respecting the cost, rather than the control
Today’s situation is characterized by replacing unique performance only; i.e. a compromise between cost of
control hardware by standardized hardware platforms mostly maintenance and cost of standstill of the automation system
based on PC technology at least at the user-interface level. has to be found. The advantage of e-maintenance was discussed
Industrial surveys show that PC-based interactions using
Windows-like operating systems, industrial pointing devices
and touch screens are becoming more and more an industry
standard. But the functions offered by this sophisticated base
equipment lead developers to implement hundreds of functions
instead of user-centered solutions. Unfortunately, most of these
developers are not educated to implement the basics of
ergonomic design and the shorter development cycles increase
the pressure on them. On the other hand, many manufacturers
still believe that more functions and nicely coloured screens
lead to better sales.
But the situation is now rapidly changing. The manufac-
turers of complex technical equipment are recognizing more
and more that ‘‘functionalities’’ is a very short-sighted
marketing strategy. And industrial customers recognize that
a human-centred HMS reduces training effort and error rate,
leading to a more efficient use of the expensive equipment.
Most of the global technology leaders have installed usability
labs including the necessary trained staff over the last 5 years
and this trend is growing.

2.5. Cost oriented automation

Controlling distributed collaborative engineering, i.e. to

control common work over remote sites, is now an emerging Fig. 2. Moving a virtual mass with two momentum handles (Bruns & Yoo,
topic in cost oriented automation. Therefore cost effective 2005).
A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54 45

by Lee et al. (2004), and here human–human collaboration has to

be made effective.
Human–human collaboration among others has been
identified as an emerging area for automatic control.
Supporting cost effective human–human collaboration in
networked enterprises is a challenge for cost oriented
automation. With the trend to extend the design and
processing of products over different and remotely located
factories, the problem arises how to secure an effective
collaboration of the involved workforce. The usual face-to-
face work will be replaced, at least partly if not totally, by
computer-mediated collaboration. The development and
implementation of information and communication technol-
ogy, suitably adapted to the needs of the workforce and
facilitating remotely distributed collaborative work is a
challenge to engineers. Information mediated only via vision
and sound is insufficient for collaboration. In designing and Fig. 3. Example of integrated low cost stereovision camera module.
manufacturing it is often necessary to have the parts in your
hands. To grasp a part at a remote site requires force (haptic)-
feedback in addition to vision and sound. Consider for As far as components and instruments for transportation/
example remote service for maintenance. Low cost force automotive are concerned, one of the most recent and
feedback devices are under development, and these can be challenging topics for research activities is certainly the very
used in so called mixed reality: Bruns and Yoo (2005) important advances related to driver assistance systems
demonstrated (Fig. 2) the movement of a virtual mass on a (ADAS). These include several functions related to the
table at a computer-screen with force feedback handles via vehicle longitudinal and lateral control, for example: lane
the internet using hyperbonds, a sensing–generating interface departure warning (LDW), ACC (adaptive cruise control),
(Bruns, 2005). lane keeping, stop and go function. Development of these new
functions is strongly related to sensor technology push, the
3. Accomplishments and trends tremendous increase of real time processing capabilities, and
of course the latest advances in terms of signal processing,
3.1. Components and instruments image processing and so on (see Krueger & Gessner, 2002;
Walldorf & Gessner, 2003). The first examples of these new
In the area of factory automation (see proceedings of the systems are now coming to the market, for example Daimler
IEEE International Conference on Emerging Technologies and Chrysler is commercializing lane departure warning systems
Factory Automation, 2003) we may expect a future intensive for their trucks (ACTROS).
use of intelligent components in applications ensuring the Some of the main research and developments trends for the
monitoring of the environment (see Akyilidiz, Su, Sankarasu- very next years are:
bramaniam, & Cayiri, 2002). The research in new solid state
sensors using microelectronic technologies, embedding signal  To provide new generation of sensors (i.e. video sensor-
processing and pattern recognition functionalities will probably cameras, see Fig. 3, RADAR, LIDAR) able to fulfill
evolve soon in the production of electronic noses able of automotive specific requirements: low cost (some Euro!),
detecting and identifying numerous varieties of harmful gas high quality, severe environmental constraints (for example
like the CO2 or the cooling gases (see Nagle, Gutierez-Osuna, temperature ranges from 40 to 105 8C, low sensitivity to
& Schiffman, 1998). These sensors will become essential parts EMC), capacity to operate in adverse situations (for example,
of a monitoring system aiming to fight against atmospheric for camera, ability to operate by night, by day, with very
pollution. It also indicates an open research topic for additional contrasted scenes).
applications in areas like medicine, leading to a massive  To provide sophisticated data fusion, software processing,
production of biomedical wearable devices (see proceedings of and algorithms able to extract from complex information
the IEEE International Symposium on BIO-Informatics and more synthetic data (for example driver eye gaze or eyelid
Biomedical Engineering, 2000; Schwiebert, Gupta, & Wein- movement, driver posture and activity, obstacle detection and
mann, 2001). classification).
In the biomedical field, the current applications are mainly
focused on the remote monitoring of physiological signals like 3.2. Mechatronics
blood pressure and electrocardiogram. But intelligent compo-
nents can also contribute to the monitoring and control of the Many industries over the last decade have made great strides
muscular movements or the artificial heart, to the detection of towards mechatronic solutions, some of which link strongly to
brain malfunction and so on. developments identified elsewhere in this article, especially
46 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

Fig. 4. Overview of mechatronic products.

those related to components and instruments. Fig. 4 summarises  Data storage (see Fig. 6): sophisticated but extremely cost-
in general the achievements of mechatronic technology in a effective magnetic and optical storage systems based upon
variety of industries. sophisticated embedded control highly integrated with the
Key industries where mechatronic products are fundamental mechanics of the products.
to their current production technology are:  Vibration control: actuators, sensing and electronic control
embedded within mechanical systems, principally to counter-
 Automotive: active steering for automobiles is now in series act potential problems caused by flexibility in the mechanical
production with BMW; the electro-hydraulic brake (Bosch, system, but also in some cases to enhance the effect of the
Mercedes Benz)—see Fig. 5. flexibility—as illustrated by the smart tennis racquet shown
 Combustion engines: the common rail injection system for in Fig. 7 in which electronics, sensors and actuators are
diesel engines and also the injection systems for gasoline embedded in the head and continually adjust the dynamic
engines. characteristics.
 Tilting technology in trains enabling higher speeds through
curves; active secondary suspensions to give improved ride

Progress is being made towards tackling a number of the key

skills issues in mechatronics. Universities have recognized
industry’s needs for multidisciplinary engineers and are
increasingly offering targeted undergraduate programmes that
satisfy some of the multi-disciplinary skills requirements, and
through this and other trends there is undoubtedly a greater

Fig. 5. Electro-hydraulic brake.

Fig. 6. Modern hard disc drive. Fig. 7. Smart tennis racquet.

A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54 47

awareness within industry of the importance of the mechatronic Several unmanned aerial vehicles were tested in USA and
approach than there was (say) 10 years ago. Europe. Some of them are small and the other large vehicles.
Design tools are progressively improving in their ability to They move slow (helicopter like UAV) or fast (hypersonic
handle the multi-domain modelling in a usable manner, UAV) and they represent one of the fastest growing area of
although truly multi-objective optimization capabilities remain advanced technologies at present time. Fig. 8 shows two robotic
limited (and where they are provided they are often under- aircrafts (
exploited). In general modern design tools are better at Yet another important and promising sub-field of robotics is
providing the full-complexity simulation models than they are underwater robotics. The underwater robots are used in
the appropriate simplified models needed for control design; underwater exploration, mining, oil industry and military
even though formal model reduction techniques are available, application, e.g. mine detection. Many unmanned underwater
they need considerable translation for use in a practical design vehicles have been also developed (see for example Fig. 9).
context, in addition to which they are primarily based upon The second major achievement is in tele-robotics, especially
linear(ised) models because non-linear model reduction is still in medical applications. Medical surgery performed from a
an open research problem. remote location has now become a reality. For example the first
The overall research trends must therefore be towards more successful surgery across the continents took place in 2001
systems-oriented design methodologies and software tools that when an American doctor from New York removed the
can provide real support for the burgeoning range of diseased gallbladder in a 68-year-old patient in Strasbourg,
mechatronic products and processes, in particular bringing in France.
some of the increasingly critical requirements related to fault The third major progress and accomplishment can be
tolerance, human factors, and others. identified is space robotics. The exploration of outer planets
(e.g. Mars) using mobile robots is a spectacular success (http://
3.3. Robotics The Mars exploration mission is
still underway using mobile robot explorer named Spirit. The
There are number of major achievements and trends in space station built at the Earth orbit is being equipped with the
robotics. One of them is development of autonomous systems. Canadarm2, seven degree of freedom robotic manipulator that
In particular, the rapid progress in development of autonomous will help to further develop and maintain the space station. The
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) (Jardin & Bryson, 2001; Canadarm2 is fitted with yet another two-arm robotic
Ollero & Merino, 2004; Wu, Sun, & Zhou, 2004) with manipulator called special purpose dextrous manipulator
sophisticated formation flight control (Binetti, Ariyur, Krsti & (SPDM) shown in Fig. 10. The personal space assistant
Bernelli, 2003; Pachter, D’azzo, & Proud, 2001) is a significant (PSA) a free flying robot is being developed by the NASA
accomplishment. Ames Centre.

Fig. 8. (a) Aerosonde robotic aircraft. (b) Boeing X-45 UCAV. Fig. 9. HUV underwater robot.
48 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

Over the last years a lot of research work was carried out in
the field of human-centred system design. But compared to
other scientific fields, the area is very broad and influenced by
several sciences:

 The social demands are mainly pushed by social-scientists

under the subject of socio-technical system design.
 Researchers with a psychology background focus their work
under the subject of cognitive engineering.
 The work ergonomics tend to call their subject usability
 The computer science community talks about system
engineering and intelligent user interfaces based on
principles from the artificial intelligence (AI) field.

But, as a German survey among several hundred equipment

manufacturers in 2003 showed, 75% of the industrial user
interfaces are designed by engineers who are facing many
theories, which go far beyond their actual need. The survey also
revealed that industry is still thinking and structured in simple
traditional categories like hardware and software engineering.
Therefore, in 1997 the major German societies for computer
sciences (GI), ergonomics (GfA), information technology
(VDE-ITG) and automation (VDI-GMA) established the new
Fig. 10. Special purpose dextrous manipulator (SPDM) (http://www.mdrobo- subject useware engineering (UE). The term useware was carefully chosen in analogy to hard-
and software and describes all hardware and software
The development of humanoids is also an emerging trend in components to implement, as well as methods to design
robotics ( Furthermore, service human–machine-systems (;
robotics is an emerging industrial application. Many such Oberquelle, 2002). It was felt that one catch-word will help
robots have been described in to better identify the community dealing with all aspects of
Finally, it should be also noted the developments of multi- HMS. After 6 years, the latest survey showed that this subject is
robot systems (Arai, Pagello, & Parker, 2002). These well accepted in the German industry and leads to the necessary
developments include cooperative manipulation, and the discernment that useware is at least of equal importance as
coordination of multiple autonomous vehicles. Different hard- or software.
systems and technologies for the coordination of fleets of The described situation should not be misinterpreted as a
ground and aerial vehicles have been developed. The competitive situation; it rather demonstrates the interdisci-
cooperation of multiple autonomous robots is an active plinary orientation of this field. All approaches have the same
research topic in the last 10 years (Cao, Fukunaga, & Kahng, goal: to design complex technical systems based on capabilities
1997) with many potential applications. For example, in Ollero and needs of human users.
et al. (2005) a system for the coordination of multiple Looking into the more technical fields, a rapid move towards
heterogeneous aerial vehicles with application to forest fires a broad use of modern PC-based equipment is to be recognized.
detection and monitoring is presented. The surveys show that the industry is using more and more the
well-proven and standardized hard- and software components
3.4. Human–machine systems (HMS) from the PC-market. For example, there are VGA/XGA-color
displays with or without touch input, mouse-devices, windows-
Driven by the change of attitude of manufacturers like operating systems, browsers. These technologies allow the
recognizing that ‘‘functionalities’’ is a very short-sighted implementation of very powerful and also cost-efficient HMS.
marketing strategy, and of industrial customers recognizing that Whereas the majority of industrial users are still on the PC
a human-centred HMS leads to more efficient use of the level, the leading players are moving towards new technologies.
expensive equipments as described in Section 2.4 of this report, One very recent trend is the increasing use of mobile computing
an increasing interest in development and implementation of devices in the industrial areas, which nowadays offer a power-
human-centred user interfaces has been noticed within industry. performance profile that is sufficient even in high reliability
Starting with consumer areas like mobile phones or smart application areas. Whether these devices are smart-phones,
homes and moving into the broad area of web-site usability, the PDAs or dedicated mobile computers, they will be used as a
ideas of user-centred HMS are nowadays also accepted by other replacement for or additional front-end to traditional operating
parts of industry like capital goods and the automotive industry. panels. Communication between the controllers and these
A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54 49

devices will use the wireless networking standards available the establishment of technical standards, e.g. set by the EC or
today like WLAN, Bluetooth or UMTS (universal mobile by ISO, will force all nations to accept usability issues.
telecommunications system). The increased mobility of the
worker will surely lead to new forms of work in a sense that the 3.5. Cost oriented automation
interaction location is no longer identical to the process
location. This will require new work and data security Integrated product and process development as a cost saving
regulations. One problem is user authentification. Besides strategy has been partly introduced in industry. However, as
the well-known knowledge-based methods (e.g. passwords) Nnaji et al. (2004) mentioned, lack of information from
new biometrical methods (e.g. iris scan, finger print scan) are suppliers and working partners, incompleteness and incon-
close to industrial use. Mobile devices will not only be sistency of product information/knowledge within the colla-
handheld but also become an integral part of the human (work) borating group, incapability of processing information/data
clothes. These real wearable systems will bring new forms of from other parties due to the problem of interoperability
interaction to the user. hampers the effective use. Hence, collaborative design tools are
When using mobile devices the location of the user in needed to improve collaboration among distributed design
relation to the process equipment becomes very important. groups, enhance knowledge sharing, and assist in better
Therefore, these devices must correspond to location-based decision making.
services offered by the environment. While the GPS system is Condition based maintenance strategies has been also partly
limited to outdoor applications with a resolution between 5 and implemented. The trend is to merge on-site and remote
30 m, new systems for indoor use with resolutions down to intensive infotronics technologies (Lee et al., 2004) in order to
centimeters or even millimeters are required. And for recover expected performances as well as to face increasing
augmented reality applications they must offer precise angle demands on performance (agility, interoperability, reactivity,
information besides the lateral position data. Here, four to five configurability, security certification, failure recovery).
different location detection technologies based on RF (radio Both strategies will be integrated to achieve a reduction of
frequency), US (ultrasonic) and IR (infrared) methods have life-cycle costs, and enhancing the overall performance (Morel
been developed today, but they are still in a laboratory phase. et al., 2004).
In many situations the user needs support and supervision to Energy saving and therefore cost saving with plant- and
guide him through a specific situation or prevent him from building-automation (Salsbury, 2005) is a relevant topic for cost
irreversible actions. Here, intelligent agents seem to be the oriented automation. The trend to decentralize energy support
appropriate solution. Linked together to multi-agent systems, aims for intelligent distributed control.
they can watch and model the individual user, take over many Automation in mining, agriculture, and transport with field-
routine tasks and give advice in unclear situations. A pre- robots is a developing area for cost oriented automation.
requisite for doing this is a task and user model. Whereas only a Suitable automation saves energy, improves the security of the
small part of such a model is static and pre-definable, the major workforce, and is more efficient than manual work, therefore
part can only be built on-line by watching the user and his enhancing the competitiveness of factories. The problems to
typical tasks. Here the AI field of knowledge engineering plays solve here are low cost tele-operation or tele-manipulation
the key role. with force feedback, and the maintenance. Scheduled
Mobile devices and embedded systems, wireless ad hoc maintenance has to be replaced by predictive maintenance
networks and location-based services are basic building blocks based on condition monitoring. Sensors with local information
for the next generation of user interfaces. This will be the processing to minimize the flood of data to be sent to the
pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing or ambient supervision computer, as well as data fusion processes are
intelligence era. The future systems will be invisibly integrated saving cost.
into everyday devices. The users will interact with those The development of collaborating systems is the future trend
devices human-like via natural speech, gesture or mimics for automatic control in general, and particularly when
(Johannsen, 2002). considering their cost effectiveness. Collaboration of human
Evaluating the research and application of HMS worldwide, operators and automation systems like robots are under
it must be stated that until today nearly all activities are to be development for achieving more flexibility in production and
found in the industrialized countries. Here, the existing for saving cost when avoiding repeated reconfiguration of the
technology fulfils the basic needs of the market. And with systems. The development of collaborative robots (Cobots) or
nearly all producers fulfilling these needs other differentiating intelligent assisting devices (IAD) was motivated by ergonomic
topics become important for successfully selling equipment. problems in assembly of parts, where its weight endangered
Besides the joy-of-use factor as one important topic, more and long-term the human body (Surdilovic, Bernhardt, & Zhang,
more the ease-of-use factor is recognized as being a topic of 2003).
equal importance. Smart devices (sensors, actuators) with local information
Another disappearing phenomenon is the north–south- processing in connection with data fusion is in steady
gradient. Whereas ergonomics and HMS have a long tradition development (Zayed, Boonaert, & Bayart, 2005) regarding cost
in the more northern countries, in the southern countries the reduction of components as well as with application in several
interest is still developing. But the globalization of markets and fields (automotive, robotics, mechatronics, manufacturing).
50 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

4. Forecast trains will progress towards active control of running stability

and, possibly, new vehicle concepts; and so on.
4.1. Components and instruments Future systems will see further synergies between mechanics,
sensing and actuation, greatly enhanced by embedded electronic
The design of sensors, especially biomedical sensors, ‘‘system-on-chip’’ technologies which will continue to shift the
introduces new challenging constraints. The design of a cost-effectiveness balance towards solutions that incorporate
biomedical sensor is for example strongly affected by the advanced electronic processing. A key complementary technol-
restricted shape, size and the weight the sensor must have. ogy for mechatronic products is MEMS, linked of course to
Power restrictions apply themselves, due to the inability to developments in components and instruments.
supply the energy through the traditional wires. Implanted A future possibility is a more hierarchical nature, e.g. high
biomedical sensors are also expected to be operational for an functionality systems constructed from a set of mechatronic
extended period-of-time. sub-systems providing distributed processing functions com-
The capability of exchanging the information through a bined with central coordination. These would include smart
wireless communication is essential. In fact, the application of materials to make up the mechanical structure, sophisticated
wireless sensor networks is an important trend with application MEMS sensors, self-diagnosing actuators and complex,
to many different fields. The confidentiality of the transmitted centralized information processing capable of adaptation and
information is finally required to ensure the integrity of this reconfiguration to maximize performance and reliability at
information against potential doubtful handling. To solve these minimum cost.
problems, various methods can be envisioned, including fault Mechatronics is already an enabling system-level technol-
tolerance, data encryption, data compression, dynamic power ogy that cuts across many industrial sectors, and as the major
management and so on. The use of low-power microprocessors challenges are tackled and overcome it will become more and
can also be a solution to the power limitation. The high more a normal part of the engineering design process, so much
computational power demand that could result when imple- so that purely mechanically-based solutions will become the
menting these treatments can also induce the development of exception. The implications of this trend raise questions about
custom hardware architecture. In that case, the co-simulation the future role of mechatronics: it is (arguably) a paradigm
technique of hardware/software solutions is probably the rather than a science, and as it increasingly becomes accepted
essential technology that will ensure a development process as the normal approach to engineering the role of mechatronics
mixing the functional aspects with the performances aspects to training and technical support activities, and indeed of the word
determine the suitable architecture for the sensor. itself, need to be developed accordingly.
In the transportation/automotive application field the most
advanced research and development activities for the future will 4.3. Robotics
be obviously to better understand interactions between driver,
vehicle (including assistance and information functions) and Robotics is a relatively new field of engineering but seems to
the environment. In Europe several EU funded projects enjoy lasting interests of researchers and scientists as well as
including industrial and public research groups are strongly the public. Initially, i.e. in the 1970s and 1980s, development of
involved on that topic (SENSATION: European Project Sixth robotics was driven mostly by manufacturing applications, and
FP, IST no. 507231; AIDE: European Project Sixth FP, IST no. therefore there was a broad interest in manipulator type robots.
50767; PREVENT: European Project Sixth FP, IST no. In the 1990s and in the first decade of this century the
507075). development of robotics has been driven more by the needs in
aerospace, service and biomedical industry.
4.2. Mechatronics systems The fast pace of progress in robotics seems to have been
sustained for a long time and in the future, the pace of
Despite being a relatively new area in terms of real industrial development may even be accelerated. It is expected that
involvement, there has been an enormous increase in the autonomous robots such as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),
number of products and processes, which can now be UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles), UXV (their combination),
considered to be mechatronic. The increasing awareness of service robots, e.g. ‘‘personal robots’’, mining vehicles and
future products and processes that can be facilitated by the other, will be brought to a very high level of sophistication. At
application of mechatronics will continue to grow, and many the same time, some of the robotics methodologies such as
industrial companies, research organizations and university perception and sensor fusion will be broadly used, not only in
departments have reorganized to ensure that the maximum robotics but also in all so-called ‘‘intelligent’’ machines.
exploitation possibilities are realised. Another field of robotics destined for rapid progress and
In particular the industrial areas mentioned in Section 3.2 will development is biomedical robotics.
continue to be developed to provide higher mechatronic The development of micro and nano-robots is also a hot
implementations: automobiles will progressively take up research topic involving challenges in different fields. These
concepts such as steer-by-wire, currently only at the experimental robots have many potential future applications, and could have
stage; data storage systems will adapt towards new concepts that a significant impact on the future developments in robotics.
still require sophisticated control and data processing; the use in Network robot systems is also a strong research, development
A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54 51

Fig. 11. Results of the survey on the importance and development of interaction technologies.

and application tendency. Thus, future robots will be networked 3D visualization, which was considered to be almost equally
with other robots and with sensors and actuators in the important for HMI in the future. According to the survey, these
environment (see for example technologies should be fully implemented by the year 2010, and
other visualization technologies such as virtual reality, head-
4.4. Human–machine systems mounted display and free form display were not thought to be of
much importance for HMI in the future (see Fig. 12).
As already mentioned, technological advancements in the As machines become complex with sophisticated function-
field of electronics, communication and information technol- alities, secure user authentification is needed. Though normal
ogy have led to new interaction methods. This can be observed user authentification methods like password and chip card will
not only in office applications, but also in industrial areas. An still be in use, biometrical methods like iris scan, fingerprints,
on-line Delphi survey conducted by the IFAC Technical and voice identification are getting more important and might
Committee on Human Machine Systems in 2002 on a be fully implemented by 2015. They will replace or supplement
worldwide basis gave a vivid picture of the importance and the now common methods mentioned above.
development of new technologies for human–machine inter- Which intelligent user interface (UI) will be important for
action (HMI) over the next 30 years ( HMI in future? Will it be intelligent agents, avatars, emotional
ifac/ifacdelphiresults.html). The main topics of the survey were (affective) UIs or personalized UIs? Results showed that
technologies for interaction, visualization and user authenti- intelligent agents and personalized UIs could be important in
fication, intelligent user interfaces, emotional/affective engi- the future of HMI. While intelligent agents could be fully
neering as well as trends in work organization. implemented immediately, it might take 5 more years for
The survey revealed that among interaction technologies personalized UIs to reach their state of the art.
such as tactile, gesture, gaze, speech, mimic, mind control and And which role will emotional/affective engineering play in
multimodal interaction, speech interaction will be the most future HMI? Will recognizing and expressing emotions be
important technology in the future. This is probably because of important for future technical systems? The survey showed that
the ease and flexibility it offers that resembles natural human– technologies for recognizing emotions will be more important
human communication. The survey predicts that full develop- than those for expressing them. Research in these fields should
ment of speech interaction will soon be reached. Another be closed by year 2010, so the survey says. A sub-topic to the
technology that will play an important role in the future of HMI field of emotions is surely the use of music or—in a broader
is multimodal interaction, i.e. a combination of more than one sense—sounds to carry information.
interaction modals (see Fig. 11). This might lead to machines Technological advancements have not only changed
having, i.e. artificial eyes, ears, mouth, skin. machines, but also the organization of work. New means of
The most important visualization technology in HMI in the group interaction such as shared workspaces and the virtual
future will be augmented reality. This technology is based on control room have emerged. When considering the future of
52 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

Fig. 12. Results of the survey on the importance and development of visualization technologies.

HMI, shared workspaces will be most important for group be used, eventually, in a transparent way. This trend has been
interaction and will soon be standard. motivated by recent technological developments (hardware
Concluding the results from this survey, the future of HMS integration, MEMS) and the requirements imposed by new
will move into the direction of human–human like interaction. applications (vehicles, autonomous systems, consumer pro-
That means the interaction will be more informal and error- ducts, biomedical systems, engines, manufacturing). MEMS
redundant due to parallel processing of several modalities with and nano-technologies could be one of the most significant
redundant information. It will also become more pleasant (joy- control demanding fields in the future.
of-use) to the user due to the emotional capabilities of the The second is the distribution of sensing and control
technical devices. And the interface will disappear from the functions. Thus, distributed control systems with wire and
technical outer shell into the inner realization of technical wireless connections between components and embedded
devices. controllers have emerged in the last years, also pushed by the
developments in communications technology and new applica-
4.5. Cost oriented automation tions (tele-applications, distributed manufacturing, protection
of people and environment, home automation).
The recent development of ubiquitous computing deserves Thus, one of the main general forecasts/trends is the
attention in the cost oriented automation field. It involves the integration of control and perception components into
close coupling of physical objects with information processing. embedded systems that can be networked using wire or
Ubiquitous automation might be an important field of future wireless technologies, leading to ‘‘cooperating objects’’, with
work regarding cost savings, involving: advanced sensor– sensing and/or actuation capabilities based on sensor fusion
actuator interfaces (so called hyperbonds), unified models of methods that allow full interaction with the environment.
mapping physics to information and vice versa (bond-graphs, The main trends in the applications of these technologies are
and Petri-Nets), mixed reality frameworks of distributed medicine (surgical devices, medical instruments), new cars,
model-view-control, mixed reality multi user environments vehicles and transportation technologies, autonomous systems
(human–human collaboration), real time simulation, and more technology (UAV, UGV, AUVs, multi-robot systems), industrial
consideration of the importance of enjoyment, bridging robotics and automation technology, technologies for safety
perspectives of toys and tools. critical and hostile environments (space, disaster remediation,
defence), security technologies, energy savings (mixed energy
5. Conclusions sources, small scale energy systems) and biotechnologies.
The consequences of communications can be considered
This paper has outlined the current key problems, two-fold: firstly, communication technologies demand the
accomplishments and forecasts in control technologies application of new control systems (i.e. network control,
including components and instruments, mechatronics, robotics, wireless devices control). Secondly, communication is a key
human–machine systems and cost oriented automation. technology for the implementation of control systems in the
Two different general trends can be identified. The first one above-mentioned applications.
is the development of embedded components and systems The general requirements in most of the above mentioned
integrating perception, control and actuation functions that can technologies are: performance, reliability, cost, ease of use and
A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54 53

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robotics. Annual Reviews in Control, 28, 167–178. with research grants from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences
Ollero, A., Morel, G., Bernus, P., Nof, S. Y., Sasiadek, J., Boverie, S., et al. Research Council (EPSRC), the European Commission and various industrial
(2002). Milestone report of the manufacturing and instrumentation coordi- organizations. The research is concerned with active railway vehicle suspen-
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Control, 26(2), 151–162. targeted processor architectures for implementation of high-performance con-
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(2005). Multiple eyes in the sky: Architecture and perception issues in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK, and has received a number of
comets unmanned air vehicles project. IEEE Robotics and Automation awards from both these institutions for his published work.
Magazine, 12(2), 46–57.
Pachter, M., D’Azzo, J. J., & Proud, A. W. (2001). Tight formation flight J. Sasiadek was with the Canadian Space Agency, Ottawa, Ont., Canada, in
control. AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 24(2), 246–254. 1989–1991, and in 1985–1987, he was a Technical Director for Alberta
Salsbury, T. (2005). A survey of control technologies in the building automation Research Council, Calgary, Alta., Canada. He is currently Professor of Aero-
industry. In selected plenaries, milestone and surveys. In Proceedings of the space Engineering in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer-
16th IFAC World Congress (pp. 331–341). ing, Carleton University, Ottawa. He has authored/coauthored more than 150
54 A. Ollero et al. / Annual Reviews in Control 30 (2006) 41–54

journal and refereed conference papers. His research interests focus on robotics D. Zuehlke. Professor for Production Automation, Kaiserslautern University of
and autonomous systems, especially space robotics and unmanned autonomous Technology, Director Center for Human–Machine-Interaction, German
vehicles (UAVs), and guidance, navigation, and control, especially spacecraft and Research Center for Artificial Intelligence DFKI GmbH Kaiserslautern. Pro-
aircraft control and non-linear control. He is a Chair of IFAC Robotics Technical fessor Zuehlke received his Diploma in Electrical Engineering and Applied
Committee. He serves as a Director of American Automatic Control Council. Dr. Computer Sciences in 1976 and his Doctor degree in Mechanical Engineering/
Sasiadek is an Associate Fellow of AIAA and a Member of the AIAA Guidance, Industrial Automation in 1983 both from Aachen Institute of Technology
Navigation, and Control Technical Committee. He was a Program Chair of the (RWTH Aachen), Germany. He served as a Research Engineer in the fields
1994 AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, Scottsdale, AZ. In of Flexible Manufacturing Systems and Robotics at the WZL in Aachen. In
August 2001, he was General Chair of the 2001 AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and 1985 he joined LUFTHANSA German Airlines and was responsible as a
Control Conference, Montreal, Que., Canada. Currently, he is a Chair of Joint General Manager for the Aircraft Maintenance shops in Frankfurt. In 1991
IEEE Robotics and Control Systems Societies Chapter, Ottawa. Dr. Zuehlke became a Professor for Industrial Automation and Head of the
Institute for Production Automation—pak—and later director of the center for
H. Erbe was born in 1937 in Bielefeld/Germany, studied Aircraft Construction human–machine-interaction at the German Research Center for Artificial
at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Engineer at Focke Wulf GmbH Intelligence DFKI GmbH both at Kaiserslautern. His primary fields of interest
(later Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke), studied Engineering Mechanics at TU are in Human–Machine-Interaction, Robot Programming and Simulation. He is
Berlin, Germany, Research Assistant at the Institute of Mechanics of TU Berlin, a member of the executive board of VDI-GMA, ACM (special interest group on
PhD in Engineering Mechanics, Head of Research Group on Fracture computer–human interaction) and GfA (German Ergonomics Society), also
Mechanics at the German Federal Institute on Material Research, Berlin, member of IFAC and chairman of the IFAC technical committee on human–
1980–1986 Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Professional Education machine-systems. Prof. Zuehlke is consultant to the European Commission,
at Bremen University, and from 1986 to 2002 at TU Berlin, and member of the several federal funding organizations and to the industry. He received several
Research Center for Human–Machine Systems at TU Berlin. Retired in 2002. honours in respect to his contributions to innovative science and technology.