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How can we create systems that can learn from their environment, take decisions based on what is learned and navigate in this environment autonomously in the face of uncertainty? Decision and Control has considered aspects of these questions for many years. Applications are found everywhere: robotics, economics, biology, manufacturing and other academic fields such as computer science and communications. This is a mathematical discipline, drawing on a large range of fields including functional analysis, game theory, probability, statistics and optimization.
It is commonplace to observe students slinging backpacks across their shoulders, while automatically adjusting their balance to maintain eye contact with the person they are conversing with. Clearly, the balance control system is capable of effortless adaptation to large dynamic loads while maintaining stability. It is easy to overlook the challenges and difficulty of creating and engineering a man-made system with similar capabilities. The central mechanism is feedback, the ability to sense and react to one’s environment. While feedback lies at the heart of most research done in D&C, a significant portion of the group’s research concerns the environmental information required before guarantees can be made about the quality of our solutions.
Can we wirelessly network cars so they never collide, or operate green buildings so that resource usage and environmental impact are minimized? How should we control networks so information flows efficiently over them? These questions represent challenges in creating future wireless and sensor networks for information flow, or large smart systems that interact with their environment, sometimes called cyberphysical systems, networked control systems or embedded systems.
One branch of this research concerns the development of new communication systems and infrastructures. We study the increased use of the electromagnetic spectrum by license-exempt wireless devices, investigating how we can plan for a future that includes ubiquitous communication. Another direction concerns the creation of theory and algorithms to contend with planning and operational decisions in socio-economic systems. A current Department of Energy project concerns the next generation of engineering-economic systems. A key question is, how can we create energy markets that are efficient and reliable?
Angie Ellis: 153 CSL
amellisillinois [dot] edu