Digital Control

Definition of Digital Control

Digital control refers to a system or process where control signals are transmitted and processed using digital techniques, typically through computers or microcontrollers. It involves the use of discrete values, such as binary or integers, to manage the operations of various components, such as motors, actuators, or any other system element. This results in higher precision, flexibility, and reliability compared to analog control systems, as digital control can adapt and respond to changing system conditions more effectively.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Digital Control” is: Digital: /ˈdɪdʒɪtəl/Control: /kənˈtroʊl/

Key Takeaways

  1. Digital control systems utilize digital signals and computers to analyze and control the behavior of various systems, improving efficiency and accuracy.
  2. These systems use digital logic, microcontrollers, and specialized software to convert continuous-time signals into discrete-time signals, enabling flexible and rapid response to system changes.
  3. Digital control systems are widely used in industries such as manufacturing, robotics, and aerospace, providing efficient and reliable solutions for complex systems’ automation and control.

Importance of Digital Control

The technology term “Digital Control” is important because it refers to the use of digital systems, such as computers and microcontrollers, to monitor, regulate, and control various processes and devices.

The prevalence of digital control in modern technology has led to significant improvements in efficiency, precision, and flexibility across a wide range of industries, from manufacturing and transportation to healthcare and communication.

By leveraging the power of digital computation, digital control systems are able to provide real-time data analysis and adapt to changing conditions, ultimately allowing for better optimization and reduced waste.

Furthermore, these systems can be easily reconfigured to accommodate new updates and innovations, making them invaluable to our rapidly-evolving, tech-driven world.


Digital control, at its core, serves as a means to regulate and manage complex systems in various industrial, commercial, and consumer applications. The purpose of this technology is to enable better precision and adaptive control by leveraging digital tools, such as microcontrollers, digital signal processors, and software-based algorithms. This technology enhances the performance and efficiency of systems by allowing them to respond effectively to changing conditions, offering less susceptibility to external disturbances and reduced sensitivity to component variation or deterioration over time.

Consequently, digital control reigns supreme in applications where accurate, responsive, and adaptable control is of paramount importance. Modern technological advancements have shaped numerous industries that employ digital control as their backbone. In the realm of automation and robotics, precise motion control and real-time response are vital to a robot’s functionality and reliability.

In power electronics, digital control ensures stable and efficient power supply, as seen in the smart grid and renewable energy technologies. Perhaps just as important is the role of digital control in enhancing consumer products, such as automotive engine management, temperature control systems, and communication devices. Digital control technology improves the lives of countless people every day while consistently pushing the boundaries of what is achievable in various domains.

Examples of Digital Control

Smart Grid Systems: Digital control has allowed power grids to become more efficient and better able to manage ever-changing demands for electricity. In a smart grid system, digital control technologies monitor and control power generation, transmission, and distribution to optimize energy consumption and manage energy resources effectively. This helps reduce energy waste, lower costs, and improve overall grid reliability. For example, in the United States, the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project has demonstrated various digital control applications to enhance grid efficiency and power quality.

Industrial Automation and Process Control: Digital control is extensively used in managing and optimizing industrial processes, such as manufacturing, chemical processing, and packaging systems. Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems use digital control algorithms to manipulate variables, like temperature, pressure, and flow rate, ensuring accurate and precise control in various industrial applications. For example, digital control is applied in an automotive assembly line, where robotics and automation systems are used to streamline the manufacturing process and enhance productivity.

Autonomous Vehicles: Digital control plays a crucial role in the operation of autonomous vehicles, including self-driving cars and drones. The technology ensures that the vehicle can maneuver safely and efficiently while avoiding obstacles, maintaining an appropriate speed, and staying within designated roadways. The Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) relies on digital control algorithms to process data from numerous sensors, like LIDAR and camera systems, and perform appropriate actions such as lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and emergency braking. Waymo, the subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., is an excellent example of firm developing self-driving vehicles, relying heavily on digital control for their navigation, control, and safety systems.

Digital Control FAQs

What is digital control?

Digital control is a branch of control theory that uses digital computers and digital signals to monitor, manipulate, and control various systems. Unlike analog control, which uses continuous signals, digital control systems use discrete signals and are implemented using microprocessors or microcontrollers.

What are the advantages of digital control over analog control?

Digital control systems offer several advantages over analog control systems, including increased accuracy, improved reliability, ease of programmability, adaptability to changing conditions, enhanced monitoring and diagnostics, and reduced cost. Additionally, digital control systems are less susceptible to noise and disturbances, making them ideal for complex control applications.

What are the main components of a digital control system?

A digital control system typically consists of several components, such as sensors, actuators, a digital controller (microprocessor or microcontroller), an analog-to-digital converter (ADC), a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and communication interfaces. These components work together to monitor, process, and control the desired variables of a system.

What is the role of an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) in digital control systems?

An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) plays a crucial role in digital control systems by converting continuous analog signals from sensors into discrete digital signals that can be processed by the digital controller. The ADC determines the sampling rate and resolution, which in turn impacts the performance and accuracy of the control system.

How does a digital controller process the input signals and generate control signals?

A digital controller processes the input signals from sensors and applies pre-defined algorithms, such as proportional-integral-derivative (PID) control or state-space control, to determine the appropriate control signals. These control signals are then sent to actuators, such as motors or valves, to influence the behavior of the system. The digital controller’s algorithms can be easily updated or modified to improve system performance or adapt to changing conditions.

Related Technology Terms

  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
  • Microcontroller
  • Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
  • Data Acquisition (DAQ)

Sources for More Information


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