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A control system manages, commands, directs, or regulates the behaviour of other devices or systems using control loops. It can range from a single home heating controller using a thermostat controlling a domestic boiler to large Industrial control systems which are used for controlling processes or machines.

For continuously modulated control, a feedback controller is used to automatically control a process or operation. The control system compares the value or status of the process variable (PV) being controlled with the desired value or setpoint (SP), and applies the difference as a control signal to bring the process variable output of the plant to the same value as the setpoint.

For sequential and combinational logic, software logic, such as in a programmable logic controller, is used.

There are two common classes of control action: open loop and closed loop. In an open-loop control system, the control action from the controller is independent of the process variable. An example of this is a central heating boiler controlled only by a timer. The control action is the switching on or off of the boiler. The process variable is the building temperature.This controller operates the heating system for a constant time regardless of the temperature of the building.

In a closed-loop control system, the control action from the controller is dependent on the desired and actual process variable. In the case of the boiler analogy, this would utilise a thermostat to monitor the building temperature, and feed back a signal to ensure the controller output maintains the building temperature close to that set on the thermostat. A closed loop controller has a feedback loop which ensures the controller exerts a control action to control a process variable at the same value as the setpoint. For this reason, closed-loop controllers are also called feedback controllers.