Chapter 1

Introduction

Ruling a large country is like cooking a small fish.

—Lao Dan (580–500 BC), Tao Te Ching

This chapter is concerned with some common characteristics of distributed control systems, such as distributive interconnections, local control rules and scalability. Basic notions and results of algebraic graph theory are introduced as a theoretic foundation for modeling interconnections of subsystems (agents) in distributed control systems. Coordination control systems and end-to-end congestion control systems are also introduced as two typical kinds of distributed control systems. The main topics of this book are also highlighted in the introduction of these two kinds of systems.

1.1 Network-Based Distributed Control System

From the “flyball” speed governor of Watt's steam engine to the control of communication systems including the telephone system, cell phones and the Internet, the control mechanism in industrial, social and many other real-world systems has experienced a development process from centralized control to distributed control. In the past decade, this process has been significantly speeded up thanks to rapid advances of communication techniques and their application to control systems.

Recently, workshops, seminars, short courses and even regular courses on distributed control systems emerge in the control society just like bamboo shoots after spring rain. But the following questions, which are often raised in seminars or lectures by post-graduate students, ...

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