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Digital Control vs. Digital Monitoring

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Readers often confuse and interchange the concepts of Digital Control and Digital Monitoring, as they consider these principles to be the same. However, when understood properly, the above-mentioned terms present very prominent differences. While both are electronic jargons, Digital Control and Digital Monitoring represent two very distinct methods and should be studied separately.

Let us look at these concepts in detail and mark the differences between both.

What is Digital Control?

Digital Control is an important part of the Control Theory. According to this concept, digital computers are used as system controllers, for an electric loop to function properly. When used this way, digital computers play an efficient role in determining the errors in a loop and the best way to fix these errors.

How does this concept work? Concisely, Digital Control comes into play when there is an error in the main control loop. This error is digitized and then is used by the loop of the power supply to make required adjustments to the main power system. These adjustments are needed to make sure that the loop converges at a pre-decided point.

Digital Control

Fig1: Closing the loop digitally

What is Digital Monitoring?

On the other hand, Digital Monitoring is the exact opposite of Digital Control. While it is used for the same purpose, i.e. to make sure that an electric loop has no errors and thus, functions properly, the way it detects and brings about corrective action is starkly varied from that of Digital Control.

Digital Monitoring is analogue in nature. It does not use digital computers to control a loop; instead, with Digital Monitoring, a series of analogue loops are inputted into the system and are then converted to digital signals. Only when they are converted to digital signals, does the system host examine them.

Analogue circuits govern loops managed via Digital Monitoring. These circuits manage the performance of the loop and its functionality. With Digital Monitoring, there are no set standards on how such an analogue loop can be interfaced by the user. Lack of such standardization has prompted the electrical industry to work harder towards a predetermined way to manage and monitor these loops.

The range of Digital Monitoring tools is diverse. This applicable technology is not limited to standards like Voltage, Temperature and Current alone. Instead, unlimited options can be measured and defined. For instance, using the industry standard of PMBus, several hundred commands can be generated and then fed into a power supply for detailed information.

Advantages of Digital Control over Digital Monitoring

Needless to say, the world of Information Technology has grown by leaps and bounds from where it used to be just a few years ago. For a loop to still function in an analogue manner is considered old school, a system that fails to benefit from the many advantages that modern technology has to offer.
One of the biggest advantages of Digital Control over Digital Monitoring is that with the former, the setting of the poles and zeros can be managed. They can be moved over the loop to optimize operation of line and load connections. For power supplies to meet the standard performance criteria, this movement of poles and zeros is highly beneficial.

In an analogue system, the same function is performed using resistors and capacitors. The biggest drawback of these devices is that they can only function in certain predetermined conditions. Failing to meet these conditions, the performance of the capacitor and resistor itself becomes questionable.

Using Digital Control also helps with setting the profile of power supply as it goes through the various stages. Before a steady state operation is reached, these stages determine the overall functionality and performance of the loop. Therefore, Digital Control is not only beneficial for the result; it is also needed for the loop to pass each of the power-up and down stages smoothly.

Moreover, re-coding of the main controller becomes an easy task with Digital Control. High levels of customization are possible once the re-coding is completed. A word of caution is necessary after reading about these advantages. While Digital Control is better than Digital Monitoring in many ways, a lot of care must be taken before the former is put to work, so that system analysts can ensure that technology only benefits the overall system.

Why does the Market not adopt Digital Control?

Digital Control is not something new. It has been present in the market, and has constantly been worked upon for many years. Not only this, plenty of research and studies has also been conducted in its way to educate experts about the advantages and features of Digital Control. Why then do we not see more Digitally Controlled electric loops?

The answer to this question lies in the behavior and perceptions of the end user. Even though the consumer and business markets have developed a great deal today, many factions are still conservative and rely solely on the efficacy of a piece of software to control an entire system. Their main concern is that a small error in the software can malfunction in the entire system and lead to large-scale damage that can become hard to control.

Catastrophic damage in this regard can be a big problem. The extent of the damage can be understood when the medical industry is taken into account. An error in the medical power supply system can lead to fatal injuries, bad decisions and potentially harmful medicine administration.

That being said, it is impossible for an analogue system to fulfil the requirements of every application in electrical world today. The need for automated systems is overwhelming, so is the development in digital circles. Despite the obvious fear of the end user, digital control is slowly being adopted in the market and this concept will have greater impact over more and more electrical loops and systems in the world.

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