Automation is an applied science,
that began its trajectory as such, about 60 years ago, and since then it has been developing dynamically. The term automation, derived from the English “automation”, was coined in the 40s of the last century, in the last stage of the industrial revolution, to describe those methods and procedures
whose purpose is the replacement of a human operator by an artificial operator in the achievement of a physical or mental task. Its primary application was, in those years, in the industrial context to maximize economic benefits of production.
It went from a product manufactured by one person throughout its entire process, to another produced in series, in less time and with less labor. The automation of production was something that produced spectacular results in terms of increased productivity.
Initially it was the automobile industry that took on all this technology. It was when the spectacular results were produced that allowed the popularization of the use of the automobile. Since then it has been applied in areas beyond industry, such as power generation and transmission,
biology, medicine, in the manufacture of goods and equipment, in communication, in mobile telephony and, of course, in the world of entertainment and leisure. The automatic has some very distinctive characteristics that make it unique compared to other fields of engineering.
Because it is a horizontal discipline, that is, it has applications in practically all fields. Whenever there is something to control, that something is beyond one’s own control, therefore, the automation specialist has had to be, throughout his professional and academic career, in contact with problems in various domains.
The automatic tries to cover the needs of humans in the behavior of systems and one of the things it does is try to emulate what nature does. All of us, our entire body, our entire society is controlled in a way that is often imperceptible. Our body temperature is 37 degrees,
but not by chance, but because there are control devices inside it. One of the current trends in automation is trying to implement in artificial systems what nature masterfully does and in a way that is still not well understood,
but that many developments tend to approach that mode of operation. It is the replacement of the manual operator by an operator that is automatic; and you think that does not exist and we have it in all things, but in a hidden way. This ability to operate quietly is what has earned it
the consideration of “hidden technology”. From the moment we get up and put a piece of bread to toast, we already have an automatic system. If you take the elevator you have an automatic system. If you take the car and try to go somewhere sure that there is an air conditioning system
It has an automatic system. We have it everywhere, but we only see it if it doesn’t work. The automatic has an advantage and a drawback. An advantage because it appears in any scientific and social activity. An inconvenience because there are not, with rare exceptions,
no device that is a regulator. The only and best known is the Watt ball regulator, but other than that they are always embedded, embedded within the systems. Embedded systems, embedded system in English, are computer systems that are embedded within other machines
or gadgets or devices and are much more common than the normal computers that everyone knows about. This supposes one of the most serious disadvantages and risks of these automatic control systems, since they have become determining components of these processes,
and if the controller fails the system will also fail. That happens in all embedded systems where there are risks to human life or significant economic risks. These systems are called real-time systems, because they have to do things in a certain interval of time, and if they don’t do them in that interval,
in the best of cases what they do is useless and in the worst we have serious consequences. This occurs not only in cars but in airplanes, trains, medical devices, and countless other types of embedded systems. The automatic always goes in relation, or trying to apply its principle and foundation,
in the new fields that are appearing. For example, in the field of biology. Biology is beginning to be a positive science in the sense that there are good models and mechanisms to know how living beings are going to evolve and what the expectations are going to be.
that they will have in the immediate future. In this field, the people who work in automation are finding a very fertile field to apply their theories and their questions. Consider that practically today, cutting-edge research, except for very basic research, is essentially multidisciplinary.
A team in biology would not be conceived without the existence of mathematicians, physicists and, of course, automatic engineers who carry out the experiments, apply the principles of the concepts of food and everything that it entails, to the development of new models for this type of discipline.
The conferences organized every year since 1977 by the Spanish Automatic Control Committee (CEA), a non-profit association, national member of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC), constitute an important meeting point for experts from different disciplines. various
to which they unite the passion by the automatic. The automatic, and proof of this are the numerous groups that exist within IFAC and CEA, ranging from theoretical issues, modeling, simulation, electronic, electrical, marine, nuclear applications; whenever there is a dynamic process it must be controlled,
modulate its behavior and that is where the automatic plays its role. Regarding automatics, in Spain there is the Spanish Automatics Committee, CEA, which is now 49 years old since its birth, although there were other similar associations before and that means that there is maturity; we are practically 50 years old,
We are at the gates of the golden anniversary of an association that brings together people, who at the beginning were just a few and now, as in these days, there will be around 300 people. That means an impressive human relationship, getting in touch with each other and helping each other to train and do first-class research.
Another of the fields within automation, or rather next to it, which is experiencing exponential development and arousing a lot of interest, is robotics. A very topical topic, which was also discussed, within the framework of this thirty-seventh edition
of the Conference on Automation organized by CEA, held at the Faculty of Informatics of the Complutense University. Robotics goes a little further, but it is the heir to automatics, in the sense that what it tries to do is replace or emulate the behavior of the human being. A robot is a machine that is somehow going to do operations,
he will behave, he will direct himself in his concrete action in a similar way to what a human being does. In order for this to be possible, it is fundamental, essential, that this system, this machine, be controlled. This control is what the automatic provides. One of the first objectives of humanity
has been to replicate in artificial beings that behave like people. Robotics has taken this concern in certain areas by manufacturing machines that, from a physical point of view, behave like people. Today we know they are for sale as toys
certain humanoids that walk, that manage their arms and so on. Multiple media, movies, novels, have appeared as one of the paradigms of our time. It has a reality, it is not only fiction but they are machines that we can really find working and doing important work in many of our companies.
and in other fields such as surgery, such as exploration, recovery in exceptional cases such as natural disasters, etc. When I talk about the future of robotics, I compare it to computing. Computer science, 60 years ago, was a thing of the future, later it began to enter professional environments
and they all ended up having a computer at home. I believe that robotics will consolidate the day that we all have a robot in our house. I don’t want to put dates on it, but it’s clear that that will come. These are, of course, exciting topics that are increasingly seducing a greater number of researchers.
The Spanish Automation Committee, in these days, wanted to pay tribute to two experts, who began their respective work decades ago and whose interest in this discipline is still as alive as the first day. One of them is Rafael Araceil Santonja, a professor at the Department of Computer Science
from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, who began his professional and academic career in the 1970s studying the automation of production processes. He is a person who has developed extensive work in the field of robotics.
One of the first researchers in Spain on this subject. He has developed many types of robots with very important new features and, in particular, all his work has been industry oriented, this is what I would like to highlight. He has carried out a type of research with great industrial projection
and a great interest for the Spanish industry in the first place and for the international one as well. Professor Aracil has carried out important institutional work, he was the creator and the first director of the Elche School of Industrial Engineering where he led a team that developed a climbing robot
to pick the dates from the palm trees that also had a great impact. We are fundamentally dedicated to developing robots so that they have an impact on society. To improve people’s way of life, improve its quality. In that sense I have developed robots,
for example, to work in hostile environments. Robots for handling objects under high voltage, to work in radioactive environments, underwater robots that work at the bottom of the sea. Another interesting aspect today in this sense are all the topics of robotics
for medical and support applications. There is an immense field for the development of artificial prostheses, robots for surgery, robots for the rehabilitation of people, for the assistance of the disabled, etc. I believe that these are the issues that at the moment
They see themselves with a better future in robotics. Another of these experts, who has dedicated his entire professional and academic career to this discipline, is Sebastián Dormido, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Automation at the UNED Higher Technical School of Computer Engineering.
It is also recognized internationally. Professor Dormido is currently the coordinator of the education group of the International Federation of Automation. He is a fully recognized figure in this domain, in this area. I especially want to highlight his work in creating a distance education platform
through virtual laboratories in the field of automation, which is used in many universities and which is the basis of other works that have arisen subsequently. I joined the UNED in 1982, I access the Department of Systems Engineering and Automation and, at that time, arriving at the UNED was a tremendous shock to me.
because I was not used to distance learning. I quickly began to think about how I could help my students to develop the practical subjects. Our specialty has many subjects where the student has to practice. At that time that required them to come to our buildings
at the headquarters for two weeks to do internships and we set ourselves two challenges. We wanted to develop a line of research that would echo and be recognized not only nationally but internationally. That was a proposal that we had, therefore we had to work hard to do it and, secondly,
What was most important, that it was useful to our students, not only at the university where I was working, but in general to all the students of the Spanish university. We started a project, which I think was very innovative, called Automatlab. We were able to coordinate eight Spanish universities,
where they put resources from their laboratories, so that students from these universities could practice using resources from other universities. When the student joined, he did not know where the resource was, but he did them. At first I was afraid that this might work.
The reality was much better because the students in the use of technologies are much more used than us, that is, they naturally coexist with them. We were very excited about this project and it was internationally recognized in many places