Profesor Titular de Ingeniería de Sistemas y Automática
Professor in Systems Engineering and Automatic Control
Ingeniero Industrial esp. Automática y Electrónica
Electrical Engineer
Doctor en Robótica e Inteligencia Artificial
PhD in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence


Intelligence = Complex Control

With an objective of complete autonomy, total automation technology tries to maintain a target system under complete control. This is necessary to attain specific operating conditions that are needed in for truly dependable systems in determinate situations. Think for example in nuclear power plants, life support systems, extra-planetary vehicles, etc.

Traditional control technologies are adequate for control purposes in predefined operation conditions. Some approaches to control systems try to enhance control system behaviour in uncertain situations (adaptive, robust, stochastic control, etc.). Uncertainty comes from the outer environment through imperfect perception, from the inner environment or even from the knowledge used to perform control or the controller itself.

Controlled systems, environments and control implementations are complex in almost all real situations worth mentioning. Human-based supervisory control systems are the common way to increase the percentage of plant operating time. 

But humans fail; in some cases they are even not present. An a big question arises: What can we do to increase the autonomy degree of the machines? 

The answer is clear: better control i.e. more intelligence i.e more understanding of what's going on. Intelligence is just having better control for bodies. Look at the following definition from a well known dictionary: n [ME, fr. MF, fr. L intelligentia, fr. intelligent-, intelligens intelligent] (14c) 1 a (1): the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations: reason; also: the skilled use of reason (2): the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria.

  = deal properly with new situations 
  = autonomous control

Intelligence is not a binary property. It is a more or less continuous magnitude, measured using an utility function in relation with some specific task in some specific context. The bigger the complexity of the task, higher the intelligence of the entity that performs it. This means, for example, that my handheld calculator is more intelligent that myself for some tasks (I hope they are few tasks). 

Intelligent autonomous systems have minds that are Complex Control Systems.




My research is focused in Autonomous Systems Engineering. I like to consider it as a mixture of classic topics in cybernetics, artificial intelligence, automatic control and epistemology. 

Research topics:

  • Autonomy and Cybernetics
  • Intelligent control
  • Distributed artificial Intelligence
  • Complex control systems
  • Distributed real-time systems
  • Conscious control systems

Find more information at the Autonomous Systems Laboratory public web site.

Recent Talks

From Feedback to Consciousness. Steps in Complex Control
at Exystence Consciousness and Complexity Workshop 2003 (PDF 0.9 MB)

Scalable Distributed Intelligence
plenary talk at the IEEE International Symposium on Intelligent Control 2003 (PDF 1.9 MB)

Recent papers

A sample of papers from different conferences.

A Pattern Schema for Complex Controllers
at IEEE Emergent Technologies for Factory Automation ETFA'2003 (PDF 50 KB)

Systems and Consciousness  
at Towards a Science of Consciousness Conference TSC'2001 (PDF 1.9 MB)

CORBA for Control Systems  
at IFAC New Technologies for Computer Control NTCC'2001(PDF 1.9 MB)

Fridges, Elephants, and the Meaning of  Autonomy and Intelligence
at IEEE International Symposium on Intelligent Control ISIC'2000(PDF 515 KB)

Plantwide Risk Management using Distributed Objects

Recent Reports

Self-aware Control Systems
Research white-paper for the Bioinspired Intelligent Information Systems Call

CORBA Control Systems Engineering Handbook
A technical report produced coming from the HRTC Project that is a first step towards a real handbook for CCS (PDF 5.6 MB)

OMG Control Systems RFI
The Control Systems Working Group of the OMG is requesting information relevant for CORBA technology specification in the field of control systems
(PDF 258 KB).

Recent Books

My last book (2001) deals with different types of approaches to the control of complex systems like chemical plants, satellites or propulsion systems for ships.

It contains 17 chapters on theory, engineering and applications of non-linear, learning and fault tolerant control in complex systems.


Find it at Amazon !

A complete list of publications can be found here.

Recent Activities

I have been the organiser (with Aaron Sloman and Ron Chrisley) of the Models of Consciousness Workshop held in Birmingham on September 1.3.

Have a look at the programme or the final report.




I teach control engineering and related-issues. Mainly about the use of computers in control systems.
Undergraduate Courses Links

Regulación Automática
Automatic Control
No este curso

Computadores I

Computers I
Notas de Febrero 2006
Notas de Septiembre 2005

Computadores II

Computers II
Notas de Junio 2005
Notas de Septiembre 2005

Computadores III

Computers II

Notas de Junio
Notas de Septiembre 2005

Computadores I Plan 1976

Computers I / Plan 1976

Notas de Junio
Notas de Septiembre 2005

Sistemas de Tiempo-real
Real-time Systems

No este curso


No este curso
Graduate Courses  

Control Inteligente
Intelligent Control
No este curso

Inteligencia Artificial
Artificial Intelligence
No este curso

Mentes Artificiales
Artificial Minds
No este curso

Sistemas Distribuidos de Tiempo Real
Real-time Distributed Systems




Feb 21
Neuro-IT Consciousness Meeting London, U.K

Feb 23 Embedded Systems Meeting
Brussels, Belgium

Feb 28 Project Preparation Meeting
Rome, Italy

Mar 9-0 Project Review

Mar 15-16
COST P10 Workshop
Tarragona, Spain

Mar 21-22 MERCED Project Meeting
Grenoble, France

Mar 30-31 COMPARE Project Meeting Paris, France

Apr 11-15 OMG Techn ical Meeting Athens, Greece

Apr 25-29 Cognitive Systems Meeting
Brussels, Beligum

July 4-8 IFAC World Congress
Prague, Czech Rep.

June 9-11

Jornadas de Teoría y Psicología


June 20-24

Doctorado UVA






Some Pictures

Sanz::Self() Simple Portrait
Sanz::Self() Working (or so)
Sanz::Children() In Menorca, some time ago
Acrilonitrile The target plant for the DIXIT project
IFAC'99 Beijing IFAC World Congress
EAP At the "Jornadas'98" with E.A. Puente and Karl Astrom
MoC Models of Consciousness Workshop
Paco&Jose With two students

DARPA SAWCS With Pat Hayes and Marvin Minsky




Other Activities


International Federation of Automatic Control
Comité Español de IFAC

IFAC TC on Computers & Control


Object Management Group

OMG Real-time Platform Special Interest Group
OMG Control Systems Working Group
OMG Utilities DSIG


Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

IEEE Robotics and Automation Society
IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society
IEEE Control Systems Society
IEEE Computer Society


Association of Computing Machinery

ACM Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence

American Association for Artificial Intelligence


Asociación Española para la Inteligencia Artificial


Trying to Find Me?

Snail mail (or walk, or car)

Ricardo Sanz
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid
ETS Ingenieros Industriales
c/ Jose Gutierrez Abascal 2
E-28006 Madrid


Immobile Phone   +34 91 336 30 61
Mobile Phone    +34 630 89 11 63
Fax   +34 91 336 30 10


Ricardo.Sanz  at



Some Links

Cybernetics Dictionary
Through The Looking Glass
A Discussion of the OMA  
IEEE Task Force on Intelligent Control Report