Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Keywords: Cambridge Control, Control, Design, Simulation, Software, Engineering
Cambridge Control Limited was established in 1984 to provide world-class consultancy in control engineering, design and simulation. In 1988 the company acquired distribution rights for the MATLAB technical computing environment. This is a range of software tools, used in the company's consultancy work, which allows engineers to model, analyse and simulate physical and mathematical systems.
Its combination of software sales and consultancy has allowed Cambridge Control to enjoy substantial growth over the past few years: staff numbers have doubled since 1995 whilst, in the same period, turnover has more than doubled to over £8 million. The company now employs 50 staff, mainly at its new, purpose-built headquarters on Cambridge's prestigious Cowley Park, and it also has a team of specialist aerospace engineering consultants based in Bristol. In October 1997, following a brief spell as part of the Motherwell Bridge Group, Cambridge Control was purchased by The MathWorks Inc., of Natick, Massachusetts, USA, the authors of MATLAB and the associated products.
Cambridge Control's team of high calibre consultants are drawn from academic and commercial organisations throughout the UK. With its headquarters close to Cambridge University and the world renowned Science Park, the company believes that it is ideally placed to recruit some of the country's most highly trained engineers. Over the years, Cambridge Control has built up a team whose expertise covers the automotive, aerospace and defence, marine and power, communications, finance and education sectors. These specialists can provide advice and assistance to engineers working in a wide range of disciplines from control systems development, communications system design to economic trend analysis. They can also take on complete projects where customers do not have either the time or the in-house expertise to provide optimum solutions within project deadlines. Alternatively, they can partner in-house teams through the whole development process with a complete package of training, application support and consultancy, based around a tailored software solution. DEPA, Ford, GEC, the MoD and Rolls-Royce are just a few of the companies which have used Cambridge Control's consultancy services for strategically critical projects.
In addition to its consultancy work, Cambridge Control offers a high level of pre- and post-sales customer support for its products. Customers can call upon the consultants for technical support and applications advice, and the company also offers a regular programme of introductory and advanced courses in the latest modelling, design and simulation techniques, based on the MATLAB, Simulink and Stateflow products. These are held in the 25-seat state-of-the-art training facility at the company's Cambridge headquarters. In addition, Cambridge Control's consultants work with clients to design bespoke courses to suit their individual training needs.
MATLAB is one of the world's most widely used technical computing software. It is reported to be used by more than 500,000 engineering professionals, working in organisations ranging from small, specialist companies to some of the world's leading industrial, government and educational establishments. Among the many MATLAB users in the UK are British Aerospace, Cable and Wireless, Deloitte Consulting, Jaguar and virtually every university in the country.
Simulink and Stateflow, the other core products, provide an environment for modelling continuous time dynamic systems combined with complex reactive behaviour. Together with this and a range of application specific toolboxes, MATLAB provides an integrated package for algorithm design, block diagram simulation, code generation, and analysis in a single, interactive environment.
According to Cambridge Control the key difference between MATLAB and alternative products is that it integrates computation, visualisation and programming in a flexible, open environment that enables scientists and engineers to tackle complex problems in a mathematical, graphical way. MATLAB can be applied to mathematical problems, or to the analysis of images, sounds, chemical reactions or many other variables. It has been used in applications ranging from the design of control systems for aeroplanes or Formula 1 racing cars to signal and image processing, remote sensing and medical research.
Simulink builds on MATLAB to provide an interactive, block diagram environment for modelling, analysing and simulating a broad range of dynamic systems, including those with linear and non-linear elements, those involving continuous and/or discrete time, and hybrid systems. To MATLAB's general purpose functionality it adds many features specific to dynamic systems, providing simulation, documentation and report-quality output from a single screen.
Stateflow complements Simulink, providing a set of interactive design tools for modelling and simulating complex reactive systems. It provides engineers with an easy way of defining requirements and incorporating supervisory logic within their Simulink models. Also complementing Simulink is Real-Time Workshop, an optional module that allows the automatic generation of C code directly from Simulink models.
Application-specific toolboxes and blocksets for MATLAB and Simulink provide a rich source of pre-packaged functions and simulation blocks for specific areas such as image processing, communications systems design, power systems and financial modelling. Combined with the core tools, MATLAB, Simulink and Stateflow, these provide a single integrated environment to support and accelerate the whole development process from concept to code.
In addition to The MathWorks' range of products, Cambridge Control is also sole UK distributor for dSPACE GmbH's range of development systems for real-time control and hardware-in-the loop simulation. These bridge the gap between off-line simulation and controller design/implementation in real time. They allow engineers, without any programming knowledge, to transfer code from the Simulink non-linear simulation package, running on a host computer, to a target DSP controlling an experiment running in real time.