Section: Application Domains

Switched systems

Switched systems form a subclass of hybrid systems, which themselves constitute a key growth area in automation and communication technologies with a broad range of applications. Existing and emerging areas include automotive and transportation industry, energy management and factory automation. The notion of hybrid systems provides a framework adapted to the description of the heterogeneous aspects related to the interaction of continuous dynamics (physical system) and discrete/logical components.

The characterizing feature of switched systems is the collective aspect of the dynamics. A typical question is that of stability, in which one wants to determine whether a dynamical system whose evolution is influenced by a time-dependent signal is uniformly stable with respect to all signals in a fixed class ( [66]).

The theory of finite-dimensional hybrid and switched systems has been the subject of intensive research in the last decade and a large number of diverse and challenging problems such as stabilizability, observability, optimal control and synchronization have been investigated (see for instance [87], [67]).

The question of stability, in particular, because of its relevance for applications, has spurred a rich literature. Important contributions concern the notion of common Lyapunov function: when there exists a Lyapunov function that decays along all possible modes of the system (that is, for every possible constant value of the signal), then the system is uniformly asymptotically stable. Conversely, if the system is stable uniformly with respect to all signals switching in an arbitrary way, then a common Lyapunov function exists [68]. In the linear finite-dimensional case, the existence of a common Lyapunov function is actually equivalent to the global uniform exponential stability of the system [74] and, provided that the admissible modes are finitely many, the Lyapunov function can be taken polyhedral or polynomial [34], [35], [47]. A special role in the switched control literature has been played by common quadratic Lyapunov functions, since their existence can be tested rather efficiently (see [48] and references therein). Algebraic approaches to prove the stability of switched systems under arbitrary switching, not relying on Lyapunov techniques, have been proposed in [65], [21].

Other interesting issues concerning the stability of switched systems arise when, instead of considering arbitrary switching, one restricts the class of admissible signals, by imposing, for instance, a dwell time constraint [53].

Another rich area of research concerns discrete-time switched systems, where new intriguing phenomena appear, preventing the algebraic characterization of stability even for small dimensions of the state space [62]. It is known that, in this context, stability cannot be tested on periodic signals alone [37].

Finally, let us mention that little is known about infinite-dimensional switched system, with the exception of some results on uniform asymptotic stability ( [71], [84], [85]) and some recent papers on optimal control ( [52], [92]).