A time-invariant (TIV) system has a time-dependent system function that is not a direct function of time. Such systems are regarded as a class of systems in the field of system analysis. The time-dependent system function is a function of the time-dependent input function. If this function depends only indirectly on the time-domain (via the input function, for example), then that is a system that would be considered time-invariant. Conversely, any direct dependence on the time-domain of the system function could be considered as a "time-varying system".
Mathematically speaking, "time-invariance" of a system is the following property:
Given a system with a time-dependent output function , and a time-dependent input function ; the system will be considered time-invariant if a time-delay on the input directly equates to a time-delay of the output function. For example, if time is "elapsed time", then "time-invariance" implies that the relationship between the input function and the output function is constant with respect to time :
In the language of signal processing, this property can be satisfied if the transfer function of the system is not a direct function of time except as expressed by the input and output.
In the context of a system schematic, this property can also be stated as follows:
If a system is time-invariant then the system block commutes with an arbitrary delay.
We can denote the shift operator by where is the amount by which a vector's index set should be shifted. For example, the "advance-by-1" system
can be represented in this abstract notation by
where is a function given by
with the system yielding the shifted output
So is an operator that advances the input vector by 1.
Suppose we represent a system by an operator. This system is time-invariant if it commutes with the shift operator, i.e.,
If our system equation is given by
then it is time-invariant if we can apply the system operator on followed by the shift operator , or we can apply the shift operator followed by the system operator , with the two computations yielding equivalent results.