The Future is Optical The Internet Age was enabled by the profound transition from analog to digital. At the dawn of the Internet Age, there was an important transition from analog to digital communications. The Internet Age was enabled by the profound transition from analog to digital communications. Slicing up a waveform into discrete bits heralded incredible advancements in the ability to transport large amounts of data. It also enabled communications to move from electrical pulses over wires (a technology that dates back to the telegraph in the 1800s) to moving data over light. The first laser and fiber optics were built in the 1960s; today lasers carry 95% of the world’s data and are being integrated onto chips. A similar revolution is happening with time.
The very definition of a second is moving from a microwave to an optical standard. But modern networks don’t need just one clock – they need a network of accurately synchronized clocks. So it makes sense that these clocks are synchronized with time transfer over optical links, which is fundamentally more accurate and secure. Within local fiber networks this move has already started, but at the global scale time distribution still relies exclusively on RF signals from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). (well, almost exclusively - see below) A new global optical time distribution system is needed. Last Week's Theme: AI's Dirty Little Secret
At the recent DEF CON conference the US Air Force invited teams to hack a small satellite in a Hack-A-Sat competition, resulting in one team winning the $50,000 prize.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a brief highlighting potential foreign intelligence risks to the US commercial space industry, warning that “foreign intelligence entities might attempt to steal technology assets and intellectual property.”
Amid these concerns the US Space Force has stood up the 75th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron (ISRS) “dedicated to targeting other nations' satellites and the ground stations that support them.”
The Department of Energy (DOE), who maintains oversight of America’s energy infrastructure, has identified eight critical applications that rely on timing from GPS. To solve this problem they stood up a Center for Alternative Synchronization and Timing (CAST) to develop best practices for timing within electrical grids and published “Implementing a Terrestrial Timing Solution: Best Practices.”
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a new program to provide billions of dollars to venture capital funds “aimed at increasing investment in U.S. startups…for capital intensive industries and those critical for national security.”
A huge increase in GPS jamming has been seen in the Middle East lately.
The More You Know...
A decade ago, there was only one option for global time distribution: GPS. Now there are a lot of options: Galileo in Europe, BeiDou in China, GLONASS in Russia, QZSS in Japan, IRNSS in India, KASS in Korea, ANGA in Africa, and commercial solutions. They all share the same basic design that utilizes one-way RF time transfer. But there is one exception: China's BeiDou system. They announced plans to add optical links and recently conduced "inter-satellite and satellite-ground station experiment using using lasers rather than the usual radio signals" that "could increase satnav accuracy by a factor of 6 to 40 by synchronizing the satellites’ atomic clocks with laser beams." China also announced plans to develop a high-precision integrated space-ground timing system using optical time transfer. Their plans for a "High-precision Ground-Based Timing System" includes setting up 295 time and frequency transmission sites across China to distribute their time standard over fiber networks to synchronize power grids, communication and finance networks.