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  • Writer's pictureDAVID MITLYNG

Weekly Takeaways-July 13, 2023

Theme of the Week

What is Old is New Again By the end of the 17th century, England had a problem. Their continental rivals were carving up the riches of the new world and the spice trade, and, as a result, held more ships and ports. The English ships couldn’t maneuver around them because they couldn’t figure out their East-West position, which required an accurate knowledge of local time. So they set up the Longitude Act with a cash prize to harness the ingenuity of industry. Lots of crazy schemes were floated, including a time relay across 600 barges spaced at ten mile intervals. But what if there was fog? What if a pirate took out a barge? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Instead, England developed an network of observatories on "coastlines or ports around the world" to synchronize marine chronometers on passing ships. It was the world’s first synchronization network, and it propelled their domination of the seas and the rise of the British Empire. The modern world is even more dependent on accurate time synchronization. All networks, data centers, and power grids rely on a timing signal that starts from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). But in some ways GNSS suffers from the same problems identified centuries earlier; instead of fog, there are RF jamming devices. Instead of pirate ships, there are anti-satellite missiles. So governments are going back to the private sector to help solve this problem (see below). Last Week's Theme: Independence Day


Industry News


  • Time Appliances Project, July 19, virtual

  • Euroconsult, September 11 – 15, Paris, France

  • APSCC, October 10 – 12, KL, Malaysia

  • ITSF, Oct 30 – Nov 2, Antwerp, Belgium

  • UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2023, Nov 2, London, UK

  • SLUSH, Nov 30 – Dec 1, Helsinki, Finland

The More You Know...

For going on fifty years, GPS has been the dominant method of time synchronization for the world. There are 6.5 billion GPS receivers installed in nearly every smart phone, vehicle, and network in the world. But, like the time relay barges of yore, the GPS satellites, links, and even the receivers themselves are vulnerable. This has spurred a movement towards resilience through belts-and-suspender redundancy. Other countries have developed their own GNSS. And the US is following the lessons from the original Longitude Problem and turning to private industry for solutions. Fundamentally, GPS isn’t going anywhere – it is too embedded in our modern world. Instead, it will be backed up by other systems that effectively “take the bullseye off GPS.” And the specific timing needs of commercial enterprise users have spawned a multi-billion dollar market for timing and synchronization units. And they are starting to take a belts-and-suspenders approach to removing reliance on any single GNSS by adding multiple quality clocks for holdover and links to multiple signals of opportunity. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself – but it often rhymes. To learn more, please email us or schedule a meeting here.


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