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Perfect Time with a Digital Network Wall Clock

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

When a business is time reliant every second can count. For organisations such as the stock markets, online services and banking, precision and accuracy equates to money and time delays can become costly. Stocks and shares fluctuate throughout the day, while online services and banking requires precise time to ensure security and prevent bugs. However, keeping precise time is not as easy as it sounds, especially when it comes to visible time sources, such as wall clocks. (more…)

Digital Wall Clocks for Synchronised Time around Hospitals

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Hospitals are large organisations. Hundreds of different health professionals work in the average hospital, and part of the good running and ability to provide care is to ensure good coordination. Because health care is based on multi-disciplinary teams, treatments, meetings, operations and procedures often require strict coordination to prevent wasting time and provide an efficient service. Making sure everybody has access to a synchronised and accurate time is part of this process, which is what makes precise and reliable digital wall clocks for hospitals so important. (more…)

A Business Digital Wall Clock for when Time Really Matters

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Time is an important aspect for all businesses, and in most instances regular clocks and watches are just fine for telling people when to arrive at work or when a meeting is about to start. However, for some businesses, time really matters and every second can count, and regular clocks are just not accurate enough. In the financial markets, for instance, stock prices can rise and fall in the space of a single second, while in organisations that rely on people being punctual, having clocks that can drift and lose synchronisation can create an inefficient service. For this reason, business digital wall clocks that keep perfect time and never lose synchronicity with each other are essential tools. (more…)

Using PoE Clocks (Power over Ethernet)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Accurate time is important for many organisations, but keeping precise time in a school, office or business can be a challenge. Standard clocks are not as reliable as most people think. Often, battery powered quartz clocks will drift, sometimes by several minutes a week, which affects the timekeeping of people. (more…)

Oddities of Time and the Importance of Accuracy

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Most of us think we know what the time it is. At a glance of our wristwatches or wall clocks, we can tell what time it is. We also think we have a pretty good idea of the speed time move forwards, a second, a minute, an hour or a day are pretty well-defined; however, these units of time are completely man-made and are not as constant as we may think.

Time is an abstract concept, while we may think it is the same for everybody, time is affected by its interaction with the universe. Gravity, for instance, as Einstein observed, has the ability to warp space-time altering the speed in which time passes, and while we all live on the same planet, under the same gravitational forces, there are subtle differences in the speed in which time passes.

Using atomic clocks, scientists are able to establish the effect Earth’s gravity has on time. The high above sea level an atomic clock is placed, the quicker time travels. While these differences are minute, these experiments clearly demonstrate that Einstein’s postulations were correct.

Atomic clocks have been used to demonstrate some of Einstein’s other theories regarding time too. In his theories of relativity, Einstein argued that speed is another factor that affects the speed at which time passes. By placing atomic clocks on orbiting spacecraft or aeroplanes travelling at speed, the time measured by these clocks differs to clocks left static on Earth, another indication that Einstein was right.

Before atomic clocks, measuring time to such degrees of accuracy was impossible, but since their invention in the 1950’s, not only have Einstein’s postulations proved right, but also we have discovered some other unusual aspects to how we regard time.

While most of us think of a day as 24-hours, with every day being the same length, atomic clocks have shown that each day varies. Furthermore, atomic clocks have also shown that the Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down, meaning that days are getting slowly longer.

Because of these changes to time, the world’s global timescale, UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) needs occasional adjustments. Every six months or so, leap seconds are added to ensure UTC runs at the same rate as an Earth day, accounting for the gradual slowing down of the planet’s spin.

For technologies that require high levels of accuracy, these regular adjustments of time are accounted for by the time protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol) so a computer network using an NTP time server is always kept true to UTC.

75 Years of the Speaking Clock

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Britain’s speaking clock celebrates its 75th birthday this week, with the service still providing the time to over 30 million callers a year.

75 Years of the speaking clock

The service, available by dialling 123 on any BT landline (British Telecom), began in 1936 when the General Post Office (GPO) controlled the telephone network. Back then, most people used mechanical clocks, which were prone to drift. Today, despite the prevalence of digital clocks, mobile phones, computers and a myriad number of other devices, the BT speaking clock still provides the time to 30 million callers a year, and other networks implement their own speaking clock systems.

Much of the speaking clock’s continuing success is perhaps down to the accuracy that it keeps. The modern speaking clock is accurate to five milliseconds (5/1000ths of a second), and kept precise by the atomic clock signals provided by NPL (National Physical Laboratory) and the GPS network.

But the announcer declaring the time ‘after the third stroke’ provides people with a human voice, something other time-telling methods don’t provide, and may have something to do with why so many people still use it.

Four people have had the honour of providing the voice for the speaking clock; the current voice of the BT clock is Sara Mendes da Costa, who has provided the voice since 2007.

Of course, many modern technologies require an accurate source of time. Computer networks that need to keep synchronised, for security reasons and to prevent of errors, require a source of atomic clock time.

Network time servers, commonly called NTP servers after Network Time Protocol that distributes the time across the computers on a network, use either GPS signals, which contain atomic clock time signals, or by radio signals broadcast by places like NPL and NIST (National Institute for Standards and Time) in the US.

 

Keeping Track of Global Time

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

So much business these days is conducted across borders, countries and continents. Global trade and communication is an important aspect for all sorts of industries, trades and businesses.

Of course, communicating across borders often means communicating across time zones too, and this poses problems for both people and computers. When those in United States start work, Europeans are half way through their day, while those in the Far East have gone to bed.

Knowing the time in several countries is, therefore, important for many people, but fortunately, many solutions exist to help.

Modern operating systems like Windows 7 have facilities that allow you to show several time zones on the computer clock, while web pages and apps such as:  http://www.worldtimebuddy.com offer an easy way to work out the different time across time zones.

Many offices use multiple analogue and digital wall clocks to provide staff with easy access to the time in important trade countries, sometimes these use atomic clock receivers to maintain perfect accuracy, but what about computers? How do they deal with different time zones?

The answer lies in the global timescale UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC was developed following the invention of atomic clocks. Kept precise by a constellation of these super-accurate clocks, UTC is the same across the globe enabling computers to communicate effectively without the differences in time zones affecting functionality.

To ensure preciseness in communication, computer networks need an accurate source of UTC as system clocks are nothing more than quartz oscillators, which can drift by several seconds a day—a long time for computer communication.

A software protocol, NTP (Network Time Protocol) ensures that this time source is distributed around the network, maintaining its accuracy.

NTP servers receive the source of UTC, often from sources such as GPS or radio referenced signals broadcast by NPL in the UK (National Physical Laboratory—transits the MSF signal from Cumbria) or NIST in the USA (National Institute of Standards and Time—transmits the WWVB signal from Colorado).

With UTC and NTP time servers, computer networks across the globe can communicate precisely and error-free enabling trouble free computing and truly global communication.

NTP server

Differing Perceptions of Time

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

When you tell somebody you’ll be an hour, ten minutes or a day, most people have a good idea how long they need to wait; however, not everybody has the same perception of time, and in fact, some people have no perception of time at all!

Scientists studying a newly discovered Amazonian tribe have found that they have no abstract concept of time, according to news reports.

The Amondawa, first contacted by the outside world in 1986, while recognising events occurring in time, do not recognise time as a separate concept, lacking the linguistic structures relating to time and space.

Not only do the Amondawa have no linguistic ability to describe time, but concepts like working throughout the night, would not be understood as time has no meaning to their lives.

While most of us in the western world tend to live by the clock, we all in fact have continuous different perceptions of time. Ever noticed how time flies when you’re having fun, or goes very slowly during times of boredom? Our time perceptions can vary greatly depending on the activities that we are undertaking.

Fighter pilots, Formula One drivers and other sportsmen often talk of “being in the zone” where time slows down. This is due to the intense concentration they are putting into their endeavours, slowing down their perceptions.

Regardless of out differing time perceptions, time itself can alter as Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity demonstrated. Einstein suggested that gravity and intense speeds will alter time, with large planetary masses warping space-time slowing it down, while at very high speeds (close to the speed of light) space travellers could partake a journey that to observers would seem several thousands of years, but be just seconds to those travelling at such speeds.

And if Einstein’s theories seem far-fetched, it has been tested using ultra-precise atomic clocks. Atomic clocks on aeroplanes travelling around the Earth, or placed farther away from the Earth’s orbit, have minute differences to those remaining at sea-level or stationary on Earth.

Atomic clocks are useful tools for modern technologies and help to ensure that the global timescale, Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), is kept as accurate and true as possible. And you don’t need to own your own tomake sure your computer network is kept true to UTC and is hooked up to an atomic clock. NTP time servers enable all sorts of technologies to receive an atomic clock signal and keep as accurate as possible. You can even buy atomic clock wall clocks that can provide you the precise time no matter how much the day is “dragging” or “flying”.

Atomic Wall clocks from Galleon Systems