Atomic clocks are much underrated technologies their development has revolutionised the way we live and work and has made possible technologies that would be impossible without them.
Satellite navigation, mobile phones, GPS, the internet, air traffic control, traffic lights and even CCTV cameras are reliant on the ultra precise timekeeping of an atomic clock.
The accuracy of an atomic clock is incomparable to other time keeping devices as they don’t drift by even a second in hundreds of thousands of years.
But atomic clocks are large sensitive devices that need team of experienced technicians and optimum conditions such as those found in a physics laboratory. So how do all these technologies benefit from the high precision of an atomic clock?
The answer is quite simple, the controllers of atomic clocks, usually national physics laboratories, broadcast via long wave radio the time signals that their ultra precise clocks produce.
To receive these time signals, servers that use the time synchronization protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol) are employed to receive and distribute these timestamps.
NTP time servers, often referred to as network time servers, are a secure and accurate method of ensuring any technology is running accurate atomic clocks time. These time synchronization devices can synchronise single devices or entire networks of computers, routers and other devices.
NTP servers that use GPS signals to receive the time from the atomic clock satellites are also commonly used. These NTP GPS time servers are as accurate as those that receive the time from physics laboratories but use the weaker, line of sight GPS signal as their source.