GPS is not the only technology that is dependent on atomic clocks. The high levels of accuracy that are supplied by atomic clocks are used in other crucial technologies that we take for granted everyday.
Air traffic Control Not only are all aeroplanes and airliners now equipped with GPS to enable pilots and ground staff to know their exact location but atomic clocks are also used by air traffic controllers who need precise and accurate measurements and time between planes.
Traffic Lights and Road Congestion Systems – Traffic lights are another system that relies on atomic clock timing. Accuracy and synchronization is vital for traffic light systems as small errors in synchronization could lead to fatal accidents.
Congestion cameras and other systems such as parking metres also use atomic clocks as a basis of their timekeeping as this prevents any legal issues when issuing penalty notices.
CCTV – Closed circuit television is another large scale user of atomic clocks. CCTV cameras are often used in the fight against crime but as evidence they are ineffective in a court of law unless the timing information on the CCTV camera can be proved to be accurate. Failure to do so could lead to criminals escaping prosecution because despite the identification by the camera, proof that it was at the time and date of the offence can’t be clarified without accuracy and synchronization.
Internet – Many of the applications we now entrust to the internet are only made possible thanks to atomic clocks. Online trading, internet banking and even online auction houses all need accurate and synchronized time.
Imagine taking your savings from your bank account only finding that you can withdraw them again because another computer has a slower clock or imagine bidding on an internet auction site only to have your bid rejected by a bid that came before yours because it was made on a computer with a slower clock.
Using atomic clocks as a source for time is relatively straight forward for many technologies. Radio signals and even the GPS transmissions can be used as a source of atomic clock time and for computer systems, the protocol NTP (Network Time Protocol) will ensure any sized network will be synchronized perfectly together. Dedicated NTP time servers are used throughout the world in technologies and applications that require precise time.