Did you know that time is relative? Many have tried and failed to impose constructs on time. For example, the Soviet Union attempted to enforce five and six-day weeks from 1929 to 1931. Obviously, they were unsuccessful. Then, after the French Revolution, there was an attempt to institute a ten-hour clock. Let’s all be thankful that didn’t take.
Still, it is understandable why such attempts were made to make time more easily measured. Today, time is literally money. In a given year, it is possible for the U.S. economy to lose $7.4 billion. Such a discrepancy and loss is because of incorrectly filled out timesheets.
Such a loss is one of the reasons a GPS clock was developed. A GPS clock is a part of an intricate clock system that primarily uses satellites to synchronize time. While GPS clock synchronization has many moving parts to consider, telling the time with a GPS clock can be broken down into five steps.
5 Steps to a GPS Clock Telling the Time
- The Atomic Clock
The first step in a GPS time clock is the atomic clock. According to How Stuff Works, atomic clocks keep time better than any other clock. Furthermore, they keep time better than the rotation of the earth and the movement of the stars! Such accuracy is crucial in the Global Positioning System. All of the 31 working satellites connected to the GPS network have a built-in atomic clock. If this was not the case, the GPS clock would not be able to work properly.
- The Quartz Clock
Unfortunately, because the atomic clock is so accurate, it is also extremely expensive. However, a GPS clock does not need to worry about this because it contains an item known as a receiver. As the name suggests, the receiver receives the signal from the GPS satellites. The receiver in a GPS clock is often composed of a simple and inexpensive piece of quartz. The quartz crystal within a GPS clock helps it “tune-in” to the signal frequency coming from the GPS satellites.
- Finding Four Satellites
Once the receiver in a GPS clock gets a signal from the satellites in the Global Positioning System, it looks for at least four of these satellites to help it draw spheres. The reason at least four satellite signals are needed is because four spheres will help when it comes to the necessary task of adjusting for inaccuracy due to distance and delay.
- The Reciever
In order to adjust the measurements the receiver gets, it uses its internal clock. This means it can easily make calculations based on where the four spheres intersect. Then, the receiver will sync and connect with the satellites atomic clock. Whenever the receiver is on, it is constantly in communication with the atomic clock. Thus, a GPS clock is nearly as accurate.
- Adjusting for Orbits and Storing Data
Since the receiver relies on the distance and position of the GPS satellites, it needs to know where they are constantly. The orbits are fairly predictable and the receiver is able to make the necessary adjustments when it comes to providing time for the GPS clock. Furthermore, the receiver is able to store information on the changing orbits and positions. The final piece in adjusting for accuracy in a GPS clock is that the Department of Defense monitors and updates the positions of the satellites and sends the new information to all GPS receivers.
A GPS clock is a crucial part of how our society functions. This is just an overview of a complex system to help us better understand the mechanisms that improve our lives.