Why it's Time for Accuracy at the Heart of the Network

Timing matters to more than just lime-light starved celebrities in dance competitions.

Accurate timing is at the center of technologies we take for granted, from GPS through to mobile networks. Famously, GPS navigation works entirely by using basic triangulation, measuring how long it takes radio waves travelling at the speed of light from different satellites to reach your phone. The next major consumer of time accurate sources of data is going to be 5G. 5G requires not only higher standards of time accuracy than its predecessors, but also far more reliability and local sources. 

5G holds the promise of truly connected devices, from your phone in your pocket right through to telemetry from wind turbines, trains and cars. But its ubiquity comes at a price; the infrastructure of 5G networks is, by necessity, mind dissolving complex. 5G networks make extensive use of clever co-operative radio techniques which only work when they can be kept in sync via high-quality sources of accurate time. Previously, GPS clocks could be used as the time source, and are very accurate. However, when your source of time is up to 22,000 miles above your head, it can be easily jammed or even obstructed by inconveniently placed mountains or valleys. Not a great combination when you want your network to go anywhere. Before 5G, networks could tolerate periods of less accurate time; 5G, not so much. 

And 5G is not the only place where super accurate network sourced time is valuable. Real-time financial traders, security systems, broadcasters and telecommunication applications all need incredible levels of time accuracy to properly function. Loss of time accuracy can lead to brutal financial fallout or major infrastructural issues in these cases. In many places, they use dedicated hardware synced to the GPS network to keep exact time. But as with 5G networks, this is not always practical.

Time has always been at the core of our devices. Our current range of switches have a time accuracy of four nanoseconds; that's only slightly longer than it takes light to travel a meter. But we feel light is tardy and takes _far_ too long to get places. Our next generation switches will enable astonishing levels of time accuracy, enabling a whole new generation of time-sensitive applications. It'll make light seem positively sluggish. These devices put precise time at the center of the network, making it available for things as mundane as NTP (Network Time Protocol), through to the needs of cutting edge infrastructure such as 5G. By placing pin-point accurate sources of time throughout your network, it enables developers to leverage it to produce applications that weren't possible before. 

Network wide time synchronization will become a critical factor for all those next generation devices that will make our cities smart, our automated car’s safe and our critical national infrastructure secure. It's TIME to start putting accuracy at the heart of the network to enable the next wave of innovation. 

If you're as obsessed with time as we are, have a need for ubiquitous and incredibly accurate time, or simply need to set your watch _really_ accurately, then get in touch. If however, you are not obsessed with time, you probably will be after chatting to us.

Andy Heal

Blogs

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