American Time Blog

An In-Depth Look: How Clocks Synchronize with Network Time

Posted by Tom Nelson on Sep 14, 2017 2:27:41 PM

How Clocks Synchronize with Network TimeWe take a lot of things for granted these days...accurate time being one of them. Precise time, whether it's on your phone or from a network of synchronized clocks in the workplace, seems to come so easily. However, if you knew the process involved in getting that correct time, you would be amazed...so here goes.

The Atomic Clock

In Colorado, there is a clock that keeps precise time at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). This clock is a strange looking contraption, and it keeps time in a fascinating way: by connecting to a bundle of cesium atoms. The process is complex, but scientists at NIST say this clock will keep 100 percent accurate time for the next 100 million years...you read that right. So, if there's a clock that reliable, connecting to it to ensure accuracy would make a lot of sense.

Connecting to the Atomic Clock

The atomic clock sends out a signal that's acquired by a server, which is a large computer with multiple processors and large amounts of memory. These servers read the time from the atomic clock and distribute the correct time through a network. As its name indicates, a server will serve, and by connecting to this device, you can be served precise atomic time.

Connecting to the Time Server

So how do you access the time server? In a school or place of business, a controller has access to the time server through an internet connection. This controller is the most important device in a network of synchronized clocks. It takes the atomic time and sends it to the other clocks throughout a school, hospital or factory. Therefore, everyone has the same, exact time, which comes in handy when it's time to change shifts or classes.

Keeping a Network of Clocks in Sync

So, how do all the clocks in a network keep precise time...all the time? At scheduled time intervals, the main controller double checks the atomic time from a time server and sends out a signal that all the other clocks in the network read.

This entire process may seem lengthy, but it's the most reliable way to ensure 100 percent accurate time. This also holds true for the upcoming end of Daylight Saving Time. If connections stay in place, time in a network of clocks will adjust automatically.

So, as long as synchronized clocks stay connected to the controller, and the controller stays connected to the time server, and the time server stays connected to the atomic clock, and the NIST clock tower stays connected to those cesium atoms...you won't have to worry about incorrect time for another ....oh, 100 million years.

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Topics: Synchronized Clock Systems

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