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What is Timebase Traceability in GPS?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 7/11/2011

GPS timebase traceability is how GPS devices get data with timestamps so they can perform GPS-related tasks precisely and accurately. This is extremely important for critical tasks in the medical field and in the scientific community.

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    GPS timebase traceability is how a series of data pertinent to GPS services from several types of GPS systems are correlated and synchronized according to precise and accurate timestamps. A global timebase is ideal to acquire precise and accurate data synchronization from satellites from all around the world. Tracking data on different GPS devices is made easier and more absolute with timebase traceability in GPS, giving users a more accurate stream of GPS data wherever they are.

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    Acquiring Data

    Using time to synchronize and acquire data is more reliable than doing it with data that is not based on timestamps. When users want to acquire data at a specific time, or when a specific timestamp is required, timebase traceability is quite useful. Triggering the acquisition data on a given time gives users complete control as to how they receive data in a timely and accurate manner. This may not be as essential for personal use, but for professional and industrial use it is absolutely useful and usually critical. Industrial and professional use can involve power grid evaluation, geographical work, mining operations, large-scale factories and weather tracking.

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    The accuracy of timebase traceability still depends on the accuracy of the GPS receiver. Not all GPS receivers have the same accuracy when it comes to tracking and synchronizing timestamps between them and the GPS systems providing the data. Real time clocks are used by these devices so they can be synchronized with external GPS signals to obtain the most accurate data possible. The accuracy of devices can be customized to make up for any inaccuracy of the devices. But still, it is not always 100% accurate depending on the settings of the device or the built-in software of the device. GPS devices can be set to synchronize every second so any inaccuracy can be minimized or eliminated.

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    There are clocks designed specifically for consumers' needs to have a GPS timebase, but consumers can also use regular radio controlled clocks as their real time clock. They just need some technical know-how to set it up on their GPS devices. Some systems for consumers offer service most of the time, but they also need to receive maintenance once in a while. For this reason, it is good to have a backup real time clock so users can have uninterrupted data synchronization. This is important for critical industrial and professional tasks.

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    The Bottom Line

    Timebase traceability benefits all kinds of users of GPS devices, especially those with critical tasks. Timestamps acquired through GPS systems provide accurate data for all kinds of network tasks such as e-commerce, database transactions and security. These tasks are usually done within governments, private companies and the scientific community. The more accurate the timestamps acquired, the more efficient and better the results can be for these tasks. This is why GPS devices that make use of GPS timebase traceability usually have backup and redundant systems to safeguard their data and to make sure that they do not lose track of timestamped data from all the satellites that are providing them GPS data.

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