Image: Shutterstock

Blog Editor’s Note: The author is President of the RNT Foundation.

A resilient national timing architecture will do more than just making today’s GNSS systems more secure. Ensuring resilient, bullet-proof timing services will provide a solid foundation for a wide variety of infrastructure upon which technologists and engineers from many disciplines can build for the future.

By Dana Goward

In 2012 a Boston Consulting Group Report estimated that geospatial services drove $1.6 trillion (that’s trillion with a “t”) in revenues and resulted in another $1.4 trillion in cost savings each year throughout the United States economy. It is hard for most people to conceive of numbers that big.

Imagine the impact of geospatial today, eight years later. Or instead of just the United States, its value to the world! It is probably more accurate to say that the world really can’t live without geospatial. At least not anywhere near the way we live now.

And yet, geospatial services rely almost entirely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), and most heavily on the US Global Positioning System (GPS). These satellite systems provide services known as positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT). Of the three, timing is the most important.

All GNSS satellites, and most all terrestrial wide-area PNT transmitters, are just highly precise clocks transmitting a time signal. Receivers detect time signals from multiple transmitters, measure the differences, and calculate their location. Very hard to do by hand, but quick and easy with the right math and computer chips.

These time signals support geospatial services and also serve many other critical technology roles. They synchronize networks, time stamp transactions, enable multiplexing of spectrum that was formerly only single use, enable digital broadcast… the list goes on and on.

In a two year limited sampling, the European Union’s Strike3 project found about 500,000 instances of radio frequency interference on GNSS bands, but only about 10% were evaluated as deliberate disruptions.