NSAI launches Ireland’s first ever National Timing Grid – September 2023

NSAI launches Ireland’s first ever National Timing Grid

⦁ Initiative will allow for near real time tracking of clock stability against other atomic clocks to provide early warnings in case of timing drift
⦁ Growth of digital economy means accurate timing has become increasingly essential for critical infrastructure such as communications and financial services
⦁ Grid will help to mitigate against the growing dangers of GPS jamming and spoofing

The National Standards Authority of Ireland’s National Metrology Laboratory (NSAI NML) is announcing the rollout of Ireland’s first ever National Timing Grid (NTG). As Ireland’s home of measurement, the Glasnevin-based NSAI NML is responsible for establishing, maintaining and developing the national measurement standards for physical quantities and providing these standards to Irish users.

Delivered with specialist partners Data Edge and Timing Solutions, there are many essential features of the new National Timing Grid. These include near real time tracking of clock stability against UTC, the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, early warnings in case of timing drift, enhanced resilience in case of jamming or spoofing of GPS systems and redundancy in case of clock failure.

As the country’s digital economy continues to grow and more services are moved online, the importance of accurate timing in Ireland’s networks is paramount. Time and timing distribution have become increasingly important for critical infrastructure sectors such as communications, energy, transportation, public services, financial services, and cloud data centers, which made the establishment of the National Timing Grid a priority for the NSAI NML.

After extensive accuracy and stability analysis of the NSAI NML’s clock data by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in 2020, NSAI NML was officially accepted as traceable contributors to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, and it has regularly contributed its clock data since November 2020 for the generation of UTC. This timescale is comprised of hundreds of similar atomic clocks maintained by National Metrology Institutes globally and is the basis for civil time internationally since 1972. Ireland’s new officially recognised timescale is now known as UTC (NSAI).

The Grid currently comprises five caesium atomic clocks from large telecommunications companies based in Ireland that are linked via GPS satellites. Using a novel and proprietary technique, these clocks automatically send clock data for direct comparison against UTC (NSAI) and thus are now traceable to UTC (NSAI).

David Fleming, NSAI Technical Manager for Time said, “We are so excited to be launching the country’s first every National Timing Grid. Keeping Ireland’s networks on time is crucial in supporting its day-to-day operations as more and more of our services are moved online.”

“We are now also distributing NTP time derived from our caesium atomic clock (over the internet). We are keen to support Irish businesses in any way that we can and this time has been made freely available for use by any organisation that could benefit from utilising time directly traceable to UTC (NSAI).”

Zdenek Chaloupka, Timing Solutions said “This was a challenging and unique project, one of the first in the world to use the ‘GNSS Satellite Common View’ technique to deliver near real time tracking of timing sources, such as caesium clock, and will be used to provide early warnings in case of timing source performance degradation”.

Paul Phelan, CEO, Data Edge said, “We are honoured to be working as the technology partner with the NSAI NML & Timing Solutions on such a vital national project.”

“NTG Ireland is now leading the way on strategies to ‘protect National Time/UTC (NSAI)’, and we are looking forward to presenting our work-to-date at the International Timing & Sync Forum (ITSF) in Antwerp in late 2023, where global experts meet annually to discuss developments in the field of Time and Sync.”

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