Perhaps you have wondered how all of the different #websites and places on the Internet are able to stay perfectly synchronized at all times with respect to time. The technology that allows this to work is called a #network time #server, which often uses embedded computing in order to reference the correct time. This article is a basic introduction to how time servers and embedded computers work to keep the Internet, and a plethora of other functions and applications, working properly.
Why We Need #Synchronization
The Internet is simply the first example of why different #technology components or posts need to be synchronized. Another example is that of a manufacturing line. Modern production lines contain vast computer #systems to measure and manage output, inventory, and demand. All of these systems need to be synchronized in order to communicate the highest fidelity real-time data. This is true in a tremendous array of systems, including cars, manufacturing, and industrial and financial applications, just to name a few.
Inside every computer, be it your personal #computer or the computer under the dash of your car, you will find a time server. This server reads the actual time from what is called a reference clock, which is usually a local network clock, or an atomic clock reading from the Internet. It then distributes and updates every other component in the system with the proper time, ensuring that every component is operating in step with every other single component.
Network Time Protocol NTP
One way that time is distributed and synchronized across the Internet is called the Network Time Protocol or more often, simply NTP. While there are other protocols available for use, they are far less popular, and often proprietary and meant for sending time stamps through radio frequencies and serial connections.
There are several choices for the clock that the time server references to update the correct time. For simple applications, this is usually just a time server on the Internet, usually powered by a radio or atomic clock. However the time source considered the most 'true' and correct is a GPS master clock. This clock uses the global positioning system satellite, to measure the earth's rotation, orbit, and sun exposure to provide the absolute correct time.
In fact, the many different time servers are rated and placed in what is known as a 'stratum' depending the quality and accuracy of the time it reports. This is 0-14 scale, where a rating of 0 is the most accurate clock, usually a highly specialized GPS clock. Since many individual components have their own embedded computers and time servers, the disparity in time accuracy can sometimes cause problems.
An embedded computer can be thought of as a tiny computer that is meant for one or two specific purposes. These computer can be extremely small, but simply perform their one function with minimal data or use of resources. Most embedded computers prefer a lower strata time source as opposed to higher, because it is more accurate. If your varied systems also have varying accuracy of time, there may be difficulty establishing communication of data between those systems.