Time is of the essence

Published: 
05 October 2017
Services tested by DEMETRA could foster the dissemination of EGNSS-based common standardised time services throughout Europe

To identify timing service needs that are not yet being met by the EGNSS basic time service, the ‘DEMonstrator of EGNSS services based on Time Reference Architecture’ (DEMETRA) project developed a prototype of an EGNSS-based time disseminator that provides time certification, redundancy, resilience, integrity, and improved accuracy, while validating the concept of ‘time as a service’.

The overarching goal of the DEMETRA project was to promote the use of EGNSS (EGNOS and Galileo) by enhancing and augmenting its timing service characteristics. To ensure that the needs of timing and synchronisation users were incorporated into the project design, the developers engaged with these end-users to design a system to demonstrate new or advanced timing services based on a common infrastructure that is scalable, robust, and continuously monitored.

Nine different time services were developed and integrated in the demonstrator, with varying degrees of technical and commercial maturity, based on the European GNSS basic timing service, which was complemented by other independent time transfer technologies. The services tested were:

  1. Time Broadcasting over TV/Radio Links;
  2. Certified Trusted Time Distribution using the Network Time Protocol (NTP);
  3. Time & Frequency Distribution over Optical Link;
  4. Time & Frequency Distribution via GEO Satellite;
  5. User GNSS Receiver Calibration;
  6. Certified Time Steering;
  7. Time Monitoring and Steering;
  8. Time Integrity; and an
  9. All-in-one Time Synchronisation Solution.

These services could become the basis for European timing standards, making timing of critical European infrastructure independent from GPS and fostering the dissemination of EGNSS-based common standardised time services throughout Europe.

Watch this: DEMETRA: Time as a Service

Main features

The project demonstrated the feasibility of delivering early EGNSS timing services to end users by utilising an operational prototype of a Galileo Time Services Provider (TSP) which could provide timing products to the Galileo system while also providing additional time services to other external customers.

The demonstrator was built around the concept of a common core infrastructure hosting advanced time services and delivering common services. These include time services monitoring, reference time, managing a centralised TSP database, and offering public and private web services such as the provision of TSP information for the general public and usage data and KPI for subscribed users. The demonstrator was deployed as an open and scalable architecture with common interfaces, making it easier to integrate new time services in the future.

This allows service developers to focus on performance at user level.

Galileo Time Services Provider

An eye on the market

There is significant untapped potential on the market for timing services, with some users already requiring these services and others about to reach a maturity level at which they will require them in the near future. The project conducted a Timing Service User Needs Analysis to identify the timing needs of end-users in market sectors as diverse as agriculture, energy, finance, media, science, surveying, telecommunications and transport.

This analysis concluded that the finance, energy and telecommunications markets have the greatest short-term commercial potential for the delivery of timing services. Synchronisation monitoring, accuracy, certification and availability were found to be the key areas where timing services are required in these three markets.

Each market is already served by existing solutions, but these mainly concentrate on the delivery of accurate time and focus less on monitoring, certification of time sources and availability of time. To ensure that the needs of the market are met, specific business plans will be rolled out for each DEMETRA service. These will vary considerably based on the maturity of the service and the applicability of the service to each market.

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Updated: Oct 05, 2017