Spectracom Skylight Indoor GPS Timing System for SecureSync

Spectracom SecureSync Skylight Indoor GPS NTP AntennaOpen a New Window to Accurate Time for Your Network

Even though synchronizing network master clocks and time servers to GPS is well-known as the standard for the most time-sensitive applications, some data centers and critical server locations are not conducive to traditional roof-top GPS antenna installation. Skylight™ provides a solution. Consisting of an indoor GPS antenna panel, a configuration of Spectracom’s SecureSync® modular GPS time server, and an interconnect cable, Skylight opens new possibilities for accurate GPS time.

GPS signals are weak and often impractical in urban environments due to limited visibility of the sky, and constraints of roof-top access and long GPS antenna cable runs. Skylight is a result of Spectracom’s expertise in GPS reception and applications for precision timing. Proprietary alogorithms use a combination of high sensitivity receivers, accurate internal oscillators and other techniques to extract the GPS on-time point to sub-microsecond accuracy even in areas with somewhat limited GPS reception.

Skylight does not work everywhere. A GPS signal above about 30 dBc/N0 at the antenna panel is required. Subterranean and other radio-isolated locations will still need to be synchronized using other techniques (such as over a network via a PTP master-slave combination) versus by GPS directly. However, exterior walls or walls across from a window in above ground floors of a building are likely candidates for Skylight. Even urban canyon situations can be considered as neighboring buildings can often redirect signals to the antenna panel that contain useful timing information for the Skylight system. And the signal does not have to be available 24/7. By using a precise stable oscillator and our proprietary disciplining algorithms, Skylight needs the GPS signal for only a few hours a day. Often the RF noise is reduced at night which can allow Skylight to maintain legally traceable time even if signal acquisition is subpar during the day.

Simple Set-up

The indoor antenna panel can be mounted facing towards or away from the wall it is mounted on, or the decorative cover can be removed and it can be placed on top of a server rack, or even above ceiling tiles. It then gets connected via a RG-58 coaxial cable to a Spectracom SecureSync® modular time and frequency reference system up to 200 feet (60 meters) away. The cable length can be extending using an in-line amplifier to 600 feet (185 meters). The SecureSync is a 1RU NTP time server, PTP grandmaster, and provider of virtually any other network or physical synchronization signal. You can configure the SecureSync at time of order to suit your application for precision timing including the quality of internal oscillator and the ability to sync to GLONASS satellites in addition to, or in lieu of GPS.

Installation Tips

Whether a particular location is suitable for indoor GPS via Skylight depends on several factors. The antenna should be located as close to an exterior wall as possible. It is not necessary for the antenna to be located at a window because in many cases walls attenuate the signal less than the coatings found on modern high efficiency windows. The presence of structures surrounding a building can also affect the availability of signals in a positive or negative way. In general, the higher in the building the antenna is located, the better. Placement near a window can be advantageous if the window is free of coatings and other window coverings or blinds that will block the signal.

Learn more

Thanks to Spectracom for the article.

New NetClock Web UI coming for Spectracom SecureSync and 9400 Series

In January of 2014 we are expecting to release the new browser interface for Spectracom SecureSync and 9400 Netclock Series of time servers.

The new Web-UI for the NetClock Time Server, offers new very easy-to-use, highly intuitive and interactive experience for the user when configuring and monitoring the Spectracom NetClock Models.

You can view a preview of the new UI on this 10 minute video included below. We would certainly be interested in hearing any comments you may have after viewing the video.

New NetClock Web UI coming for Spectracom SecureSync and 9400 Series

Spectracom’s Master Clock

2 problems need to be solved in any time-related application:

(1) Which clock is used as the reference for all other clocks
(2) How to transfer the time from the reference clock to all other clocks

The solution to time as a reference is a master clock. The method by which the accuracy of the master clock is transferred to another, slave, or secondary clock, is known as synchronization. Spectracom offers a variety of master clocks, synchronization clocks, and master clock systems to meet the requirements for your application of accurate time. Typically, GPS satellite signals are utilized for synchronization to ensure accurate time, but other references may be used such as case of local atomic clocks or other time standards.

What is a master clock?

Master Clocks normally take one or more precise timing reference signals as inputs, then convert and distribute those timing references to other devices so their clocks are almost as accurate as the master clock.

Master clock systems are used in a wide variety of applications and industries including aerospace and defense, broadcast, radio, and telecom, network systems, financial services, emergency operations and call centers, and healthcare — essentially anywhere reliability of data and signals are paramount.

Network master clocks distribute their timing references over local or wide area networks. Master clocks with wireless transmitters enable synchronization of devices (like display clocks) without having to run wires between them for the synchronization signal. There are also highly accurate master clock solutions that utilize copper or fiber connections for signal distribution of precise analog and digital signals such as IRIG timecode, and HaveQuick and STANAG timecodes.

Master clocks can also differ in the source of their timing reference. It is a rare case for a master clock to be free-running and not synchronized, or at least compared with, an external reference continuously or regularly. So a core feature of all master clock systems is that they are accept precise timing references signals as inputs. Spectracom’s SecureSync modular time and frequency synchronization system can accept over 14 different signal types to discipline its local clock that can generate a similar number of signal types to synchronize other devices. In case of loss of the external reference (or more than one for redundancy), the local clock maintains timing accuracy until the reference(s) can be restored. Several different local clock oscillators are offered depending on the accuracy required during the “hold over” period.

spectracom-securesync Synchronize to a variety of time and frequency signals, maintain and process that time very accurately, and generate a wide range of time and frequency signals and protocols including IRIG, STANAG/HaveQuick, NTP, PTP and many other precise analog and digital signals for virtually any device that requires a high degree of synchronization.Learn more about flexible SecureSync Master Clocks

Other Rackmount Instruments, Display Clocks, Plug-in Cards, OEM Boards & Modules.

In addition to the SecureSync synchronization system, Spectracom offers synchronized time display clocks and systems, GPS NTP network time servers, and application specific rack mountable instruments. It also offers PC cards, OEM boards and modules that can be used as master clocks in other devices.

spectracom-WiSync-wireless-clocks Use a master clock source from GPS, a network master clock, or other time source to ensure display clocks throughout a facility are synchronized.Learn more about Synchronized Clocks and Time Displays

Common Uses of Master Clocks

Spectracom master clocks offer Legally Traceable Time to all time-keeping functions in any enterprise network. Over 4,000 NetClock master clocks are in use to record 9-1-1 events to improve response times and to settle legal disputes. Commercial enterprises can benefit from the same synchronized network operations for records accuracy, troubleshooting, security, and to enable time-sensitive applications to the extremely high levels of accuracy.

spectracom-netclock9489 Synchronize enterprise networks and critical operations such as 9-1-1 call centers by distributing legally traceable time from a built-in GPS receiver and other sources via IP networks through protocols such as NTP or PTP. Slave clocks in computers and other hardware may be running client synchronization software that is more reliable than built-in time clients.Learn More about Network Time Servers

Hospital Clocks: Let’s Get Synchronized

hospital clocksWhen every second counts, buyers of hospital clock systems time and time again turn to Inova’s OnTime Ethernet clocks. Ok, so maybe there are too many puns in that opening sentence, but there are absolute truths buried in there. Take, for example, a hospital system in Indiana that needed around-the-clock support. (Ok, I’m done now) But seriously – when Reid Hospital in Richmond, Indiana purchased 450 Inova OnTime™ Ethernet clocks, they did so to fit their existing technology footprint.

Reid Hospital had previously made an investment in Cisco Power over Ethernet switches back in 2007. According to the clock purchaser, the clocks helped to justify the investment in the PoE Cisco switches.

In healthcare facilities like Reid Hospital, synchronized time is critical to daily operations, whether it’s checking on patients or delivering medications. When shift workers’ schedules are in sync, patients can count on uninterrupted care whenever they need it.

Here are some commonalities we’ve seen from hospitals that rely on OnTime for timekeeping:

  • Hospitals depend on PoE devices like OnTime because they’re CE-marked for low RF emittance. Compared to wireless clocks that require A/C power or batteries, our network clocks are powered by the network itself, and don’t transmit or receive radio frequencies. This is an especially important consideration when purchasing clocks that will be located near sensitive medical equipment.
  • Hospitals are the biggest buyers of our stainless steel 6-digit clocks for emergency rooms and operating rooms. Inova is the only manufacturer of a stainless steel clock that matches the décor of OR facilities. Inova OnTime is also the only clock that features three-quarter-height seconds, meaning that it’s easy to read and distinguish between full-height hours and minutes and three-quarter-height seconds.
  • Hospitals love the look of our analog clocks in patient rooms because they don’t emit light, which could detract from a darkened room environment for sleeping. Because they’re synchronized to the network, doctors and nurses can trust the times shown for medication administration and other time-critical tasks.

Thanks to Inova Solutions for the article.

Network Time Protocol (NTP) Clock FAQs

What is NTP?

Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a protocol that provides a reliable way of transmitting and receiving the time over TCP/IP networks. It has become the de facto standard for synchronizing Internet computers and other networked devices to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), which is accomplished by having these devices reference a common time source – i.e., an atomic clock or a network time server (a.k.a. an “NTP server”). (NTP is defined in IETF RFC 1305.)

NTP uses port 123, which must opened on a firewall or router to ensure proper communication with the NTP server.

Note that when accessing a time server from this list be sure that it is designated for “open access.” View a list of public NTP time servers.

What is SNTP?

Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) is a simplified version of NTP, which is used in cases where a full implementation of NTP is not required. Because SNTP uses the same packet format as NTP, SNTP clients can utilize NTP servers. (SNTP is defined in RFCs 1361,2030 & 4330.)

SNTP is implemented on the PoE clock. By default, SNTP time synchronization is performed once per hour, which keeps the displayed time within 200 ms of actual time. (For more information on how to configure your clock for an SNTP server see How do I configure my PoE clock for an SNTP Time Server? below)

What is International Atomic Time?

International Atomic Time is an international time standard derived from 200 atomic clocks in 50 national laboratories from around the world. The readings from these clocks are used to form the standard for Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which governs global time-keeping.

Atomic clocks represent the top-level stratum of the NTP hierarchy.

What are Stratum?

The world of NTP is a hierarchy of reference clocks and time servers. At the top of the hierarchy are reference clocks known as stratum 0 time sources, which are typically atomic clocks or Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.

A server that is linked to a stratum 0 device is called a stratum 1 server. The link itself is provided by a direct connection to the stratum 0 device (not via a network link), such as via WWV (high-frequency radio waves from NIST), GPS, or dial-up modem connection. Stratum 1 servers are the top level NTP servers available over the Internet.

Building on the NTP hierarchy, a stratum 2 server gets its time over the network from a stratum 1 server, a stratum 3 server from a stratum 2 server, and so on (up to stratum 15).

In essence then, the stratum defines the number of steps that a server is from a primary time source.

It’s also worth noting that NTP servers operating in the same stratum may be associated with one another in a peer-to-peer fashion. This is done so that a higher quality of time can be achieved and so that the servers can synchronize to the most accurate time setting amongst peers.

 How do I configure my PoE clock for SNTP?

When your clock ships, it is preconfigured with an SNTP time server setting, which, depending on the vintage of the firmware, is one of the following:

  • ntp.inovasolutions.com
  • time.nist.gov (the default for older firmware versions)

Note: In some cases, at the customer’s request, Inova Solutions pre-configures clocks for another time server than those listed above.

Perform these steps to change your clock’s time server setting:

  1. Start a telnet session with the clock. (See How do I log into my clock to configure it? if you’re not sure how.)
  2. At the telnet command prompt (iclock />), type one of the following commands and press Enter:
Item  Telnet command options
Time source, by IP address sntp -h xxx.xxx.xxx.xxxwhere the xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx is the assigned static IP address of the time server. Note the space before and after -h.
Time source, by hostname sntp -h hostnamewhere hostname is the hostname of the time server. Note the space before and after -h.

Note: Because IP addresses change all the time, it’s wiser to use a hostname than a static IP address when referencing an NTP server on the Internet.

What’s an Appropriate NTP Architecture?

As a general rule, it’s wise to have an internal time server on your network to support your PoE clocks. This is particularly true if you are deploying a number of PoE clocks. Here are some reasons why this is important:

  1. If you have a large number of clocks independently referencing the same external time server, you may possibly run afoul of the external time server’s network access policy (by accessing the time server more frequently than its open access policy allows).
  2. An internal time server reduces Internet traffic, and helps secure timekeeping on the network.

Secure timekeeping on the network is important because opening your network to NTP (port 123) traffic allows for the possibility of these types of hacker intrusions:

  • Sending too much data in the NTP packet, thus causing the NTP service to become overloaded and resulting in a denial of time services attack.
  • Sending specially constructed packets that essentially “take over” machines within your network (by using the same privileges as the NTP service running on those machines) and, in so doing, allowing the intruder to mask the break-in by resetting the time on those machines, making it impossible to effectively reconstruct the exact sequence of events that lead to the break-in.

By deploying your own internal time server, which alone references an external time source or time server (i.e., typically a stratum 2 server), you can construct the most robust form of NTP architecture for the PoE clocks on your network. You can also minimize the amount of network management required to accomplish the goal of secure and accurate timekeeping.

Thanks to Inova Solutions  for the article.

Why Your Network Needs Synchronized Time

What do want from time Synchronization?

We often respond to questions about whether a customer needs an accurate and reliable time source for their network, and if so, which time source do I need. The answer to this depends primarily on the size of your network, and the how accurate a time source you need for your business.

If you have a smaller network, timing is probably not that critical, but as you add more servers, workstations, and devices such as IP phones, accurate time becomes more important. A typical first step is to point a server or a router to an internet time source and everything on the network gets its time from that server or router.

As your network continues to grow, that same internet time source may not be reliable, secure or accurate enough to keep your network in sync. At that point installing an NTP or PTP GPS time source becomes much more critical

Why does the Time not stay the same on all devices?

Every element in the network has an internal clock but due to things like the quality and age of the oscillator and the working temperature these internal clocks will drift. A server working under load generating more heat will drift a different rate than a server under normal load.

This means that each element in the network is drifting at a different rate and the end result is no two elements have the same exact time.

Who really needs accurate time within their network?

The most common reason that companies need synchronized time is for maintaining Log file accuracy. As the number of servers grow you depend on your log files to troubleshoot and integrate with your Network Management and Security systems. If you have a mis-match time between log file entries your network management system reports begin to lose integrity, and you end up spending more time debugging and matching up multiple log files.

As servers become faster, granularity and accuracy of these time stamps become much more important and you need a more precise time source to eliminate the chance of log entries having the same time stamps, when the process is sequential. In some cases there is a legal requirement to have accurate time stamps and other areas include access, security, and authentication.

When deciding on a time server you need to take into consideration the accuracy, the reliability and security of the time source. We would be happy to help you decide which GPS time source, NTP or PTP, is best for your network.

NetClock® GPS Time Server/ Master Clock at APCO 2012

Spectracom NetClock 9483Synchronize Critical Systems and Operations to Coordinate Emergency Efforts with Legally Traceable Time

Spectracom’s NetClock 9483 offers a versatile modular design that’s fully NENA compliant and tailored especially for Emergency Communication Center applications. Our 5th generation NetClock continues the legacy of compliance with NENA PSAP Master Clock Standard #04-002 and NENA Security Standard #75-001 including added features to support NG-911 initiatives.

A key feature of the 9483 is its capability of time-synchronizing multiple separate networks. The modular design provides expansion card slots, one of which is the multi-network port GigE option card providing synchronization for up to (4) networks simultaneously. Cards can be selected at time of order, or field upgradeable in the future as system requirements change and evolve.

NetClock 9483 features include:

  • Synchronizes 9-1-1 systems, computer networks, CAD, radio consoles, VoIP, voice and video recorders, ANI/ALI, display clocks
  • Precision GPS time reference with OCXO oscillator for GPS back-up
  • Multi-network port card for separate, isolated networks
  • Optional feature of Dual- Redundant (AC/DC) power
  • Optional T1/E1 timing card•Optional Precision Time Protocol (PTP IEEE-1588) master/slave card
  • Backward compatibility to all previous NetClock designs and their interfaces
  • 5 year warranty

If you are attendiing APCO conference come see us Booth #1207 or contact us here for more information