UBlox UTC Time

I’ve just discovered a time sync error with one of my embedded GPS systems that is part of a wireless system for performance monitoring of sporting events. One of the devices that sends a UTC timestamp to establish the start of an event was sending a time that appeared to be over 10 seconds out of sync with the GPS transmitters attached to participants in the event. Further testing against a known time reference uncovered the exact time difference was 15 seconds in the future which is the current difference between UTC time and GPS time.

It appears the UBlox LEA-4H and LEA-4S GPS receivers send out GPS time in their NMEA sentences until they have received a valid almanac and this is the first occasion when the GPS transmitters didn’t have time before the start of the event to receive an almanac. The UBlox receivers only appear to have the necessary data output to discriminate between GPS and UTC time in the versions of their firmware loaded into GPS modules specifically targetted at timing applications. The embedded host computer that receives data from the wireless network has an Internet connection so the solution in this case will be to sync the embedded PC clock to an Internet time source so that future times received can be treated as GPS time. Maximum wireless network latency is guaranteed to be less than 10 seconds so this should be a reliable solution.

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