This weekend, on April 6th, we’re having another Y2K. This one is on GPS devices, as they roll over from “week 1024” to “week 1.”
- Best case? Nothing happens.
- Not so great case? If you have a Garmin or a TomTom on which you rely for navigating, you could run into trouble.
- Worst case? Some experts warn that the power grid, transportation, and the financial system could be affected.
What’s this all about?
First, here’s what’s going on.
The rollover issue itself is caused by the fact that GPS systems count weeks using a ten-bit parameter. This means they start counting at week zero and reset when they hit week 1,024. The first count (or “GPS epoch”) started on January 6th, 1980, and the first reset took place on August 21st, 1999. That means the next one is due April 6th this year. (source)
The good news is, devices have successfully been through an epoch before. The bad news is, some devices could go haywire and we’re way more tied into the GPS grid than we were when it happened in ’99.
What’s the worst case scenario?
Relax. I don’t think planes will begin crashing into the ocean.
But, if you have an older device and you haven’t been updating it, there is the possibility that the epoch could cause big problems.
When the rollover happens older devices may reset their date, potentially corrupting navigation data and throwing off location estimates. GPS relies on precise timing data to operate, and each nanosecond the clock is out, translates into a foot of location error.
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