India seeking to set the clock right by legalising Indian Standard Time | india news | Hindustan Times
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India seeking to set the clock right by legalising Indian Standard Time

At present, Microsoft software or iPhone users get the time sourced from US-based Network Time Protocol. Once IST becomes legal, users will not be allowed to use any other time other than the one generated by National Physical Laboratory.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2018 07:51 IST
Victorian clock tower in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. India’s Legal Metrology Act, 2009, which provides for enforcement of standards of weights and measures and regulates trade based on these measures, does not recognise IST as the legal time of the country.
Victorian clock tower in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. India’s Legal Metrology Act, 2009, which provides for enforcement of standards of weights and measures and regulates trade based on these measures, does not recognise IST as the legal time of the country.(Getty Images)

India is seeking to legalise Indian Standard Time, which means all service providers across the country will have to take time from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the official timekeeper of the nation, as the country becomes more serious about security and cautious about cyber attacks (both areas where a fraction of a second could be critical).

Currently, for hundreds of millions of Indians using Microsoft software or iPhones, the time on their devices is likely sourced from Network Time Protocol servers based in the US.

“It (the time) differs by one to several seconds for users, depending on where it is sourced from. In most cases, this is from the US-based servers or GPS, which is also a US-owned technology,” said Dinesh K Aswal,director, NPL.

Once IST becomes legal, users will not be allowed to use any other time other than the time generated by NPL.

“When it comes to security, including defence and cyber security, ATM and online transactions, even seconds make a difference,” Ashish Agarwal, a scientist at NPL, said.

KEEPING TIME
  • The National Physical Laboratory in Delhi has two types of precise atomic clocks — five Caesium clocks and one Active Hydrogen Maser Clock from Russia.
  • An atomic clock, unlike conventional clocks, doesn’t rely on quartz crystal vibrations. Instead, it uses the transition of a Caesium atom from one energy level to the next.
  • • There is an ensemble of over 400 Caesium clocks across the world, including the five at NPL.
  • The International Bureau of Weights and Measures is responsible for averaging the time spread across these clocks and determining the Universal Coordinated Time to ensure the start of each second is the same across the world.

India’s Legal Metrology Act, 2009, which provides for enforcement of standards of weights and measures and regulates trade based on these measures, does not recognise IST as the legal time of the country.

The Tatkal ticketing system of Indian Railways is one way of explaining why India needs a legal synchronised time. If the railways is using IST sourced from NPL and a customer’s phone is using network time, the lack of synchronisation between the two could mean no tickets left when the customer logs in.

“We are pushing for nation, one time, so there is only one source of Indian Standard Time,” Agarwal added.

Currently, the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Indian Air Force, airports and several banks use IST generated by NPL.

Before amending the Legal Metrology Act to include IST, adequate infrastructure will have to be put in place to disseminate the time.