New research project improves the reliability of accurate time and positioning

The world would stop if it were not for time signals transmitted by satellites. Financial systems, the power grid and mobile networks, as well as many critical infrastructures in society, need accurate time. In reality, positioning is also based on accurate measurements of time. A new research project aims to develop the reliability and availability of accurate time and positioning.

A photo of a city.
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‘Financial systems may seem abstract and distant. In real life, a disturbance might mean that a credit card does not work when paying for groceries,’ says Sanna Kaasalainen, head of department at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) of the National Land Survey of Finland (NLS).

The name of the research project is Safety and availability of geospatial information in critical infrastructures. Other partners of the FGI-led project are the University of Helsinki and VTT. 

In the project, the University of Helsinki and FGI are developing AI applications that improve the reliability of positioning and secure accurate positioning data, also during disruptions.

‘Deep learning has revolutionised research and development in many sectors and brought massive improvements to system performance. Now, our goal is to develop ground-breaking methods to secure satellite positioning by means of deep learning,’ says Laura Ruotsalainen, associate professor at the University of Helsinki.

Researchers will use deep learning to help to identify signal deviations and forecast situations where time and positioning signals are unavailable. 

The project parties will also develop methods for an accurate and satellite-independent determination of time that would work in broad areas. 

‘The most accurate and reliable way to transfer time signals is to use optical fibres, but their coverage is not exhaustive. The availability of fibre-optic time is very limited compared with satellite signals that are available practically everywhere,’ says Thomas Fordell, senior scientist at VTT.

‘We need a backup system for satellite time signals, with reasonable maintenance costs. No comprehensive backup system yet exists,’ Kaasalainen summarises.

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is maintained by national metrology institutes using hundreds of atomic clocks. In Finland, VTT MIKES maintains UTC.  

Funded by the Academy of Finland, the project will be completed in November 2023.

More information

Sanna Kaasalainen, head of department, National Land Survey of Finland, +358 50 369 6806, firstname.lastname@nls.fi

Laura Ruotsalainen, associate professor, University of Helsinki, +358 50 556 0761, firstname.lastname@helsinki.fi

Thomas Fordell, senior scientist, VTT, +358 50 443 4218, firstname.lastname@vtt.fi

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