In preparation for upcoming fieldwork, Hydrobiology have been busy updating the firmware on our fleet of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. On the 6th of April 2019 the world awaited what could have been the Y2K Bug of this generation. Although, what is the issue and why should we all be updating our handheld devices? Let’s roll back the clock to the 6th January 1980, when the GPS epoch began.
Since then, the date transmitted with every GPS message from satellites orbiting the Earth was not in the Gregorian calendar (YYYY.DD.MM) format which environmental surveyors understand. The GPS date in fact, is packaged into a 10-bit binary code representing the week number since those heady days back in January 1980, incrementing by 1 each week to a maximum of 1,024 (or once every 19.69 years). That is, the week number can have 2^10 possible unique values.
Once the internal GPS system time reaches this point it automatically reverts to zero. This event happened back in 1999 before GPS devices became widely available, so with the recent date reset it is strongly advised that we update the firmware on our devices to prevent any currently undiagnosed Y2K-esque bugs upsetting our field work. That is unless you are one of those rare species of surveyor, that appreciates having an excuse for getting “geographically confused” in the field.