Why the Apple Watch will be the most accurate way to ring in the New Year


Rhiannon Williams

December 31, 2015

Apple’s Kevin Lynch explains why the Apple Watch’s carefully coordinated software makes it the most accurate method of counting in the New Year

As 2015 draws to a close, the world will start its own collective countdowns to usher in the New Year. This is the first 31st December that people will be wearing Apple Watches to herald the arrival of 2016, which will be, according to one executive, the most accurate way to count down the seconds.

Kevin Lynch, vice president of technology at the Californian company, whom you may recognise from the Apple Watch sections of Apple’s recent keynotes, oversees the device’s software development team.

“When we were designing the Apple Watch, we really focused on accuracy. If you’re in a room on New Year’s Eve wearing one, you will be the best reference for when the New Year actually begins,” he says.

“The second hand on every Apple Watch is perfectly in sync, and each device is accurate to 50 milliseconds of Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC), the world’s time standard, which is below human perception, so when you look at it you can’t tell the difference,” he explains.

Lynch visited London’s Greenwich, where the eastern and western hemispheres of the earth divide in the Prime Meridian of the world, or Longitude zero degrees. The Apple Watch’s reference time is taken from the US equivalent, the naval astronomical observatory in Washington, which houses a number of atomic clocks, which use electromagnetic signals generated by atoms to tell the time as accurately as possible.

“Atomic clocks measure time using the resonant frequency of a caesium atom – an atomic element – which works out the seconds for us,” he says. “Their time is served to GPS satellites which orbit the earth, where high-precision time is used to help determine location. That time is then broadcast, and we deployed servers around the world to receive these signals from GPS satellites and serve the time with a time server, which in turn talks to the Watches.”

Apple built its own Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers at various locations to ensure the delivered time is as close as possible to Stratum One accuracy, the time server which keeps the Apple Watch within microseconds of Stratum Zero devices – the highest possible quality for time references.

Once the time reaches the Apple Watch, the team worked to ensure it remains accurate, he says. Each device uses a temperate controlled crystal oscillator to counteract the natural drift that clocks and watches tend to experience over time.

This can also be affected by climate, meaning if you live in a colder environment, watches are likely to be less accurate than when used in a warm climate. The technology manages the temperature of the crystal to prevent the device from getting too cold.

Lynch’s team also used high-speed cameras to test the Apple Watch’s accuracy, filming at 1,000 frames per second to create millisecond-precision. The watch face is then overlaid with the time from an atomic clock housed in Apple’s testing lab in order to pair the Watch’s time with the true time.

As for Lynch himself, he will be spending New Year’s Eve in snowy Lake Tahoe, close to the Yosemite National Park Apple drew inspiration from when naming its Mac OS X 10.10 software last year. So wherever you are in the world for the final moments of 2015, make it count.

This article was written by Rhiannon Williams from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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