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How a Radio-Controlled Clock Works

How a Radio-Controlled Clock Works

You’ve probably seen a radio-controlled clock before, even if you don’t realize it. These types of clocks operate on a different system than quartz clocks, incorporating radio technology to accurately tell time. Read on to learn how a radio-controlled clock works.

What Is a Radio-Controlled Clock?

A radio-controlled clock is a clock with radio technology inside of it that allows it to keep track of time. Typically, these clocks are nearly identical to other types of clocks, but in addition to their normal parts, they include an antenna and a circuit to pick up and read radio signals. Radio-controlled clocks are commonly referred to as atomic clocks, but, they are not the same and it’s important to note the distinction. While an atomic clock keeps time with an atomic oscillator, a radio clock keeps time with an internal radio that reads a signal from an atomic clock.

How They Work

So, now you know what they are, but how does a radio-controlled clock work? For a radio-controlled clock to keep the correct time, it must have not only a method of receiving the time, but also a source from which to receive it. In the U.S., that source is a radio signal from a station called WWVB, controlled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This low-frequency, 60 kHz signal broadcasts from an area near Fort Collins, Colorado, and carries a code made up of binary digits rather than a voice or other audio. Once this signal reaches the radios inside the clocks, those radios decode the digits to obtain the proper time. The clock then synchronizes itself to the time received from the signal and keeps time with its own oscillator until the next time it decodes the signal. Usually, clocks decode the signal only once or twice per day.

The connection of a radio-controlled clock to the consistent signal of a radio station makes these clocks quite reliable and accurate. Because they readjust themselves to the correct time each day, these clocks won’t experience the same loss or gain of time as clocks with crystal oscillators do. Radio-controlled clocks are also able to automatically adjust themselves based on time zones and daylight saving time. All in all, they make a great choice for businesses, schools, and other facilities alike. Have confidence in the accuracy of your clock by purchasing a radio-controlled, custom LED clock from BigTimeClocks today!