Master Clocks: What, Why, When, and How

When most people think of clocks, they usually think of the simple, run-of-the-mill clock most of us keep on the wall of our kitchen or the digital alarm clock we keep sitting on the bedside table. What we don’t think about is just how often we find ourselves adjusting these clocks for drifting due to mechanical error or lost power. The reason these clocks lack accuracy and dependability is because of the basic and unsophisticated nature of technology. Because independent clocks require manual intervention in order to keep correct time, industries such as education, healthcare, transportation, corporate and even government have relied upon the capable technology of master clocks.

What is a master clock?

A master clock is used for the synchronization of subsequent slave clocks within a system. For organizations that rely on accurate time throughout their facilities, a master clock is used to insure that all clocks in a building run on the same time by referencing to the master clock for a time source. These time inputs come from the use of a GPS receiver attached to the master clock or an (S)NTP server through the use of a network/internet connection.

So why use a synchronized master clock system?

Synchronous slave clocks are grouped together with the master clock using either network wired or wireless system technologies. In this way, slave clocks are able to frequently communicate with the master clock and adjust for time changes or even events such as Daylight Saving Time without human intervention.

What is perhaps most beneficial about the use of a master clock system is the use of its scheduling capabilities. Some master clocks come with relay features that allow other systems such as bells, alarms, heating and air-conditioning to be tied into the clock system. The relays can be programmed to ring bells and alarms or turn on heating and air conditioning at predetermined times. Individual schedules can be set for each relay, allowing businesses and institutions to be proactive. By eliminating the need for individual control over several different systems within a facility, more time may be spent tending to other important matters.

When should a master clock be used?

Not all situations necessitate the use of a master clock. For organizations such as corporate centers or universities, that may not need to interface with other systems, a master clock could be unnecessary. If so, IP may be a potential alternative. IP clocks can be individually programmed to retrieve time from an (S)NTP server directly through an Ethernet connection, eliminating the need for a master clock if accurate time synchronization is all that is desired.

When other groups, such as schools or hospitals need synchronized time, a master clock may be necessary to carry out daily functions efficiently. A high school, for example, may desire to tie their bell scheduling system into their clock system. For such various situations, installing a master clock is extremely beneficial to the flow of daily services offered within an organization.

How do you go about getting a synchronized clock system with a master clock?

Selecting an appropriate synchronized clock system for any situation can be challenging. Many factors come into to play when considering the individual needs and wants of a company. At The Sapling Company, our sales team is willing to work with our clients to ensure that a proper clock system is chosen to meet desired functions. For more information regarding clock systems and how a master clock may help your organization, feel free to contact Sapling directly.