If you use your smartphone for GPS navigation, or pretty much any other GPS receiver released in the past decade you can probably ignore the rest of this article. But if you have an older GPS receiver, it may malfunction on or around April 6, 2019.
That’s because the GPS system works to identify location using GPS Time, a “weighted average of GPS satellites and ground station clocks.” And GPS Time is about to reset on April 6th, which could cause some older devices to reset their clocks to sometime in 1980 or 1999… which would lead to inaccurate navigation results.
The problem arises from the fact that GPS time uses a 10-bit binary parameter for the week, which means it can only count to 1023, and then it resets to zero.
Newer GPS receivers should be able to handle the roll-over seamlessly, but if you have an older device like an in-car system, it may not be able to function properly after the change unless a firmware update is available.
That may cause some inconvenience for some folks that have been using the same navigation system in their automobiles for years. But the solution could be as simple as switching to your phone or buying a new device for your car.
It’s probably going to be a bigger headache for businesses and government organizations that rely on GPS. For example, the US Department of Energy notes that there could be an impact on electricity transmission and distribution if utility companies don’t take proper steps to prepare.