The UK Government Office for Science released on January 30th, 2018, an 86-pages report entitled “Satellite-derived Time and Position: A Study of Critical Dependencies” (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/676675/satellite-derived-time-and-position-blackett-review.pdf), delving the dependency of many UK service and critical infrastructures on the synchronization of their clock across geographically distributed networks. And on the fact that this synchronization is obtained using GNSS.
“So effective are global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) at delivering two essential services – time and position – accurately, reliably and cheaply that many aspects of the modern world have become dependent upon them. Alternative means exist for deriving time and position, but – for the majority of users, at least – they cannot compete on price or convenience.” is written in the report.
The UK scientists point out the vulnerability of the GNSS receivers to the threats posed by accidental and deliberate interference and cyber-attack, which are recognized as steadily evolving. Therefore, they write, “improving the resilience of our position, navigation and time-dependent services – particularly for critical infrastructure and to support future applications – is vitally important.”
The applications investigated, in terms of requirements, dependencies, alternatives to GNSS and trends, are those related to the existing critical national infrastructure (telecoms, emergency services, energy, finance, food and transport), but also future digitally-based infrastructure (5G, electricity system management, autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things).
The report comes up with a set of clear recommendations to the operators of critical national infrastructure and several governmental agencies and departments to take actions able to mitigate those dependencies and to foster approaches for developing standards and regulation in this area. One of the preferred ways is the identification of GNSS-independent back-up systems, and their coordinated introduction in a more resilient national infrastructure.