The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology has announced plans to upgrade its radio station WWVB, which broadcasts standard time and frequency signals. A new transmitter, scheduled to be in service by September 1997, will increase the radiated power of the 60 kilohertz signal fourfold or greater and provide more reliable coverage to the far corners of the continental United States, Mexico and Southern Canada.
WWVB signals can be used to set clocks to a few hundredths of a second. They also serve as a frequency reference with an uncertainty of one part in 1012.
The station's present output power of about 10 kilowatts broadcasts a signal strong enough to reach most of the continental United States but requires users at great distances from the transmitter to install bulky antennas for reliable service. The WWVB improvements will increase the station's power to well over 40 kilowatts, yielding a signal strong enough to be handled by smaller antennas throughout the United States, Mexico and Southern Canada.
"In fact," says Don Sullivan, chief of NIST's Time and Frequency Division, "this will make it possible to build automatic, WWVB-controlled clocks into all kinds of appliances, even wristwatches. Resetting clocks all over your house after power outages could become a thing of the past." He feels receivers for such clocks could eventually be manufactured in quantity for less than $10 each.
The new transmitting equipment was obtained from the U.S. Navy and is already on site at the station, located a few miles north of Ft. Collins, Colo. A new addition to an existing building is being added to house the transmitter.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.