There has been some concern recently about the GPS rollover which brings back memories of the famous Y2K bug from 1999. Some GPS systems could indeed go haywire this weekend as the 24 Global Positioning System or GPS satellites that orbit the Earth constantly will go 20 years out of date at 7:59 pm ET suddenly. Given the importance of the GPS system, this should theoretically cause problems for critical infrastructure in transport and communications. However, that really won’t be the case.
This limitation has long been known since GPS satellites tally time by weeks. When the system went online in the 1980s, it only had enough storage to remember 1,024 weeks. So when that limit was hit on Saturday night, the counters reset to 0. It wasn’t really a problem when the first rollover happened in August 1999 but it’s pertinent to mention that there are considerably more GPS systems in use today than there were back then.
The Air Force runs the satellites and it confirmed that the likelihood of this causing problem in the real-world was slow. Many agencies including the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have been warning navigation systems manufacturers, financial systems, airlines, and more about this rollover for over two years now.
The Air Force added that this limit is well known and has widely been planned for. Devices and systems that were made in the last 10 years should have been coded already to account for this rollover. This will likely be the last time that we have to worry about something like this. The systems are being upgraded to 13-bit storage which would eliminate the need for a rollover for at least 157 years.