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Older GPS devices are facing their own mini-Y2K bug next month

Do you have a GPS device or are you using a device that requires GPS to operate? If so, it may now be a good time to check if these products are protected from the problem of the GPS week number rollover or not – a kind of mini-Y2K bug for GPS receivers starting from the 6th of April this year will come into force.

The bug is not devastating and should only affect a small number of GPS devices. However, this could have serious consequences for the affected devices, resetting the receiver's time and damaging the location data. However, older devices are at risk, and if you only use a commercial device, the problem is quite simple: Check that the software is up-to-date.

TomTom has informed customers that "if you update your device frequently, there is no cause for concern" as a fix has already been provided. (You can also use the serial number to see if your device is affected.) Garmin claims the device is currently testing its devices for problems, but "the vast majority of Garmin GPS products handle the event without any problem." And an official memorandum from The Department of Homeland Security states that GPS receivers that use the latest IS-GPS-200 standard and are connected to UTC "should not be compromised."

If you are not sure if your device is covered, contact the manufacturer.

With TomTom, users can use the serial number to see if their device is affected.

The rollover problem itself is caused by the fact that GPS systems count weeks with a ten-bit parameter. This means they start counting from week zero and reset at week 1,024. The first count (or "GPS epoch") began on January 6, 1980, and the first recruiting took place on August 21, 1999. That means the next is due on April 6 of this year.

When the rollover occurs, older devices may reset their date, potentially damaging navigation data and discarding location estimates. GPS is based on accurate timing data to operate, and every nanosecond that the clock is broadcasting is transmitted to a location error.

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