Computer News & Safety – Harry Waldron Rotating Header Image

February 13th, 2019:

Technology – Older unpatched GPS devices may have a Y2K like bug on April 6 2019

Older & unpatched GPS devices had a design storage limitation issue for 20 years until an overflow high order truncation occurs … A few devices could possibly fail on April 6, 2019 and this article promotes need to apply patches where they are available.

https://www.pcmag.com/news/366521/your-gps-devices-may-stop-working-on-april-6

The way in which GPS stores timestamps means that on April 6, the week number will reset to zero unless older GPS devices are patched. Otherwise they could simply stop working.  Remember the Y2K bug? It didn’t turn out to be the disaster everyone predicted, but come April 6 this year, we could be facing a similar disaster, only this time it’s GPS devices rather than computers that may grind to a halt.

As The Register reports, the problem stems from the fact GPS signals include a timestamp and part of the timestamp is a week number stored as ten binary bits. Ten bits allows it to store 1,024 weeks before it resets, which means the reset happens after roughly 20 years. On April 6, that reset happens, potentially causing GPS devices around the world to stop working.

The good news is, existing GPS devices can be patched to avoid this being a problem. However, a patch being available depends on how old your device is and how reliable the company who sold it to you is for issuing software updates. If your device isn’t patched, then it will revert to an earlier period of time and GPS positioning will most likely fail.