In any hydrographic survey system that consists of more than one computer, one of the most difficult integration problems is to ensure that all components maintain a coherent sense of time. Since virtually all modern survey systems are of this type, timekeeping and synchronized timestamping of data as it is created is of significant concern. This paper describes a method for resolving this problem based on the IEEE 1588 Precise Time Protocol (PTP) implemented by hardware devices, layered with some custom software called the Software Grandmaster (SWGM) algorithm. This combination of hardware and software maintains a coherent sense of time between multiple ethernet-connected computers, on the order of 100 ns (rms) in the best case, of the timebase established by the local GPS-receiver clock. We illustrate the performance of this techniques in a practical survey system using a Reson 7P sonar processor connected to a Reson 7125 Multibeam Echosounder (MBES), integrated with an Applanix POS/MV 320 V4 and a conventional data capture computer. Using the timing capabilities of the PTP hardware implementations, we show that the timepieces achieve mean (hardware based) synchronization and timestamping within 100-150 ns (rms), and that the data created at the Reson 7P without hardware timestamps has a latency variability of 28 µs (rms) due to software constraints within the capture system. This compares to 288 ms (rms) using Reson’s standard hybrid hardware/software solution, and 13.6 ms (rms) using a conventional single-oscillator timestamping model.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

U.S. Hydrographic Conference

Conference Date

May 14 - May 18, 2007

Publisher Place

Norfolk, VA, USA


Hydrographic Society of America

Document Type

Conference Proceeding