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Older GPS systems could see issues this weekend with 'rollover' event

If you have a GPS-device, you'll want to make sure its firmware or software is up to date to handle the 'GPS Week Number Rollover' on April 6.
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Person driving a car with satellite navigation.

The Global Positioning System will reach a historic milestone this weekend, but it could lead to some side-effects for older devices that people rely on for navigation. 

April 6 marks an event that's known as the 'GPS Week Number Rollover.' 

The Department of Homeland Security explained on its website that GPS uses a week counter that "to calculate the appropriate date. That week counter uses 10 bits and needs to be reset every 1,024 weeks—roughly every 20 years."

On April 6, 2019, the GPS week counter will reset again to zero. 

According to the GPS Innovation Alliance, GPS-enabled devices with current firmware or software shouldn't experience any issues with the rollover. Cell phones should also not be impacted, according to the alliance. 

The group's executive director, J. David Grossman, noted in a blog post that the rollover may affect the time and "in rarer cases the position output" for GPS receivers that are older or not up to date. 

The most important thing you can do to prepare? Make sure every device firmware or software is totally up to date. 

"Just as you would ensure that your computer or smartphone has the latest security patch, updating the software on a GPS-enabled device means you will benefit from the device manufacturers’ extensive testing and guidance," Grossman wrote.   

The first GPS count started on Jan. 6, 1980, and the first reset occurred on Aug. 21, 1999. 

Thankfully, there won't be another event like this for approximately 157 years because the latest generation of modernized GPS satellites increased the week number counter to 13 bits.  

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