Just about everything that tells time these days is connected to the internet and automatically sets the time for you. Your microwave is likely one of the few things you have to set manually, and half of you probably haven’t even bothered doing that. If you’re building your own clock, however, it seems like overkill to add WiFi capability just to sync the time. That’s why Forklift’s nifty digital clock syncs the time from GPS satellites.
To be clear, a GPS module will cost you more than a low-cost WiFi development board like an ESP8266. But, Forklift already had an unused u-blox NEO-7 GPS module laying around, and wanted to do something interesting with it. Time is an essential part of GPS calculations, and so GPS modules output the current time as a string every time they update. Forklift’s build takes advantage of that, and parses the data to display it on a custom digital clock.
The clock has a very nice wood enclosure, and the time is displayed on a set of four blue 4×7-segment LED displays. The time can be shown in a standard format with the year, month, day, hours, minutes, and seconds. Or, it can be shown in EPOCH time, which is a unique format common in Unix systems that shows the number of seconds elapsed since January 1st, 1970. An ATMega328P handles processing, and the UTC time offset is stored in EEPROM so that it’s retained through power cycles. The finished clock looks fantastic, and will continue to sync the time as long as GPS satellites are in orbit.