ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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You Snooze, You Win! Americans Gain Extra Hour of Sleep as Clocks Fall Back

Standards for clocks keep the nation running on time

New York, Oct 29, 2009

A much-appreciated extra hour of sleep is in store for many Americans this weekend as clocks “fall back” for the end of Daylight Saving Time, at 2:00 a.m. on November 1. Through the work of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and other standards developers, Americans from coast to coast can keep themselves in perfect time with safe and accurate clocks.

The United States Naval Observatory (USNO), whose primary function is to provide time for navigation and military purposes, and NIST, the country's national metrology institute and a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), cooperatively act as the country's official sources of time.

NIST also helps to define the official world time with the most accurate clock in the world. The NIST-F1 timepiece, a cesium atomic clock located at NIST's Boulder, Colorado, laboratories, uses lasers, sophisticated tracking devices, and cesium atoms to identify the characteristics that define the unit of time known as a "second." NIST-F1 is believed to be so precise that it will neither gain nor lose a second in nearly 20 million years. It is considered the official clock of the U.S. and is part of an international network of the world's atomic clocks that is used to define Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

While alarm clocks on nightstands and watches on wrists may not be as highly technical, they can still provide an accurate reading of the time on which Americans base their days.

Most alarm clocks are powered by electricity, receiving their energy through a plug in the wall. An International Standard developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) assures the safety of these devices. IEC 60335-2-26 Ed. 4.1 b:2008, Household and similar electrical appliances - Safety - Part 2-26: Particular requirements for clocks, applies to alarm clocks, spring-driven clocks with an electrically operated winding mechanism, and clocks incorporating driving means other than motors. It was developed by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 61, Safety of household and similar electrical appliances. Secretariat duties for TC 61 are performed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an ANSI member and audited designator. UL also serves as the U.S. National Committee (USNC)-approved U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Administrator to TC 61, carrying U.S. positions forward to the committee.

Beyond safety and accurate timekeeping, another important element of a clock is the ease in which it can be programmed and read. ISO 20282-1:2006, Ease of operation of everyday products - Part 1: Design requirements for context of use and user characteristics, was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) TC 159, Ergonomics, to assure that products such as watches and clocks are user-friendly. The ANSI-Accredited U.S. TAG Administrator for ISO TC 159 is the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES).

For more information on Daylight Saving Time, including information on which parts of the U.S. do not participate in turning back the clock, visit the NIST FAQ page.

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