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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 09:11 GMT
Greenwich time gets online

Royal Observatory Greenwich: Historical home of time

Prime Minister Tony Blair gives his support to the creation of a standard internet time based on Greenwich Mean Time.

Downing Street confirmed Mr Blair is backing moves to create Greenwich Electronic Time (Get), which was formally launched on New Year's Day.

The idea of Get is to provide a common standard for all electronic commerce around the world.

A universal time system will be increasingly important to e-commerce
It would also maintain the status of the Greenwich Observatory as the home of time for the next millennium.

Get would work in a similar way to Greenwich Mean Time, under which time throughout the world is measured from a line of longitude which passes through the south east London site.

All e-mail messages and e-commerce transactions already carry a 'time stamp' based on Co-ordinated Universal Time - the modern equivalent of GMT.

But most computer clocks have software which converts e-mail and message dates into local time.

Supporters of Get argue that although that is adequate for personal e-mail, it is not suitable for global electronic trading.

They argue that as more companies go online, purchase and delivery times have to be exact across all time zones to avoid legal and logistical problems.

'More successful than Swatch'

Get is being spearheaded by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), a European online retail body whose members include IBM, Microsoft Corp, Marks & Spencer and the UK Post Office.

Mr Blair said he was "delighted that UK industry has taken the lead in building a key component of the emerging global electronic marketplace".

He said: "The Get website will turn GMT into a user-friendly e-commerce tool. Because of the Greenwich connection, it will be clearly branded as a UK service to global business, underlining the leading role UK companies are playing in the online marketplace."

The Get project will provide companies with software to ensure their computer clocks are accurate to Get, and a suite of tools to enable them to time-stamp all their e-commerce.

IMRG believes it will be more successful than an existing global internet time from Swiss watchmaker Swatch, which uses a meridian in Biel and divides the day into 1,000 "beats" of 1 minute 26.4 seconds.

IMRG project development manager Gareth Donovan told The Times newspaper: "Everybody throughout the world knows and understands what GMT is.

"Simply adding Get allows people to extrapolate that intrinsic knowledge and trust into the e-business and e-commerce environment."

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