What Are High-resolution Timers

High-resolution Timers with modern technology, precision, and accuracy are paramount. High-resolution timers have emerged as a crucial component in achieving these goals. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of high-resolution timers, exploring their functionality, applications, and the benefits they offer to various industries.

Welcome to this presentation on the STM32G4 High-Resolution Timer. This session will explore the primary features for effectively handling the intricate waveforms necessary for digital power conversion applications.

What Are High-Resolution Timers?

High-resolution timers are advanced timekeeping mechanisms that accurately measure and track time intervals. Unlike conventional timers operating at relatively lower resolutions, high-resolution timers can capture time increments at micro or even nanosecond levels. This heightened accuracy makes them indispensable in fields where precise timing is imperative, such as telecommunications, aerospace, scientific research, and computer systems.

How Do High-Resolution Timers Work

High-resolution timers utilize specialized hardware and software components to achieve unparalleled accuracy in timekeeping. These timers often rely on crystal oscillators, which generate stable and precise clock signals. Additionally, they incorporate sophisticated algorithms and circuitry to minimize jitter and latency, ensuring reliable performance even in demanding environments.

Applications of High-Resolution Timers

Telecommunications: In telecommunications networks, high-resolution timers are crucial in synchronizing data transmission, minimizing latency, and optimizing network performance. They enable precise timing for packet switching, signal processing, and network synchronization protocols.

Aerospace and Defense: The aerospace and defense industries rely on high-resolution timers for various critical applications, including navigation systems, missile guidance, radar tracking, and satellite communication. These timers facilitate precise timing synchronization in mission-critical operations, enhancing overall performance and safety.

Scientific Research: In scientific laboratories, high-resolution timers are indispensable for conducting experiments, data acquisition, and instrumentation. Researchers leverage these timers to precisely measure reaction times, analyze waveforms, and synchronize multiple instruments, enabling groundbreaking discoveries across various disciplines.

Computer Systems: High-resolution timers are integral to the efficient operation of modern computer systems. They facilitate accurate timestamping, scheduling tasks, and optimizing system performance. Operating systems utilize high-resolution timers for process scheduling, power management, and realtime, realtime event handling.

Industrial Automation: Industries such as manufacturing, automotive, and robotics utilize high-resolution timers for process control, machinery synchronization, and precision timing in automated systems. These timers enable seamless coordination of manufacturing processes, ensuring efficiency, quality, and safety.

Benefits of High-Resolution Timers

Enhanced Precision: High-resolution timers offer unparalleled accuracy, allowing for precise measurement and control of time-sensitive processes. This precision is essential in applications where even minor deviations can have significant consequences.

Improved Performance: High-resolution timers enhance the overall performance of systems and networks by minimizing latency and jitter. They enable faster data transmission, reduced response times, and smoother operation, improving user experience and productivity.

Increased Reliability: The use of high-resolution timers greatly enhances the reliability of systems and devices. Their precise timing ensures consistent operation, reducing the likelihood of errors, malfunctions, and system failures.

Optimized Efficiency: High-resolution timers enable efficient resource utilization by accurately scheduling tasks, minimizing idle time, and optimizing energy consumption. This efficiency translates to cost savings and improved resource management across various industries.

Support for Realtime Applications: High-resolution timers are indispensable for realtime realtime applications that demand rapid response and precise timing. They enable the timely execution of critical tasks, such as control loops, data acquisition, and multimedia processing, ensuring smooth and uninterrupted operation.

Utilizing High-Resolution Timers: A Comprehensive Guide

Utilizing High-Resolution Timers with Linux Kernel: Requirements and Best Practices

There are no particular prerequisites for effectively leveraging high-resolution timers in the Linux kernel aside from having a recent glibc. Once high-resolution timers are enabled in the Linux kernel, functions such as nano sleep, timers, and posix timers automatically switch to high-resolution mode without requiring changes to the source code. Dynamic priority support for high-resolution timers also extends the threat meme preemption patch.

However, where alignment preemption is enabled, delivering signals at the expiration of timer and posix interval timers becomes challenging. This is because signal delivery cannot occur in the challenging interrupt context of the high-resolution timer interrupt due to locking constraints. Instead, it must happen in a thread context to avoid long latencies. Although separating softirq threads in the real-tirealtimeme preemption patch improved behavior, there remained a lingering issue: the hr timers softirq thread could still experience arbitrary delays caused by higher-priority tasks.

One proposed solution was to elevate the priority of the hr timer softirq thread. However, this approach resulted in all timer-related signals being delivered at high priority, introducing latency impacts to high-priority tasks. A previous version of the real-tirealtimeme preemption patch addressed this by dynamically adjusting the softirq priority depending on the task’s priority for which the signal needed delivery.

Unfortunately, this functionality was removed while reworking the high-resolution timer patches due to a subtle race condition with the Priority Inheritance code. However, this feature could be re-implemented with the new design of RT-Mutexes and core PI support in the scheduler. The improvement was evident, as observed on a Pentium III 400 MHz test machine, where the maximum user space latency for a thread awaiting periodic signal delivery significantly decreased from approximately 400 to about 90 microseconds under full system load.

It’s important to note that functions like (clock_)nanosleep do not encounter this problem, as the wakeup function at timer expiry executes in the context of the high-resolution timer interrupt. It’s advisable to use the clock_nanosleep() function with the TIMER_ABSTIME flag set for applications not utilizing asynchronous signal handlers instead of waiting for periodic timer signal delivery. Although the application must manage the absolute expiry time for the next interval, this operation is lightweight, involving adding and normalizing two struct timespec values. The payoff is significantly reduced maximum latencies (approximately 50 microseconds) and reduced OS overhead in general.

Management of Clock Events

Clock sources offer read access to the continuously increasing time value, while clock event devices are pivotal in scheduling the next event interrupt(s). These events are set to occur periodically, with their periods predefined during compilation. However, the setup and selection of event devices for various functionalities are hardcoded into architecture-dependent code. This leads to code duplication across architectures and makes it challenging to configure the system to use different event interrupt devices beyond those embedded in the architecture. Moreover, introducing new functionalities like high-resolution timers or dynamic ticks requires modifications to all architecture-specific implementations.

To address these issues, the clock events subsystem introduces a generic solution for managing clock event devices and their utilization across various kernel functionalities. The primary objective is to minimize architecture-dependent code related to clock events to hardware-specific handling and facilitate adding and utilizing new clock event devices. Additionally, it aims to reduce code duplication by providing generic functionality down to the interrupt service handler, which inherently depends on hardware.

Clock event devices are registered during boot by architecture-dependent code or at module insertion time. Each device populates a data structure with clock-specific properties and callback functions. Based on specified property parameters, the clock event management determines the set of system functions supported by each device. This includes distinguishing between per-CPU and system-level global event devices.

System-level global event devices handle Linux periodic ticks, while per-CPU event devices cater to local CPU functionalities such as process accounting, profiling, and high-resolution timers.

The management layer assigns one or more functions to each clock event device, including:

1: System global periodic tick (jiffies update)

2: CPU local update_process_times

3: CPU local profiling

4: CPU local next event interrupt (non-periodic mode)

These timer interrupt-related functions are assigned entirely to the clock management layer. This approach eliminates redundant code from architecture-specific timer interrupt handlers, centralizes control over clock event devices, and assigns timer interrupt-related functionality to the core code.

The clock event layer API is concise, offering functions for clock event device registration, scheduling the next event interrupt, event notification service, and support for suspend and resume operations.

While the framework adds approximately 700 lines of code, resulting in a 2KB increase in the kernel binary size, the conversion for i386 reduces about 100 lines of code. The net decrease in binary size is around 400 bytes. The added flexibility and reduction of duplicated code across architectures justify the modest increase in binary size.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are high-resolution timers?

High-resolution timers are advanced timekeeping mechanisms that accurately measure and track time intervals. Unlike conventional timers operating at lower resolutions, high-resolution timers can capture time increments at micro or even nanosecond levels.

What are the benefits of using high-resolution timers?

Using high-resolution timers offers several benefits, including enhanced precision and accuracy in time-sensitive applications. These timers enable more precise process synchronization, leading to improved performance, reliability, and efficiency. Additionally, they support the implementation of advanced functionalities such as realtime data processing and synchronization in various industries.

Where are high-resolution timers commonly used?

High-resolution timers are used in various industries, including telecommunications, aerospace, scientific research, computer systems, and industrial automation. They are utilized in network synchronization, signal processing, instrumentation, process control, and timing critical operations in realtime systems.

How do high-resolution timers work?

High-resolution timers typically rely on specialized hardware components such as crystal oscillators to generate stable clock signals. These timers incorporate sophisticated algorithms and circuitry to minimize jitter and latency, ensuring reliable performance even in demanding environments. They are often integrated into operating systems for precise timing for various tasks and processes.

Are there any special requirements for using high-resolution timers?

While there are no specific requirements for using high-resolution timers besides having a recent glibc, enabling them in the Linux kernel can provide access to advanced functionalities like nano sleep, timers, and posix timers without requiring changes to the source code.

Can high-resolution timers be used in realtime systems?

Yes, high-resolution timers are commonly used in realtime systems where precise timing is critical. They facilitate tasks such as event scheduling, data acquisition, and control loop execution with high accuracy. They make them indispensable in applications where timing is crucial, such as aerospace, automotive, and industrial automation.


High-resolution timers represent a cornerstone of modern technology, providing the precision and accuracy required for a wide range of applications. From telecommunications and aerospace to scientific research and industrial automation, these timers are pivotal in enhancing performance, reliability, and efficiency. As technology advances, the importance of high-resolution timers will only grow, driving innovation and enabling new possibilities in the digital age.

Despite the challenges and complexities in managing high-resolution timers, advancements in kernel functionalities and realtime systems continue to refine their utilization, paving the way for further innovation and optimization in time-sensitive applications. As technology evolves, the significance of high-resolution timers will only continue to grow, driving advancements and enabling new possibilities in the digital age.

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