What is Standard Time? | Origin, Working, Pros vs Cons

Also known as the ‘winter time’ or ‘normal time,’ standard time is a region or country’s authorized local time.

It differs from the local mean time insofar as the latter varies from place to place as it is determined by the sun’s position over the meridian running through a particular location.

In contrast, the standard time is set by a country or region’s law and administration. The aim is to synchronize the clocks of that country or region with a single standard time instead of local solar time that varies from place to place.

Key Takeaways

  1. Standard time is the system that divides the world into different time zones, each based on the sun’s position in the sky.
  2. Standard time is based on a 24-hour day, divided into 24 time zones, each one hour ahead or behind the adjacent time zone.
  3. Standard time is used to keep time consistent across different regions and to make it easier for people to schedule events and travel.
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Origin of the Standard Time

Standard time as a concept was introduced in the late nineteenth century when the local mean time or sundial time started acting as an obstruction in the path of administration, specifically railway administration.


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The prevalence of local time made it almost impossible for the administrators to create a uniform train timetable because of the temporal variation that the concept of sundial time created.

The problem was more predominantly felt in Canada and the United States, where the trains traverse longer distances, often passing through locations that differed from each other by several hours when considered under the concept of local time.

Accordingly, in the 1870s, Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian railway engineer, and planner, proposed a global standard time.

The idea was worked upon in 1884 by a delegation of 27 countries who gathered in Washington, D.C. The delegates agreed upon a timekeeping system fundamentally similar to what we use today, and in this way emerged the concept of standard time.

How does Standard Time work?

The international delegation 1884 divided the world into 24 time zones as the earth completes a 360° rotation in 24 hours.

Accordingly, these 24 time zones remain apart by 15° longitudes starting from the Prime Meridian or the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude running through an observatory of Greenwich, England) as the earth travels this much distance in one hour.

However, considering various nation-states and provincial and ocean boundaries, the boundaries of the 24 time zones designated by their location from the west or east of Greenwich have been altered.

Therefore, each country has fixed its standard time by holding its central meridian’s distance from the Prime Meridian as the standard meridian and its local time as the standard time.

The selection of standard meridian is made so that it is divisible by 7° 30′ or 150°. It makes it easier to calculate the distance between the Standard Meridian and the Prime Meridian in terms of the multiples of an hour or half an hour.

As standard time has been primarily introduced for administrative purposes, a country may choose to have multiple standard meridians to accommodate its administrative boundaries. Correspondingly, countries like the USA, Russia, France, Canada, and others have more than one standard time.

Advantages of Standard Time

The adoption of the concept of a universal standard time was not done without any purpose. The following are some of the significant advantages of standard time.

  1. Promotes administrative uniformity: Lack of administrative uniformity was why a universal standard time became the need of the hour.
  2. Promotes coordination of economic activities: A uniform clock time for an entire country or a geographical region helps coordinate economic exchanges and activities.
  3.  Generates a sense of belongingness:  A uniform clock time for an entire country generates a sense of harmony and togetherness within its population.
  4. Promotes national integration: The sense of belongingness generated by a uniform clock time helps advance national integration. 
  5. Helps fix DST: About 40 percent of the world’s countries, including the United States, use the standard time as a reference to set Daylight Saving Time during summer months.

Disadvantages of Standard Time

Although standard time is the predominant time concept followed by the world today, it is not without its limitations.

  1. Lack of synchronization of clocks with the earth’s rotation: Standardisation of time according to administrative borders often leads to deviation of the clock time from the earth’s rotation; therefore, the actual clock time is not always followed.
  2. Ignores the sun’s movement: Taking the local time of the central meridian of a country as the standard time often ignores the sun’s position in the far east and the far west of the country. Consequently, the residents often encounter problems with day and night.
  3. Wastage of energy resources: As standard time often deviates from the sun’s and the earth’s movement, a vast amount of energy resources encounter wastage. It happens due to the extended hours of economic activities and the resultant usage of power resources like electricity, petrol, diesel and the like.
  4. A problem for astronomers: Astronomers require the precise time of a particular location to enunciate their observations, which is impossible under a legally fixed clock time like the standard time.
  5. Have less effect on people’s daily activities: Even though the standard time of a country brings about uniformity in its administrative activities, its impact on ordinary people’s day-to-day activities is not that profound.
  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3105430
  2. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA77607935&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=10473572&p=AONE&sw=w
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