Timestamps and time zones

When working with timestamped data, it may be necessary to convert timestamp values to or from UTC, or to offset timestamp values by a fixed duration. The following sections describe how QuestDB handles timestamps natively, how to use built-in functions for working with time zone conversions, and general hints for working with time zones in QuestDB.

Timestamps in QuestDB#

The native timestamp format used by QuestDB is a Unix timestamp in microsecond resolution. QuestDB does not store time zone information alongside timestamp values and therefore it should be assumed that all timestamps are in UTC. The following example shows how a Unix timestamp in microseconds may be passed into a timestamp column directly:

CREATE TABLE my_table (ts timestamp, col1 int) timestamp(ts)
INSERT INTO my_table VALUES(1623167145123456, 12)
my_table
tscol1
2021-06-08T15:45:45.123456Z12

Timestamps may also inserted as strings in the following way:

INSERT INTO my_table VALUES('2021-06-08T16:45:45.123456Z', 13)
my_table
tscol1
2021-06-08T15:45:45.123456Z12
2021-06-08T16:45:45.123456Z13

QuestDB's internal time zone database#

In order to simplify working with time zones, QuestDB uses the tz time zone database which is standard in the Java ecosystem. This time zone database is used internally in time zone lookup and in operations relating to timestamp value conversion to and from time zones.

For this reason, a time zone may be referenced by abbreviated name, by full time zone name or by UTC offset:

AbbreviationTime zone nameUTC offset
ESTAmerica/New_York-05:00

Referring to time zones#

It's strongly advised not to use the three-letter ID or abbreviation for time zones for the following reason:

The same abbreviation is often used for multiple time zones (for example, "CST" could be U.S. "Central Standard Time" and "China Standard Time"), and the Java platform can then only recognize one of them

Therefore choosing a geographic region which observes a time zone ("America/New_York", "Europe/Prague") or a UTC offset value ("+02:00") is more reliable when referring to time zones. Instructions for converting to and from time zones are described in the Converting timestamps to and from time zones section below.

The current QuestDB time zone database uses the English locale but support for additional locales may be added in future. Referring to time zones which are outdated or not recognized results in a invalid timezone name error. The following resources may be used for hints how to refer to time zones by ID or offset:

info

Users should be aware that the time zone database contains both current and historic transitions for various time zones. Therefore time zone conversions must take the historic time zone transitions into account based on the timestamp values.

Updates to the time zone database#

The upstream project updates past time zones as new information becomes available. These changes are typically related to daylight saving time (DST) start and end date transitions and, on rare occasions, time zone name changes.

The tz database version used by QuestDB is determined by the JDK version used at build time and therefore updates to the time zone database are directly influenced by this JDK version. To find the JDK version used by a QuestDB build, run the following SQL:

SELECT build()
build
Build Information: QuestDB 6.0.3, JDK 11.0.7, Commit Hash a6afbadb9b9419d47cca1bf86fa13fdadf08bda4

Converting timestamps to and from time zones#

For convenience, QuestDB includes two functions for time zone conversions on timestamp values.

These functions are used to convert a Unix timestamp, or a string equivalent cast to timestamp as follows:

SELECT to_timezone(1623167145000000, 'Europe/Berlin')
to_timezone
2021-06-08T17:45:45.000000Z
SELECT to_utc(1623167145000000, 'Europe/Berlin')
to_utc
2021-06-08T13:45:45.000000Z

Using UTC offset for conversions#

The to_timezone() and to_utc() functions may use UTC offset for converting timestamp values. In some cases, this can be more reliable than string or time zone ID conversion given historic changes to time zone names or transitions. The following example takes a Unix timestamp in microseconds and converts it to a time zone +2 hours offset from UTC:

SELECT to_timezone(1213086329000000, '+02:00')
to_timezone
2008-06-10T10:25:29.000000Z
SELECT to_utc('2008-06-10T10:25:29.000000Z', '+02:00')
to_timezone
2008-06-10T08:25:29.000000Z