How to use POSIX timer within C++ Classes

The POSIX Standard provides C with efficient and accurate timer functions. Sometimes is faster to apply these timers instead to implement a „real“ hardened real time application. If you would like to use the C-style timer functions in a C++ application read on.

Idea: A dedicated class should be responsible for timing different tasks within a C++ application. This post should shortly explain how to implement a POSIX timer invoking a class member function.

What happens if a timer runs up? The timer generates a signal (SIGALRM 14) which will be handled by a static function. As you may know, static functions run outside of the ordinary class scope, what means it is not possible to access any class members from the static function. It seems to, that we have to handle the signal in a static context…. but there is small trick to regain the class scope.

But stop blablabla. Just have a look on the following code and you will see how it works:

class TimerClass {
TimerClass() :
memberVariable(0) {
// Define the timer specification
// One second till first occurrence
this->timerSpecs.it_value.tv_sec = 1;
this->timerSpecs.it_value.tv_nsec = 0;
// and then all 3 seconds a timer alarm
this->timerSpecs.it_interval.tv_sec = 3;
this->timerSpecs.it_interval.tv_nsec = 0;

// Clear the sa_mask
// set the SA_SIGINFO flag to use the extended signal-handler function
this->SignalAction.sa_flags = SA_SIGINFO;

// Define sigaction method
// This function will be called by the signal
this->SignalAction.sa_sigaction = TimerClass::alarmFunction;

// Define sigEvent
// This information will be forwarded to the signal-handler function
memset(&this->signalEvent, 0, sizeof(this->signalEvent));
// With the SIGEV_SIGNAL flag we say that there is sigev_value
this->signalEvent.sigev_notify = SIGEV_SIGNAL;
// Now it's possible to give a pointer to the object
this->signalEvent.sigev_value.sival_ptr = (void*) this;
// Declare this signal as Alarm Signal
this->signalEvent.sigev_signo = SIGALRM;

// Install the Timer
if (timer_create(CLOCK_REALTIME, &this->signalEvent, &this->timerID)
!= 0) { // timer id koennte mit private probleme geben
perror("Could not creat the timer");

// Finally install tic as signal handler
if (sigaction(SIGALRM, &this->SignalAction, NULL)) {
perror("Could not install new signal handler");

void start() {
// Set the timer and therefore it starts...
if (timer_settime(this->timerID, 0, &this->timerSpecs, NULL) == -1) {
perror("Could not start timer:");

* The signal handler function with extended signature
static void alarmFunction(int sigNumb, siginfo_t *si, void *uc) {
// get the pointer out of the siginfo structure and asign it to a new pointer variable
TimerClass * ptrTimerClass =
reinterpret_cast<TimerClass *> (si->si_value.sival_ptr);
// call the member function

// Stored timer ID for alarm
timer_t timerID;

// Signal blocking set
sigset_t SigBlockSet;

// The according signal event containing the this-pointer
struct sigevent signalEvent;

// Defines the action for the signal -> thus signalAction 😉
struct sigaction SignalAction;

// The itimerspec structure for the timer
struct itimerspec timerSpecs;
// demo member
int memberVariable;

void memberAlarmFunction() {
// of course we can access our object within this member function as we are use to it
std::cout << "Timer expired!! Signal occurred. memberValue="
<< this->memberVariable << std::endl;

This code needs to be linked with the RealtTime library (g++ option -l rt) to work.

Further Readings:

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