We explore the possible uses of a 40-kHz switching signal that is proportional to the gradient slew rate. The signal was identified by probing the rate of change of the magnetic flux density in the MRI scanner using a three-dimensional pickup coil. The signal is independent of both the orientation of the pickup coil and location in the scanner bore, and is directed parallel to the static magnetic field. This indicates that it is not caused by current in the gradient coils. These properties make this signal a useful vector reference that could be used for orientation tracking or time frame synchronisation.