The new quantum SI, measurement at the frontiers, smart and interconnected measurement and embedded and ubiquitous measurement are the four themes scientists have identified as defining Metrology for the 2020s, said Dr Martin Milton, Director of BIPM (Bureau International des Poids et Mesures), in his keynote address to the NLA-SA’s 2017 T&M Conference.

The new quantum SI (International System of Units) takes advantage of advances in quantum metrology by fixing the values of physical and atomic constants in revising base units, while measurement at the frontiers refers to those beyond the boundaries of today’s measurement capability, such as length scales from the atomic to the very large, and timescales from atto-seconds to millennia. Smart and interconnected measurement makes use of:

  • Networked information
  • Using large numbers and different types of sensors
  • Integrating data from various systems
  • Calibrating across networks through data fusion

Embedded and ubiquitous measurement infers that metrology capability will be at the heart of products and systems as technology converges. As a result, critical measurement systems will be in real time and traceability will at the point of measurement.

Citizen Science was another important trend that is growing in importance, added Dr Milton, with interesting new devices readily available, such as a noise tube that turns a mobile phone into a noise pollution sensor and an air quality egg to collect readings on carbon dioxide concentrations.

Speaking on measurement, metrology and the environment, Dr Milton highlighted the importance of SI traceability, which offers the advantages of coherent, stable and comparable environmental data. All three features, he argued, are key for the sound decisions required in shaping environmental policies at the global, national and local level and which generally have significant financial implications.

International collaboration across the metrology sector is also critical to ensuring that the required high-quality data is available. The BIPM, an intergovernmental organization through which Member States act together on matters related to measurement science and measurement standards, not only works with the six regional organisations in metrology but runs projects such as the current initiative to support capacity development in national metrology institutes on air quality measurements.

In concluding his address, Dr Milton noted that there is much good measurement information available on the state of the environment but, for continued, further success, measurements need to be traceable to SIs and new ways are required to disseminate traceability. The sector also needs to prepare itself for new approaches to measurements and must continue to strive for the high standards and levels of transparency that society expects.

The annual T&M (Test and Measurement) Conference is in its 37th year, noted John Wilson, Chairperson of the National Laboratory of South Africas (NLA-SA), in his opening address to the conference. He outlined the continuing success the NLA-SA is achieving, with membership having increased over the past year, greater attendance in training courses and growth in the PT (Proficiency Testing)/ILC (Interlaboratory Comparison) schemes. In addition, the Personnel Certification Scheme for Metrologists and Calibration Technicians (MetCert) is now fully established with more Continuous Professional Development (CPD) activities available. Representation made by the NLA-SA at local, regional and international level far outweighs the size of the association, which, he added, for “a small organisation carries a big punch”.

The theme of this year’s conference, which ran from 30 July (registration) to 2 August 2017 in Centurion, South Africa, was measurements for growth in Africa, with contributions covering:

  • Measurement and testing in industry
  • Measurement traceability
  • Laboratory quality system
  • Laboratory staff

Two hundred and fifty participants attended the conference, which, for 2017, was restricted to two days due to the special events hosted by the National Metrology Institute of South Africa (NMISA) to celebrate 70 years of accurate scientific measurement (metrology) and 10 years of Institutional existence.

The NLA-SA is the representative body looking after the interests of the large number of accredited and non-accredited laboratories in South Africa. This includes measuring, testing, calibration, verification and other bodies, as well as laboratories, which operate in well-defined areas of R&D in the natural and applied sciences.

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