“Uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures of the United States is an object of great importance, and will, I am persuaded, be duly attended to.”
- George Washington, State of the Union Address, 1790
Metrology and Technology
Metrology is the field where a professional specializes in the various forms of measurement. It is the metrologist’s job to ensure two things: firstly, that an object is being measured most accurately, and that the form of measurement being used is accomplishing the objective of the highest value to a given project. To this last point, for instance, it would be unhelpful if someone was trying to measure how far they walk each afternoon to deliver the distance in millimeters. The individual would likely prefer to know the distance walked in feet or miles–if they are American.
Why does this matter? It matters because the world economy is based almost entirely on transactions, and transactions function correctly only if the calculations on both sides of that transaction are accurate. Imagine, for example, going to the gas station and paying $50 for a gallon of gas because the pump was unable to correctly measure the amount of gasoline dispensed into your car’s tank. Without the field of metrology, our governments and economies simply would not work.
This is why metrology–according to reports–in both Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome, was a position of extreme prestige and responsibility–so much so, in fact, that Egyptian metrologists faced beheading if they fell short in their duties. The position of the metrologist is arguably even more important to the developments of modern day industry today, and yet the most popularized positions are those of coders, marketers, and entrepreneurs. Likely nooone has seen a romanticization of the metrologist’s profession, but this should not be the case. Metrology is a crucial component to technological innovation and their profession is more exciting than you might think, so let’s look at why this is the case.
Measurement and Innovation
According to the National Institute of Measurement and Technology, a branch of the United States Department of Commerce, metrology is largely responsible for most of the innovation that we take for granted today. The only reason that you can make one click for a purchase online and see it arrive at your door the next day is because inventory management metrology software has made it possible.
Consider all the various elements in making such a shipment possible. The item must be tracked and monitored all the way from its place of manufacturing (likely on another continent) through various shipping routes to your door–all with the surgical precision required to shave off as much inefficiency as possible. And this the greatest power that metrology offers. It is essentially a tuning knob for efficiency.
A recent study showcased that metrology can be used to fine tune money-based transactions in order to improve measurements on the desired side of the equation. This is essentially an accountant’s role on steroids–one who is not just capable of tubing a budget, but changing the rules of the budget entirely. In other words, metrology can function as a kind of “success-hack” for many entrepreneurs or seekers of innovation. It is important to note here however, that what is being discussed here is more a consideration of potential, rather than an evaluation of every metrologist’s value. Obviously some professionals will be more capable than others of turning such potential in reality.
Areas of Metrological Innovation
If the above theory-crafting is insufficient to convince one of the enormous potential of metrology, than one needs look no further than the incredible innovation that has already occured in one of the following American markets:
- Shipping and Freight
- Inventory Logistics
- Medical Appliance Engineering
- Architectural Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Biomedical Testing
- Legal Commerce Monitoring
- Psychological Diagnostics
In other words, if an industry relies on measurement–in any of its widely adaptable forms–then the scale of success of the industry relies on the accuracy of such measurement, and the creativity applied developing new types of measurement.
The True Value of Metrology
And this is where the field of metrology becomes much more interesting for prospective professionals. The field of metrology is not just about the rigid thinking of mathematics, it is about the creative innovation of how to measure or what can be measured. The idea here is that not everything that can be measured exists in physical reality as an object. Consider for instance psychological personality testing, which attempts to measure the personality traits of an individual.
This is where the applications of metrology become truly awe-inspiring. Metrologists could potentially develop measurements for theoretical components of a person to predict personality development, health outcomes, or even appearance. The true value of the metrologist is that they are only limited by what they can imagine, and might even be able to one day measure imagination itself.