What is Metrology?
If you’re like many Americans, the term ‘metrology’ is totally foreign to your ears. Even those who specialize in metrology recognize that it is a highly specialized field, and because of this most people will not understand it. But this is precisely the problem. Because metrology has become pigeonholed as a hyper-academic field of number crunchers and math nerds, it is woefully underestimated–when in fact it is a key player in American technology reaching the next level.
To fully appreciate the extent of influence that metrology exerts in modern industry and technology, we must first establish the definition of metrology. The term itself is ancient and the roots of its ideologies are even older. The word metrology comes from the Greek roots of ‘metron’ and ‘logos,’ meaning measurement and logic respectively. So from this, we can see that metrology literally means the logic or study of measurement.
Metrology as a Matter of Life and Death
Many readers will instinctively yawn at this point, but what about when you hear this: you would not be alive today without metrology. That’s right. Nearly every system of modern economics relies on the accuracy of measurements. Without accurate measurements–the consequence of metrology–the world economy would crash. Moreover, your personal life would be in shambles as well. No longer would you be able to fill up your car with the correct amount of gas, and you couldn’t even pay the correct amount of money per gallon, either.
The importance of metrology was something never taken for granted by the Ancient Egyptians. So important was the role of the metrologist, that they would be beheaded should they fall short in their duties. The oldest records of measurement suggest that the Ancient Egyptians developed a form of mass measurement around 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, and since then every single transaction in human history has been based on these foundational systems of measurement.
What is Metrology in Modern Day?
So the history of metrology is intriguing, but is it really the keystone to unlocking the potential of modern tech, and more specifically that of healthcare tech? The short answer is yes, and the journey to explaining why is an interesting one that illustrates some of the shortcomings of modern innovations in America and around the world.
Firstly, what better industry is there to demonstrate the importance of metrology than the medical industry, on which rests the lives of billions of people? Mountains of research have covered the topic of how metrology, and the measurements therein, translates to decision making. From deciding how many cc’s of insulin to take, how potent of an antibiotic to prescribe, or how to calculate a patient’s prognosis and their chances of survival–one thread of similarity is that all of these tasks rely on the surgical accuracy of measurements.
We have come such a long way, that physicians will place most effort on divining how much of something to prescribe without second-guessing the accuracy of the measurements themselves. And this is for good reason. Inaccuracy in medicine-based metrology will result in death, while metrology in say engineering might simply result in dysfunctional machinery. And this is the major component of why metrology is both the key to better healthcare and also the primary limitation currently.
Medical Metrology and Enormous Risk
When individual metrologists and metrology companies pursue projects, there is inevitably an interest in the cost analysis of risk versus reward. In the case of developing medical metrology software, the risk is enormous because lives are quite literally on the line and beyond this, there is much more red tape to circumnavigate for a product to reach the market.
Metrology software is responsible for the explosion of various industries, such as shipping and freight. Companies like Moxpage have developed the inventory management software responsible for enabling companies like Amazon. Online shopping as we know it simply would not be possible without recent innovations in metrology software and tech. Other industries have seen likewise explosions spurred on by innovations in metrology. But what about healthcare–the industry that is arguable most reliant on the accuracy and implementations of measurements and measurement technology?
There has been no great medical metrology revolution…yet. Research indicates a growing trend of implementing metrology software in hospitals, which supports the notion that as medical professionals become more accustomed to adapting to new types of software, the opportunity for new metrology software will increase as well.
The Future of Medical Metrology
So what is called for here is both a call to action and a prediction? The prediction is that medical renaissance is coming. Quantum computing and innovative medical metrology software will beckon a new age in healthcare. Thus it is a massive opportunity for any professionals looking to ride that wave. But to get there, we must first make the investments and take the risks necessary to open the door to such opportunities–risks that other countries are taking ahead of us.
Who would have thought that the global race to a dominant healthcare market would be determined by the age-old practices of measurement? The coronavirus is an excellent example of how our behind-the-times medical metrology has hurt us. If we had better predictive software, we could have better calculated the need for corona test kits in the United States–the shortage of which is largely responsible for the outbreak in America.
This is definitely a wakeup call. There is no excuse for our greatest innovations in technology to occur outside of healthcare, and as long as the trend continues, we will continue to see the consequences of increasing severity. Because as the world’s human populace continues to expand and develop, so too will the scale of risks associated with large populations. Therefore, beyond a financial opportunity, we also have an ethical obligation to see such innovation through to fruition. And the sooner we take advantage of the potential of medical metrology technology, the sooner we can arrive at the long-awaited future of a truly modernized healthcare.
About Author: Jay is a science writer and researcher who works in metrology education.