On April 24-26, 2023 the European Weighing Industry Association (CECIP) organized the first meeting of the International Conference of Weighing (ICW) in Hamburg, Germany. The theme of the inaugural meeting was Weighing in a Global Digital World! and the meeting focused on the ongoing technological changes in the weighing industry. More than 200 stakeholders from 25 countries including manufacturers, regulators, and scientist, attended the conference, including several individuals from NIST, including Jan Konijnenburg and Katrice Lippa from OWM.
The conference offered numerous presentations on topics regarding legal metrology, applied metrology and scientific metrology. This unique design blended all three of these metrology areas to allow many relevant areas to be addressed in a single conference. This included weighing in motion of vehicles, the rise of artificial intelligence applications, the new definition of the kilogram, new approaches in market surveillance, digitalization and automation of certification processes, among the many other topics. This first edition is widely regarded as a success. The next edition of the ICW will be in 2026 and will be organized by the Japanese Measuring Instrument Federation.
NIST OWM had the privilege to provide a presentation regarding the changes in the OIML recommendation for non-automatic weighing instruments, and the impact of digitalization on these instruments. Other US contributions included presentations from Leon Chao and Lorenz Keck of the NIST Fundamental Electrical Measurements Group on the new kilogram definition and the Kibble balance, and a presentation by the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) on the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) evaluation of weigh-in-motion systems for weighing vehicles.
Participation at the conference prompted a few reflections about the current state of instrumentation digitalization and the rapid advancement of technology in all aspects of modern life. It is inevitable that these technological advancements will emerge in in the field of weights and measures and legal metrology applications. It is therefore crucial that the US legal metrology community is prepared to meet this challenge. Regulations should be suitable to accommodate state of the art technology and test procedures must be capable of evaluating modern instruments (from standalone devices to complex multiplatform systems) with respect to these regulations.
Instruments are getting “smarter” and new algorithms (such as artificial intelligence) are implemented in daily commerce applications. For example, the next generation of retail scales uses cameras and image recognition software to automatically recognize commodities (e.g., beef vs. chicken), where an increase in automation (including decision taking tasks) are being performed directly by the instrument.
More and more devices are connected to some sort of data sharing and data storage network, whether it is for instrument maintenance, commodity price updates, inventory management or for market trend analysis. The fact is that modern-day legal metrology instruments are more often a system of multiple components (physical or digital) that operate in multiple locations. For example, a truck is weighed in Ohio, the data is stored in the cloud and the receipt is emailed by a mail server in Texas.
As systems are getting more complex, it is crucial that market surveillance and inspection bodies have both the necessary knowledge that underpins this technology and access to adequate tools for compliance. Some European market surveillance authorities, for example, hire IT specialists to do inspections and perform risk-based inspections by predicting when a particular instrument will be out of tolerance.
With many technological changes ahead, it is vital that the US legal metrology community is prepared to meet the challenges entailed with such advancements. NIST OWM is actively scanning emerging technological developments, evaluating their impact on the weights and measures community, and considering how best to provide the community with the necessary information dissemination and training.
To learn more about the International Conference of Weighing, visit https://www.weighingconference.com/ or feel free to contact Jan Konijnenburg (jan.konijnenburg [at] nist.gov) for more information about this article.