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National Conference on Weights and Measures: Honorary President’s Address

Remarks as prepared.

It is a real pleasure and honor to be with all of you here today to celebrate our long-standing history and more importantly, to cement our plans for future collaboration and partnership with the signing of a renewed Memorandum of Understanding. 

First, I would like to thank Don for the invitation to be here today, and for your efforts with Mahesh, Gene, and Katrice over the past year. I know at times it has been a challenge to hammer out an MOU that defines a new and more modern relationship between our two organizations. 

I would also like to thank and recognize all of you, our membership at large for your input and engagement. You have given us the appropriate push to enhance collaboration and to strengthen the partnership between NIST and the National Conference on Weights and Measures. I look forward to joining Mahesh and Gene later today in honoring the excellent work and contributions to the weights and measures community that were made over the past year.  

As you know, NIST and the National Conference on Weights and Measures share a long and close history going back 118 years to when the Conference was first initiated by our predecessor, the National Bureau of Standards. NBS held the “First Annual Meeting of Sealers of Weights and Measures of the United States” (now NCWM) in 1905. In that meeting, state representatives discussed the lack of uniform standards and regulatory oversight for weighing and measuring devices used in commerce and in law enforcement activities. NBS published the first legal metrology standard in 1918 as Miscellaneous Publication No. 1 Manual of Inspection and Information for Weights and Measures Officials. This document was the predecessor to what is now known asNIST Handbook 44 Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices, which continues to document the outputs of the NCWM. The standards outlined in the handbook form the basis of the laws and regulations adopted by federal, state, and local regulatory agencies to ensure equity for consumers and sellers in commercial transactions based on weights and measures. 

These efforts touch every aspect of the lives of every person in the United States. They ensure so many important measurements, from the accuracy of the scales that weigh our produce in grocery stores to the consistency of charging devices for electric vehicles.   

There are many great examples of how NIST and the NCWM work so well together to ensure that we all get what we pay for. One of these began in the summer of 2021 when we worked together to conduct a nationwide marketplace survey on liquid propane gas 20 lb. cylinders.   

Nineteen states and more than 30 counties participated in the survey, during which more than 30,000 propane cylinders were tested and more than 1,500 direct sale refilling locations were visited to document the method of sale and observe fill procedures. The resulting 2022 NIST-NCWM publication, NIST SP 2200-01, showed that in many transactions, consumers aren’t getting what they pay for. The results showed that over 25% of the inspection lots tested for net content compliance, failed. In addition, the results found that over half 56%of new cylinders and two-thirds 68% of used cylinders were not in compliance with existing tare weight requirements. The results of this study will help states improve the equity of future transactions for consumers and businesses alike 

As all of us here know, technology does not stand still. We are currently in the middle of significant transformations in our economy with increasing digitalization and the emergence of groundbreaking new capabilities in artificial intelligence. These new technologies, and ways of doing business, bring with them the need for the development of new standards, often based upon the development of completely new approaches to metrology.   

For NIST it is both an exciting and challenging time that is pushing us to develop the next generation of measurements that will fuel the innovation economy. I would like to highlight a few of the areas that NIST has been focusing on over the past several years to position ourselves to support the evolving measurement needs of the new economy. 

NIST is prioritizing investments and research programs in Critical and Emerging Technologies including AI, quantum, biotechnology, and advanced communications, which are 6G and beyond. It is NIST’s role to provide the research, measurements, and data, to drive innovation advances across industry, and to ensure a strong foundation for future standards development and our country’s success in the global marketplace.      

Using quantum engineering as an example, NIST is working to promote the development of quantum-based sensors and systems. We are working with our industrial partners through efforts such as the Quantum Economic Development Consortia or QEDC to ensure that lab breakthroughs in quantum science and engineering are ultimately developed and manufactured here in the U.S. We anticipate that these new sensors will eventually be integrated in the next generation of measuring devices and instruments used in weights and measures.    

We are working to ensure the cybersecurity of supply chains and to provide new measurement techniques to verify the authenticity of hardware components in wireless communication systems. We are also working to identify circular economy approaches that reduce the need for new sources of essential components such as critical minerals. This last effort is vital to the manufacture and operation of electric vehicles, an area of particular interest to the weights and measures community today.  

NIST is investigating the measurements needed to validate and quantify innovative new approaches to carbon sequestration, including direct air capture. Like our efforts to support zero emission vehicles, this research could help to mitigate climate change. These measurements are essential as the country and communities consider legal and economic aspects of global warming mitigation. These measurements may also be important in the future marketplace as commercial transactions for carbon credits could fall under the purview of weights and measures.   

Another important leadership role for NIST lies in our efforts to work with industry in the development of international standards, which are critical for international trade and commerce. These international standards form the basis for the import and export of commodities and manufactured goods and many are impacted by legal metrology regulations. 

Earlier this summer, the Biden-Harris administration released the United States Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology (USG NSSCET). It outlines how the United States will work with likeminded partners and allies to advance U.S. competitiveness, protect the integrity of standards developing ecosystems, and ensure the long-term success of our innovation ecosystem. NIST is charged with leading the implementation of the strategy for the nation, with objectives focused on Investment, Participation, Workforce, and Integrity and Inclusivity. This leadership role for NIST is one that I am particularly passionate about as it presents an opportunity for us to show what our dedicated staff can accomplish when counted on.  

Continued partnership with the National Conference on Weights and Measures will be critical to meeting our mutual goal and responsibility of facilitating uniformity in weights and measures laws, regulations, standards, and practices. The future will require all of us working together to meet the challenges of developing relevant standards for new technology. 

Measuring instruments are getting “smarter” driven by new algorithms implemented in daily commerce applications. For example, the next generation of retail scales uses cameras and image recognition software to automatically recognize commodities. Eventually, more tasks will be performed directly by instruments through networked connectivity for data sharing of device performance and maintenance. The fact is that modern-day legal metrology instruments are more often a system of multiple componentsphysical and 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 server in Texas. 

As systems are getting more complex, it is crucial that the weights and measures community leverages our cooperative strengths to plan for these changes and align with these emerging technologies. In line with this, the new MOU that we will signing today provides a new framework for NIST and NCWM to work together more effectively to meet such challenges.  

Our renewed MOU affirms that we will work in strong partnership, collaboration, and support for each other’s organization. We are committing to open and continuous communications with all our stakeholders to achieve our common goals of strengthening U.S. commerce and ensuring marketplace equity. We will also reaffirm our individual roles and responsibilities in our partnership activities, strive to reinvigorate NCWM participation from both new and existing stakeholder groups, and harmonize our efforts to develop cooperative projects that address the most critical and urgent weights and measure challenges of the day 

Our renewed partnership will provide the U.S. legal metrology community with the measurements and standards that it requires to effectively meet current and future challenges.  

In closing, I wanted to thank you all for your dedication and the role you play in protecting consumers and businesses and ensuring a strong economy for our nation. And I want to thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts, and to kick off this next chapter in our long history. 

Created August 18, 2023