Metrology is the science of measures and measurement. The similarity with the term “meteorology” – science that studies the phenomena of the atmosphere – sometimes leads to confusion between these concepts. But they are completely different.
Metrology enables fair and transparent commercial transactions, contributes to conformity assessment of products, to the development of citizenship (from the point of view of environment, health and safety) and to the quality of products and services, and promotes at international level the robustness of the quality infrastructure of a country.
Lord Kelvin said, and I quote, “if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it”. We can think, for example, of the objectives we set for our organisations. One of the characteristics of objectives is that they should be measurable and have metrics so that we can measure them and apply the appropriate improvement actions if necessary.
Therefore, measurement is important and it is relevant that it is done with instruments that give us confidence in the results we will obtain.
Metrology is present in our daily life in situations that most of the time we do not associate with this science. For example, when we use scales to weigh the ingredients in the preparation of a meal, in the meters that count the consumption of electricity, water, gas and fuel we use, when measuring our blood pressure, when measuring the quantity of food we buy (both those measured in our presence and pre-packaged food), when measuring the weight of luggage when we travel, when measuring our temperature and the ambient temperature, when measuring the speed at which we move, when we park in a car park and pay for the time we park the car or when measuring noise pollution (noise) and air pollution (determination of particles, gases, among others), to check compliance with legislation, among several other measurements relevant to our activities, health, environment and economy.
As the examples presented illustrate, metrology is divided into three areas:
- Industrial metrology, where measurements aim to control the production of industry and contribute not only to the quality of finished products but also to the defence of consumer rights;
- Scientific metrology, in which laboratory equipment is calibrated using standards traceable to national and international standards, according to the International System of Units, and subsequently used for the benefit of society;
- Legal metrology, whose measurements are related to aspects of trade, safety, health and the environment and which is normally associated with compliance with regulations.
Metrology is present in our day-to-day life in situations that we often do not associate with this science
In Mozambique we benefit from the existence of the three areas of metrology. However, there is room for improvement. Improvement from the point of view of coverage of the areas (quantities) that are not yet represented in the country (such as, for example, measurement of time and frequency, acoustics, flow, speed and acceleration); in terms of availability/representation throughout the country, since most services are concentrated in the south; and in terms of sampling, since not all equipments used, for example in commercial transactions, are metrologically verified. Think, for example, of the scales that are used in markets to weigh the goods we buy or the parking meters that measure the time we park our cars in a certain car park. What happens, for example, if you have a set amount of money to pay for an hour’s parking, but the equipment which checks the time is not working properly? Someone will lose out: the consumer or the entity providing the service.
This room for improvement, as has happened in other geographies, through a properly defined sectoral scheme, may represent an opportunity for private sector entities that may qualify to perform metrological control. It is an area of growing need. The scope of legal metrology is mandatory, as it must demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations, and the scope of scientific and industrial metrology, although essentially voluntary, is so necessary and important that it is as if it were mandatory.
Another aspect to consider is the importance of metrological regulation on measuring instruments, which is done using internationally agreed technical requirements, with the purpose of eliminating technical barriers to trade and ensuring fair commercial transactions. Equipment used, for example, in legal metrology must be approved and published in specific regulations.
This “metrology ecosystem” should exist for the benefit of a fairer, healthier and safer society, favouring and trusting business activities, reducing consumption and waste, and to support other activities that are part of the quality infrastructure, such as certifications, accreditations and inspections.