NIST: Outdated measuring techniques hamper innovation

An Assessment of the United States Measurement System

The technology industry needs ever-improving measurement tools if companies wish to continue to innovate, according to a new National Institute of Standards and Technology report.

NIST’s study, which assessed U.S.-based measurement systems, found that as technology grows more complex, older methods of measurement become inadequate. The study sampled more than 1,000 people from government, industry and academia across 11 industrial and technology sectors. NIST asked the public and private sectors to work together to tackle nearly 700 scientific and technological measurement challenges.

For example, companies producing items such as miniaturized components -- products that are vital to the electronics and computer industries -- depend greatly on new measuring technology. NIST projects that the U.S. semiconductor industry will spend $9 billion on measurement equipment this year alone.

The study states that innovation has sometimes stalled because of a growing need for more detailed and more expensive measurements, particularly in emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and fuel-cell technology.

“The 21st century will be defined by new technologies that fundamentally change the products available, the way they are manufactured and the impact on our quality of life,” said NIST Director William Jeffrey.

NIST will focus on what it calls the U.S. Measurement System, which the study defines as the “complex network of all private and public organizations that develop, supply, use and ensure the validity of measurements.” Jeffrey pledged to continue to work with research institutes and the measurement industry to advance measurement-related research and development because technology innovation bolsters the country’s economy.

“Ensuring the health of the nation’s measurement infrastructure is vital to enable U.S. industry to maintain and enhance our global economic competitiveness,” Jeffrey said.

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