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Metrology for the Digitalization of Economy and Society

Digitalization is an ongoing process, which affects and transforms all parts of our society. Many aspects of this process sum up to a future where the quality infrastructure is fully digitized. Then, processes in the quality infrastructure will be fully digital, assets are interconnected and intelligent algorithms are used everywhere. This digital transformation is already in full swing and is being accelerated by current technological developments.

The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), as the National Metrology Institute (NMI) in Germany, plays an active role for a large number of the above-mentioned challenges and developments:

  • In the area of legal metrology, PTB actively promotes a comprehensive digitalization of processes and measuring instruments in a forward-looking manner and provides support to industry and market surveillance authorities in the current digitalization fields of smart metering and e-mobility.
  • In industrial metrology, PTB supports the calibration industry by developing internationally recognized, machine-readable digital certificates with a corresponding infrastructure for the mutual recognition of validity.
  • For simulations and so-called virtual measuring instruments, PTB conducts interdisciplinary research in order to address the current fundamental questions in a holistic approach.
  • For reliable data analysis, PTB develops testable algorithms and works on the harmonization of methods.
  • For a sustainable development of the 5G infrastructure, PTB is working on the metrological foundations of the necessary high-frequency measurement technology.

The joint, coordinated approach and the interaction of the various activities at PTB play a decisive role here.

PTB relies on existing cooperations and well-established national and international platforms for efficient networking. For example, in the Berlin initiative "Digital Capital", PTB uses close cooperations with the excellent research facilities and networks there. In addition, PTB cooperates with representatives of the "Plattform Industrie 4.0", the "Labs Network Industrie 4.0" and many others to advance metrological research and standardization. International cooperation in the area of digitalization is currently driven forward with a series of EMPIR projects within the Horizon 2020 program.



PTB Digital Strategy

Digitalization study 2018

In 2017, PTB already published a comprehensive digitalization study to combine its activities in this area. Immediately thereafter, the implementation of the projects started and by the end of 2018, much progress had already been made.

The updated digitalization study 2018 shows the developments since the digitalization study from 2017, places the activities in the context of an overarching strategy and discusses new trends and challenges. In addition, this study presents the overarching core objectives of the PTB digitalization strategy, which places current developments in a long-term context.

Digitalization study 2017

Kernziele der PTB-Digitalisierungsstrategie

Ensuring consistency and confidence in metrology in a digitized world

The main tasks of PTB are to ensure the uniformity of the measurement systems (unit and time), the obligation to comply with DIN EN ISO 17025 and the assurance of measurement accuracy, measurement stability and testability. International harmonization is strongly supported in all areas. In the course of the digitalization, a multitude of new challenges will arise for which PTB will be actively involved.

These include

  • Securing confidence in measurements and processes in digital infrastructures;
  • The development of suitable "digital gauges", such as reference data for the validation of algorithms;
  • The harmonization of digital formats for the communication of metrological information such as digital calibration certificates for the digitized industry.

Efficient and secure application of digital technologies

PTB develops and uses digital technologies for both its own working methods and for processes in the quality infrastructure. PTB sees the concepts of "security by design" and "privacy by design" as indispensable for securing trust.

This includes

  • The introduction of a comprehensive digital document management system (E-Akte);
  • An advanced central IT service department;
  • The development of the Metrology Cloud for processes in legal metrology. 

Sustainable use of research results and research data

A data driven research and economy are possible only, when reliable data is available and reusable. Therefore, PTB is among other things

  • Working on a comprehensive concept for its research data management;
  • Developing and implementing a software quality framework;
  • Conducting research for the consistent use of metadata and vocabulary in digital areas and platforms.

Holistic approach to the treatment of measuring instruments and measurement data

In a digitally interconnected economy and industry holistic concepts are required regarding the treatment of measurement data and for the networking of measuring instruments. Therefore, PTB is developing concepts for

  • A consistent digital transformation of legal and industrial measurement;
  • "Metrology by design" for reliable measurement values from the initial acquisition on;
  • Considering the complete lifecycle of a measuring instrument.

Active participation of all employees in the digitalization

A digital transformation can be successful only, when nobody is left behind and when digital innovations are being actively supported. Therefore, PTB is working on

  • Concepts and formats for the active support of its digital pioneers;
  • A comprehensive learning and training support;
  • Innovative concepts for participation.

Key areas in the digitalization

Metrological services

  • Digital calibration certificate with maschine interpretable calibration information and digital stamp
  • Digital customer platforms for calibration and conformity conformity assessment
  • Digital quality infrastructure with one shared platform for conformity assessment bodies, market surveillance system, manfactures and costumers of legal metrology

Data analysis

  • Data analysis and measurement uncertainties for high-dimensional quantities
  • Reliability of using maschine learning and big data analyses
  • Dimensionality reduction and disemination of large quantities of data

Communication systems

  • high-frequency measurands of digital communication systems
  • traceability of signal parameters like error vector magnitude and the error rates
  • nonlinear and stochastic high-frequency measurands

Virtual measuring instruments

  • Analyses and feedback of virtual measuring instruments
  • Development of virtual measuring instruments in the area of coordinate metrology for the measuring data analyses
  • Simulation tools for the optical unit, dimensional metrology and CT imaging

Current examples

Virtual measuring instruments

Machine Learning

Latest activities

Digitalization in legal metrology

  • In June 2018 the initiative "Opens external link in new windowEuropean Metrology Cloud" started with several partners from NMIs, organizations, market surveillance and research.
  • Already in 2018 the project group "Metrology Cloud" presented initial realisation approaches to representatives from German federal market surveillance authorities. Since then this demonstrator is being continuously extended.
  • Delegates from "Metrology Cloud" and the subgroup "New Technologies" of the WELMEC Working Group 7 "Software" cooperate for the draft of a new European guideline for reference architectures (e.g. for cloud computing), for a guideline for software application, alternative integrity measures and for the application of blockchain in legal metrology (secure logging, smart contracts).
  • Mid 2018 started the joint assitant professorshop of TU Berlin and PTB "Secure and trustworthy network-attached systems". 
  • PTB is a member of the consortium which accompanies the project "Digitalization of the energy transition: barometer and top topics" for the modernisation and digitalization of the energy infrastructure.


Metrology Cloud: Opens window for sending emailFlorian Thiel

Digitalization in the energy transition: Opens window for sending emailHelmut Többen




Digital calibration certificate (DCC)

  • Together with the Fraunhofer HHI and other partners, PTB started in November 2018 the pre-project „Secure and robust calibrated measuring systems for the digital transformation“. The aim is to organize workshops with users and stakeholders to define a future key project.
  • The PTB team for the development of the digital calibration certificate (DCC) is working intensively on the definition and further development of the XML scheme prototype which has been first introduced in December 2017. In an international workshop June 2019, the scheme will be presented to international partners to initiate the joint further development.
  • Based on the DCC the first digital weight gauge has been presented in December 2017.
  • For the "Competence Centre Wind“ (CCW) at PTB a transformation to a digital realbed, i.e. a real testbed, for digital processes is planned. Therefore, processes from industrial metrology will be implemented end-to-end digitally.

Metrology for IoT

Metrology for virtual measuring instruments

  • As part of its key area "Simulation and virtual measurements" PTB is pushing forward the further development of its reference methods VCMM and SimOptDevice by means of research projects and industry collaborations.
  • In addition PTB founded a new internal platform as the compenetence centre "Metrology for virtual measuring instruments" (VirtMess). The aim is to further strengthen interdisciplinary exchange and research and the joint development of solutions.

Contact: Opens window for sending emailSascha Eichstädt

Research data management

The aim of research data management (RDM) is to make publicly available suitable research data in order to foster data-driven research, support novel questions, validation of research results and strengthen the Open Science Community. To coordinate this area, PTB created an internal task force. So far this group has

  • Developed a concept paper for RDM (Initiates file downloadDownload German only)
  • Drafted PTB guidelines for RDM
  • Initiated the development of a metadata scheme for metrology
  • Started the development of controlled vocabularies with persistent identifiers and namespaces for digital platforms

Contact: Opens window for sending emailGiacomo Lanza 

First outcomes

  • User infterface for creating and organising data management plans for internal and external users: Opens external link in new windowrdmo.ptb.de
  • Extended the PTB open access repository (OAR) for the long-term storage and persistent identifiers for research data sets: Opens external link in new windowoar.ptb.de

E-Akte (Document management system)

The document management system (E-Akte) is allowing PTB to satisfy the gudelines and legal requirements document control and management. In particular the management of documents is more efficient and easier with this system.

The E-Akte team is working with initial pilot partners towards the basiscs for the roll-out of the E-Akte as the default PTB process and document management system. The full roll-out is scheduled for June 2020.

Digital customer platform

PTB customers are expecting a digital, web-based platform for services in conformity assessment and calibration. Such a platform should provide simple yet secure upload of documents and information, as well as an easy management of assignments.

The internal administrative preparations at PTB have just been finsihed. The next step is the collaboration with the external IT provided. The start of the pilot phase is expected for mid 2019.

Structure and organisation

The main pillars for PTB, as a supporter of digital transformation in the economy and society, are, in the first place, interdisciplinary cross-sectoral projects:

Metrology cloud – Establishing a trustworthy core platform for a digital quality infrastructure by coupling existing data infrastructures and databases and providing all partners with customized access for digitally upgrading legal metrology.

Digital calibration certificate – Developing a secure and standardized digital information structure for universal use in calibration, accreditation and metrology as well as digitally upgrading the whole calibration hierarchy in the quality infrastructure.

Virtual experiments and mathematics-aided metrology – Developing an interdisciplinary, virtual competence group to metrologically support the paradigm change for the use of simulations and data analysis as essential components of measurement procedures.

Moreover, the metrological research for modern high-frequency networks (5G), the expansion of the quality infrastructure to online surveillance, and the metrological support to digitalized precision production are some of the tasks that will have to be furthered in the long term in the respective departments.

These initiatives are accompanied, coordinated and cross-linked centrally by the working group Opens internal link in current windowPSt1 "Koordination Digitalisierung".