Market Trends June 2017
SOLAR-POWERED HARD HAT
A solar-powered hard hat has been developed by researchers at Qatar University. The hat help cools construction workers and lowers skin temperature by 10 degrees centigrade by using a fan in the top of the helmet that blows cool air onto the worker’s face. The hats will be given to workers who are building soccer stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
CONSTRUCTION SITE TRAILERS GO HIGH TECH
Video-conferencing tools, equipment vending machines and other pieces of technology are working their way into job-site trailers as companies press for greater efficiency. In the future, virtual reality could also become a common feature on the job site. Turner Construction plans to have a remote virtual reality program allowing 15 people in different locations to become avatars within the same virtual BIM model and to collaborate on project review in real time and in real-world dimensions. Touch-panel plan tables, smart lockers, video conferencing, super-range wireless and equipment vending are helping to cut down on clutter and offer more efficient onsite collaboration between GCs, supervisors and subs.
YOUNG PEOPLE NOT INTERESTED IN CONSTRUCTION CAREERS
Only 3% of 18- to 25-year-olds want a career in construction, according to a National Association of Home Builders poll. Forty-three percent of those polled wouldn't consider working in construction no matter how high the compensation, although 21% would consider it if the pay were $100,000 or more.
FEMALE-DOMINATED JOBS GROW FASTEST
Fields dominated by women are expected to grow nearly twice as fast in the future while job in fields traditionally heavily populated by men are expected to continue to shrink, according to a new report from job search site Indeed. Male-dominated fields like manufacturing and ag are shrinking. The fastest growing sector, health-care, overwhelmingly employs women. More than one-third of men (36%) work in occupations that are at least 80% male; 31% of women work in occupations that are at least 80% female. The report notes that Trump’s infrastructure program could add a significant number of jobs in construction and that growth in tech-related occupations provides opportunities for both sexes. The latest data showed that there were 627,000 unfilled jobs in tech in the fourth quarter of 2016.
THE GENDER GAP IN CONSTRUCTION
Engineering News Record (ENR) recently hosted a Women in Construction Conference attended by more than 400 women. Parsons Corp. said that the gender pay gap in construction, with women earning 93 cents for every dollar a man earns, is narrower than the business average of 82 cents, but women are still not at parity. Companies diversified by gender and ethnicity outperform peers by 15% and 35%, respectively, according to McKinsey. A 2015 study of 2,200 male and female structural engineers revealed a $52,000 gap at the principal level, despite faster advancement of women at lower levels. A more detailed study of the compensation gap is being undertaken this year.
ROBOTS THAT CAN WORK WITH THEIR HANDS
Robots first went to work in automotive factories more than 50 years ago. And while robots can do a lot of simple tasks, it’s been challenging to create robots with the dexterity of human hands. A research group at Northeastern University is working on designing humanoid robots that can literally lend us a hand. The professor leading the study, Taskin Padir, says that their design work focuses on creating a new class of robotic hands capable of precise fine movements and autonomous grasping that would enable them to do things like hammer in nails, change batteries and perform other tasks that are very simple for humans but very challenging for robots. Utilizing 3-D printing allows them to make prototypes quickly and try low cost disposable components. Miniaturization may soon allow electronic sensors to tell whether the hand is squeezing too hard or which direction a slipping object is moving. A robot that could operate a drill with two hands or pass machine parts from one hand to another would allow factories to automate many more steps.
BETTER WI-FI HELPS RETAILERS COMPETE
A poll of 1,500 U.S. smartphone users conducted by research firm Euclid Analytics showed that 41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Z shoppers look for complimentary Wi-Fi more than any other digital service when they visit a store. Euclid Analytics says that offering Wi-Fi allows retailers to collect and analyze a massive amount of customer data, which would allow them to start tailoring shopping experiences the way Amazon does. Once a customer is logged on, their movements can be tracked, allowing the retailer to push a coupon for something they’ve been looking at or send an employee to see if they need help when someone stops in an area for an extended time.
SHOPPABLE VIRTUAL REALITY
Target is using computer generated imagery used in movies to create a 360-degree, virtual reality-like experience on their website that requires no special app or platform. Customers can choose one of four living room looks (modern, farmhouse, mid-century or traditional). After choosing, they can browse about 140 featured products ranging from rugs and sofas to wall hangings and decorative throws in a virtual living room designed to help customers visualize the size and scale of items as well as provide styling tips. Target plans to more than double their computer-generated imagery (CGI) team this year by hiring more than 40 more CGI professionals.
RESIDENTIAL ENERGY STUDY
The 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed several trends in energy use and consumption:
Younger households have a lower concentration of televisions per person and a higher concentration of portable devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones. Older households are more likely to have a higher concentration of desktop computers.
70 million homes (59%) have double or triple-pane windows.
Homeowners are more likely than renters to have energy-efficient LED lightbulbs; only 11% of households have all incandescent bulbs.
77 million households use central air-conditioning, up 17% in the last 10 years.
Survey takers were able to choose how they wanted to respond to the survey for the first time. The 2015 RECS household characteristics data was the first survey ever administered that allowed the 5,600 respondents to choose to respond via an in-person interview, (43%) a mail-in questionnaire (20%) or an online questionnaire (37%).
The full survey including household characteristics data can be found at www.eia.gov/conumption/residential/data/2015.
THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
Warren Buffet told attendees at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting that ten years from now the retail landscape will look nothing like it looks today. In February Berkshire Hathaway sold all of their holdings in Walmart ($900 million) and invested billions in airlines, saying that retail was just too tough in the age of Amazon, and the airline industry had gone through so much consolidation that the survivors were likely to be around for a while. Asset management company Cohen & Steers released a report that say they see the retail weakness that is occurring in a relatively healthy economy as part of a permanent evolution in how and where Americans spend their money. More than 3,200 stores have closed this year, and Credit Suisse expects that number to grow to more than 8,600 by the end of the year. For comparison, 6,163 stores closed in 2008, the worst year for closures on record.
ONLINE RETAILING GROWTH
Online retailing is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of close to 16% between 2017 and 2021, according to a research forecast from Technavio. Among the factors spurring online retail growth are the expanding number of mobile devices and the increasing availability of easy and secure online payment options, the ability to track shipments, speedy and often free delivery and 24/7 customer support. The report went on to say that U.S. consumers are experiencing an increase in what they referred to as “time poverty,” which also makes shopping online with a few clicks an attractive option.
RETAIL SECTOR SURVIVAL
Barron's thinks the retail sector may be healthier than the current state of the sector on Wall Street would suggest. Barron's says that shopping trends still favor companies with differentiated products or concepts and that what they term as "creative destruction" has always been part of the formula for creating breakthrough retail advancements. Some of the retailers seen surviving the current "retail reset" include The Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart, as well as Nordstrom, Best Buy and Costco.
Amazon has launched a new tech weapon against Walmart in what many analysts term the pricing war to dominate retail. Amazon blocked an army of Walmart bots being used to track prices on Amazon’s website several million times a day. Amazon declined to discuss anti-bot measures, but said that they prioritize humans over bots in order to ensure they provide the shopping experience their customers expect.
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