Nobel Prize for Lithium-Ion Batteries
The scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries were honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year. The winners are John B. Goodenough, 97, an American Engineering professor at the University of Texas who still works every day; M. Stanley Whittingham, 77, a British-American chemistry professor at the State University of New York in Binghamton, and Akira Yoshino, 71, of chemicals company Asahi Kasei Corp and Meijo University in Japan. The three scientists were honored for a truly transformational technology that has impacted billions of lives across the planet, including everyone who uses cellphones, computers, pacemakers, electric tools and many more inventions with rechargeable batteries that we now take for granted. Lithium-ion batteries took more than a decade to develop. Their discovery drew upon the work of multiple scientists in the US, Japan and around the world.
Construction Industry Tech Gap
The construction industry continues to lag well behind other industries in adopting digital tools, according to a recent feature in ENR. Presenters at the Construction Management Association of America repeatedly made that point at the association’s annual conference in September in Orlando, Florida. According to a 2018 KPMG survey of construction/engineering industry CIOs, just 23% said there was a “clear digital business vision and strategy” across their enterprise, compared to 32% of all industries. Another 23% reported having a digital business strategy for certain business units. That left 54% of construction/engineering firms entirely lacking a clear digital business strategy. Despite the low adoption rate, that’s a big improvement over years past. Presenters estimated that the industry’s adoption of business intelligence tools will take several years. Steve Jones, the senior director of industry insights at Dodge Data & Analytics, said a recent survey conducted by Dodge showed that 34% of 187 contractors surveyed reported that their firm’s data gathering, and analytical capabilities had not improved over the past three years; 64% reported improvement. More than 90% of firms attempting to utilize data cited schedule and cost information as the most important to gather.
Adapting to an Aging Workforce
Workers aged 45 to 64 made up nearly 40% of the construction workforce in 2015, according to the most recent data from Center for Construction Research and Training. The average age of construction workers, now approaching 43, has risen at a faster pace than the age of the workforce as a whole. Older workers are frequently regarded as reliable and natural jobsite leaders, and research shows that older workers are less vulnerable to injuries, most likely because they are more experienced and careful. According to ENR, construction companies are working to reduce wear and tear on workers. They’re trying to eliminate ladders, use more ergonomic tools and equipment and do away with the “brute force” mentality. Making greater use of off-site fabrication has helped as well, providing a more comfortable and less-strenuous jobsite environment.
Sweeping Changes in North American Concrete Construction
Canadian manufacturer of concrete admixtures and waterproofing materials Kryton acquired a 30% share in Danish technology company Sensohive Technologies. Sensohive makes a sensor system for concrete pressure and maturity testing that uses ultra narrow-band, low-power radio transmitters to communicate with a growing network of Internet of Things (IoT) receivers, which Sensohive uses to upload the data to their software interface in the cloud. The system, called Maturix, has only been on the market for a few months. It allows contractors and prestressed concrete manufacturers to monitor conditions inside their maturing concrete in real time, from any device with a browser. Kryton’s exec for mergers and acquisitions, Sean Cote, said he’d been searching for the right concrete maturity technology for three years before settling on Maturix, because the tech was scalable and cost effective. The technology will take the guesswork out of timing sensitive procedures like stripping forms and post tensioning, as well as add a measure of safety.
Autonomous Digital Reality
Leica Geosystem’s mission is connecting the digital and physical world. Their products take the information that comes from Building Information Modeling (BIM) or Computer Aided Design (CAD) and delivers it out to the field where elements of a build can be installed precisely. Leica products can run equipment such as bulldozers, drilling machines and motor graders and are able to capture what has been previously done in the field, along with existing conditions, and bring that into the digital space with solutions for tasks such as laser scanning, or what they call reality capture, which involves both scanning and mobile mapping. Leica is promoting a move towards autonomous solutions that bring efficiency and productivity and take as much of the work off users as is possible. Remote cameras constantly monitor the area around the laser scanners; when the scanner goes to a new location the application autonomously “stitches together” data from both locations and provides an overview. Leica Global Business Development Director Matt Wheelis says they are close to developing a three click process for the evaluation of a concrete pour; in addition to making it easy, it also makes it fast and accurate so customers can make adjustments on the fly. Wheelis says that there is a lot of demand for connecting site processes with captured reality, and contractors now expect to be able to manage requests for information, order changes and job cost information.
First Nationwide Drone Airline
UPS beat out Amazon and Google to become America’s first nationwide drone airline when the US Department of Transportation granted its first full Part 135 certification. UPS currently conducts drone deliveries at a large hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now they’ll be able to operate drones anywhere in the country. There are some limitations, though; the weight limit for a drone delivery is currently about five pounds. Over the next few months UPS plans on expanding the program to other hospitals in the area.
Return Options Grow
A growing number of retailers are now accepting returns from other retailers. Nordstrom’s new service hubs accept returns of online orders from any retailer. In July, Kohl’s started accepting Amazon returns at all 1,100 of their stores. There’s even a California Startup, Happy Returns, that currently works with about 30 online retailers and now has more than 700 drop-off locations. UPS is adding 12,000 pickup and return locations inside CVS, Michaels and Advance Auto Parts, which will give UPS a total of 21,000 pickup points in the US. UPS says it’s a win for both UPS and participating retailers; UPS has a goal of being closer to the US population, and retailers see it as a way to generate revenue and walk-through traffic.
Walmart and Amazon Compete Over Speedy Shipping
Walmart began offering free one-day shipping in some cities at the end of August, weeks after Amazon said it would soon offer free, one-day shipping to Prime members. The two-day shipping model has been the industry standard for more than a decade, but Walmart says that going to one-day allows them to consolidate everything into one box and ship it ground instead of shipping from multiple places in multiple boxes. Last year Amazon spent $27.7 billion mailing their products around the world, a 27% increase over 2017.
Consumer Spending on Technology
Consumer spending on technology is forecast to reach $1.69 trillion this year, an increase of 5.3% over 2018, according to the latest Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide from International Data Corporation. Consumer purchases of traditional and emerging technologies will remain strong through 2023, reaching $2.06 trillion in 2023 with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 5.1%. Roughly three-quarters of the spend this year will be on traditional technologies, with mobile telecom services accounting for more than half of it. Emerging technologies, including AR/VR headsets, drones, on-demand services, robotic systems, smart home devices and wearables, will grow 13.2% over the five years and account for nearly a third of consumer spending on technology by 2023. Advances in technology continue to raise and redefine consumer expectations; the more technology can do, the more we expect of it.
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