By the early part of the 1800’s steam was the driver of all engines, the enabler of industry. The word stood for power and force and all that was vigorous and modern. Formerly, water or wind drove the mills, and most of the world’s work still depended on the strength of people and horses and other livestock. But hot steam, generated by burning coal and brought under control by ingenious inventors, had portability and versatility. It replaced muscles everywhere. Steam became the most powerful transmitter of energy known to humanity.
Fast-forward a little over 200 years and steam has been replaced by a more powerful and ‘intelligent’ force – robotic brawn and energy.
According to leading industry forecaster, Research and Markets, revenue for the global industrial robotics market is expected to cross $37 billion by 2018. Robots are seen most in big industries like automotive, food, aerospace, and pharmaceutical, but with the launch of lower priced products such as Baxter from Rethink Robotics in the US and industrial robots from Universal Robotics in Denmark they are beginning to be used in other sectors.
The $37 billion market for industrial robotics by 2018 may sound insignificant next to Bill Gates prediction of a robot in every home and a $1 trillion global business by 2025. This is where Google’s acquisition of Nest and other robotic manufacturers may earn a big slice of the market, together with the Roomba from iRobots and other manufacturers.
In their 2013 report, the “hype cycle of emerging technologies” for 2013, Gartner Research Vice President Jackie Fenn describes the overriding theme of the year as the “evolving relationship between humans and machines.”
Major manufacturers such as ABB (industrial), Boeing (unmanned air vehicles or drones), Toyota (Driverless cars) and many others are seeking to gain significant market share through robotic devices and technology. Whilst others such as Amazon, and Apple are investing significantly in robotics to improve their processes, reduce costs and increase profits.
The potential market for Robots is starting to whet the appetite of investors, consider Adept Technology and iRobot. Stocks in Adept are up 498.42% over the last 5 years. iRobot stocks are up 386.75% — compare these to the Nasdaq composite which is up 154.88% and The Dow Jones which is up 88.73% over the same period.
Analyzing companies with significant use, design or manufacture of robotics could be a sensible approach for investors.