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Robots at the Ready

30 December 2013 in Trading Ideas

Fortunately or not, we never did reach that pinnacle of sci-fi vision of the 1950s, where we humans are left to follow our pursuits of leisurely happiness while most of the world’s work is done by robots.

But a new Robotic Age may just be dawning.

We’ve recently launched our Robotic Revolution motif to offer an investment opportunity that attempts to capture the inroads that machine automation is making in a variety of sectors – manufacturing, defense, transportation, and healthcare.

And yes – those household chores. While we once envisioned that our vacuuming would be done by metallic creatures resembling C-3PO, reality has proven that an iRobot that looks more like a floating bathroom scale is every bit as high-tech.

In manufacturing, a million and a half robots already are at work in assembly processes. Witness, for example, the embrace by Japan’s motor industry, which boasts 1,600 robots for every 10,000 human employees.1

Robots are also finding a growing role amid the increasing reliance of global militaries on unmanned aerial drones. It’s estimated that global spending on these vehicles will almost double over the next decade to $11.3 billion a year.2

Analysts at AllianceBernstein have suggested the use of robotics may just be nearing an inflection point – where we move from the traditional deployment of automation to enable more efficient manufacturing into a “next-generation” phase, which allows for more flexible uses by the robots themselves along with moves into less traditional business sectors of the kind that’s just beginning to be seen with 3-D printing and minimally invasive surgery aids.

According to AllianceBernstein, the other side of that inflection point could mean worldwide growth for automated products, moving from its current level of about 6.5% a year to a level of more than 20% after 2015.

From there, it’s not a stretch to see the plausibility of AllianceBernstein’s projection that robotics will then move full-force into untapped traditional service areas, where replacements for occupations (for example, hotel receptionists and home care staffers) may finally become a reality within the next 15 years.

That’s not necessarily good news for future human employees in those fields, but it does hold promise for the companies making the machines, as well as their shareholders.

1Catherine Wood and Michael Shavel, “Investing in the Robot Revolution, Part 1,” The AllianceBernstein Blog on Investing, Jan. 31, 2013, http://blog.alliancebernstein.com/?p=3569, (accessed Dec. 26, 2013).

2Teal Group “global UAV market to total $94 billion in the next ten years” September 2011( http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/teal-group-global-uav-market-total-94-billion-next-ten-years).