The Internet of Things (IoT) is still one of the biggest market revolutions on the map. Devices exchanging data with other computer systems are here to stay, and will only play a larger part in our future lives. Market experts see a $19 trillion economic opportunity unfolding over the next 10 years, and that estimate might actually err on the conservative side.
It's also a sprawling market with tons of companies hoping to carve out a significant niche. Right now, three stocks stand out as particularly tempting IoT investments. Read on to see why Impinj (PI 0.08%), Qualcomm (QCOM 0.81%), and Texas Instruments (TXN 0.39%) look particularly good in this space today.
Extreme growth and lumpy order flows
Semiconductor titan Qualcomm already dominates the market for embedded wireless networking chips, making the company an instant winner in the IoT industry. Looking ahead, Qualcomm is working to close the pending buyout of automotive chip specialist NXP Semiconductors (NXPI 0.80%). That $31.3 billion deal is currently under regulatory scrutiny and may end up more expensive than the proposed $31.3 billion price tag. But it's also a game-changing merger that will keep Qualcomm relevant for decades to come, so there's no doubt in my mind that Qualcomm will find a way to close the NXP deal.
When that happens, Qualcomm will be staring down several of the most attractive sub-markets in the broader IoT sector. From automotive computing to low-power networking and 5G wireless upgrades, you'll find Qualcomm's solutions everywhere.
Yet investors have been focusing on the NXP deal's high price and on legal challenges elsewhere. Today, Qualcomm shares are trading at just 12.5 times forward earnings estimates. If and when the NXP deal closes, the merger will boost Qualcomm's earnings from day one and make these stock prices look downright silly.
Qualcomm is a winner for the long haul, and the Internet of Things will play a huge part in this stock's future. Share prices have plunged 20% lower in 2017, opening up a fantastic buy-in window.
An undervalued titan
While Qualcomm provides your IoT device's networking tools, Impinj furnishes the RFID tags and management systems that help you keep track of each gadget's status and location. Largest customer Amazon.com (AMZN -0.68%) is using Impinj's solutions to shepherd goods through its highly automated shipping process. The company is likely to roll out RFID-based improvements to its brand new Whole Foods Market assets, too.
The company expects to ship roughly 7 billion RFID chips this year, noting that it's just the start of a much larger long-term market. For example, Impinj is negotiating supply deals with five Japanese convenience store chains that are planning to order 100 billion RFID endpoint chips per year.
"We are, as I said on the last call, landing whale," said Impinj CEO Chris Dioro on early August's earnings call.
With large deals come lumpy results, and a couple of Impinj's bigger clients recently delayed their RFID rollout plans. The long-term plans remain unchanged, but the timing is just a little different. That tidbit took the air out of Impinj's surging stock, resulting in a 22% plunge the next day.
Impinj shares are trading 40% below June's 52-week highs right now, based on short-term order timing while the long-term order flows look as strong as ever. That's a tempting price point for an established leader in the all-important RFID field.
Fast and steady wins the race
Texas Instruments is an IoT giant hiding in plain sight.
Management has identified two core markets on which TI will focus its design and research activities. The automotive and industrial computing markets offer the strongest growth prospects in the analog and mixed-signal chip markets, according to Vice President Dave Pahl. Both cars and industrial manufacturing sites are becoming heavily automated, which requires plenty of analog-signal chips to collect and process real-world data as it happens. Chip counts are racing higher in these key markets, and TI wants to provide as many of these products as possible.
Unlike Qualcomm and Impinj, TI's shares have posted steady gains in 2017. A 17% gain over the last 52 weeks is right in line with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, except for the fact that TI also offers an above-average dividend yield of 2.5%.
Simply tracking the returns of the broader market makes sense for many mature companies, but TI is waist-deep in that growth-oriented strategy change I mentioned above. The company is building the foundation for stronger growth in the future, with IoT sales taking center stage in that effort. On top of that, TI's management keeps a sharp focus on free cash flow generation, and essentially all of that cash is returned to shareholders via dividend payments and share buybacks.
If you're looking for a shareholder-friendly IoT play with a low risk profile, it's really hard to beat Texas Instruments.