With every new technological revolution comes a huge range of investment opportunities. And right now, one such revolution is accelerating with the "Internet of Things."
In case you're unfamiliar, Internet of Things has become the market's chosen term for essentially taking everyday products, giving them network connectivity, and effectively changing the way we incorporate technology in our everyday lives. Take, for example, the innovation required to create driverless cars, smart watches, smart thermostats, and even Internet-connected light bulbs and appliances -- all of which already exist, and will only become more ubiquitous going forward.
But while the actual consumer-centric products are easy to spot, sometimes the best investments can come in the form of small companies operating behind the scenes. Here are two small-cap stocks, then, which I think currently represent compelling long-term investments:
The Internet of Things at home
First up is Netgear (NTGR 0.90%), which has already carved out a nice little niche in the retail and commercial markets by offering high-performance, easy-to-use networking equipment -- think WiFi routers, switches, network adapters, home monitoring systems, and network-connected hard drives.
Netgear CEO Patrick C.S. Lo recently highlighted Netgear's place in the Internet of Things, reminding investors the drastic increases in numbers of everyday products connected to Wi-Fi will only "drive more and more sales of interconnecting devices such as ours."
What's more, Netgear has gained traction recently with its Service Provider segment through LTE Gateways. Just last quarter, for example, Netgear CEO Patrick C.S. Lo announced U.S. Cellular had joined Sprint in deploying its LTE Gateway mobile broadband products to customers nationwide in the United States. Lo went on to state Netgear not only intends to both "take these products to more operators around the world," but will also soon introduce them in the commercial and retail channels.
When that happens, and with shares of Netgear currently trading at just 0.9 times trailing 12-month sales and 12.5 times next year's estimated earnings, I think patient long-term investors who buy today stand to be handsomely rewarded.
Rise of the machines
While Netgear is powering the Internet of Things at home, CalAmp (CAMP 0.29%) is aiming to take its mobile resource management (MRM) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications tech everywhere else. In short, CalAmp provides a variety of hardware and software products to help customers optimize their operations by collecting, reporting, and analyzing business-critical data from remote and mobile assets.
CalAmp's products are used in the service delivery industry, for example, to help track the locations and usage of vehicles, delivery monitoring, and driving habits. And in the emerging heavy equipment and construction sector -- which management recently confirmed is finally expected to drive meaningful revenue beginning with CalAmp's fiscal third quarter -- CalAmp similarly affords customers the ability to track usage in real time, prevent unauthorized usage, guard against theft, and monitor engine hours and idle time to better track fuel costs and maintenance schedules.
As it stands, CalAmp shares are currently reeling after its fiscal second quarter guidance fell short of Wall Street's expectations. For that, shareholders can thank lumpy revenue stemming from a combination of an expected sharp decline in Positive Train Control revenue, a minimal contribution from its MRM products in Latin America, and lower-than-expected revenue from CalAmp's legacy satellite receiver business.
But keep in mind, however, the above-described markets aren't CalAmp's only verticals, and many of its opportunities still remain in their infancy. But if CalAmp can seize any meaningful share of the segments it's targeting, its growth could prove astounding.
CalAmp might not look particularly cheap trading around 55 times trailing 12-month earnings, but the stock looks decidedly more attractive looking forward at just 15 times next year's estimated figures. Investors might be in for more volatility in the near term if it falls short of those estimates again, but at this point I think investors would do well to consider opening or adding to a small position with a long-term mind-set.