Of all the technological revolutions we've seen in recent decades, arguably the most significant is the "Internet of Things." In case you're not familiar, the "Internet of Things" has become the world's chosen term to describe the trend of taking everyday products, giving them network connectivity and, in turn, fundamentally changing the way we use connected said connected devices in our everyday lives. Think, for example, of smartwatches, smart thermostats, and even Internet-connected garage-door openers and appliances.
But to realize the enormous potential of this trend as an investor, you need to find the very best companies operating in the earliest stages of promising Internet of Things markets. Here are three Internet of Things stocks I'm convinced have the potential to generate massive profits for patient, long-term investors:
Wearing the Internet on your sleeve
First, Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) has long remained one of my favorite personal investments for its stellar growth -- revenue climbed 32% last year, to $3.08 billion -- in the athletic apparel and footwear markets. In recent years, Under Armour has planted the seeds of becoming an Internet of Things titan, as well.
Last quarter, for example, Under Armour announced the acquisition of two fitness app companies, MyFitnessPal and Endomondo, for a total of $560 million -- and that's on top of its late-2013 purchase of app maker MapMyFitness for $150 million. When combined with its existing UA Record app, Under Armour is now building rapport and gaining insight from the largest digital heath and fitness community in the world of more than 120 million unique consumers.
In addition, just more than two years ago, Under Armour unveiled its Armour39 biometric chest strap, a workout performance monitor that tracks heart rate, calories, and proprietary measures including "real-time intensity" and "WILLpower." Users can then sync the monitor with Under Armour's mobile apps to analyze their workouts in real time, and understand how to improve.
Of course, Armour39 is a niche product. But keep in mind that Under Armour also has teased its vision to more deeply integrate this kind of technology into high-tech clothing to do things like regulate temperature, light up at night, or even change colors at the push of a button. If it can do so at reasonable price points and meaningful scale, the market could be immense.
Machines need to talk, too
Next up is CalAmp Corp. (NASDAQ:CAMP), a small machine-to-machine, or m2m, communications specialist that provides devices and software to a variety of industries for mobile resource management and wireless networking.
One of CalAmp's greatest near-term catalysts is a deal with Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) to help the heavy equipment giant track its fleets in great detail, including timing of equipment usage, vehicle location, and even aggressive driving habits. Last quarter marked the commencement for volume shipments of CalAmp's products to Caterpillar, generating around $5 million in revenue, good for roughly 8% of CalAmp's total.
But according to management, those shipments were expected to increase well into its current fiscal year. If additional heavy equipment companies follow suit, construction could be a major boon for CalAmp.
CalAmp's unique capabilities also translate well to other industries, including automobile fleet management and usage-based insurance, or UBI. Thanks to its telematics devices -- which are equipped with sophisticated GPS, accelerometers, and access to your car's onboard diagnostics system -- CalAmp is already helping safe drivers who opt for a UBI-based policy lower their car insurance premiums.
Like construction, however, UBI is still a young market, but is on track to grow around 50% this year to roughly $12 million in annual sales. As UBI gains traction, CalAmp management believes this will be a "major growth driver" over the long term.
Hey robot, hold my glass and watch this...
Finally, there's iRobot Corporation (NASDAQ:IRBT), best known for its popular Roomba robotic vacuums. And that's no wonder, as Roomba is the most prominent product line in iRobot's Home Robot division, which itself is expected to comprise around 90% of this year's sales.
During last quarter's earnings conference call, however, iRobot founder and CEO Colin Angle revealed intriguing plans to monetize recent investments in several key areas, including cloud robotics.
Specifically, iRobot will combine Internet connectivity to increase the scale of the unique mapping capabilities of its Ava telepresence robots. Ava uses a combination of inputs, including inexpensive 3D sensors, to map its surrounding environment in real time.
Given the wealth of data those sensors can collect, however, it's not feasible to store, process, and use that information on a single robot. But if iRobot could instead retrieve it from a high-fidelity map in the cloud -- where it could leverage the collective processing power of thousands of computers -- it could help robots understand how to interact with hundreds of thousands of unique objects.
"For example," explained iRobot chief technology officer Paolo Pirjanian, "this object is a cup and so I have to grab it like this; it looks like it's a glass so I need to grip it tight enough so it doesn't slip, but not too hard so it breaks."
It's unlikely you'll have a robotic butler from iRobot bringing you a glass of water anytime soon. But in the near term, Angle says, iRobot will transform "from a leader in the robot vacuum cleaner market, to a technology company developing navigation connected devices for the home."
I don't know about you, but I plan on owning shares of iRobot when that happens.