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Instant Analysis: Caterpillar Releases World's First Smartphone With Thermal Imaging

By Eric Volkman – Feb 29, 2016 at 1:22PM

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It's a leap forward for smartphones, but does the Cat S60 change the investing thesis for a company better known for equipment that moves serious mass than for its serious mobile technology?

What happened?
The smartphone in your pocket is capable of many things, but can it handle thermal imaging? Almost certainly not, because the first smartphone with such capability has just been announced -- and it's from a company you might not expect.

The maker of the S60 phone is Caterpillar (CAT -1.51%), a company generally known as a manufacturer of heavy machinery. In a world dominated by iPhones, Galaxys, and LGs, a great many consumers are unaware that the company also has a line of rugged phones, which it sells under the brand name Cat Phones.


The S60's money feature is its integrated thermal camera, made by specialist manufacturer FLIR Systems (FLIR). This allows users to detect heat patterns, a useful feature for people in a host of professions, including utility workers, firefighters, and engineers.

As with Caterpillar's other models, the Cat S60 is designed to brave the elements. According to the manufacturer, the device is "the world's most waterproof smartphone," as it can function in water as deep as 5 meters (16 feet) for one hour.

The S60 will be available later this year, and its recommended retail price is $599.

Does it matter?
To Caterpillar's overall investing thesis, probably not. But it's a very practical device with an extremely cool feature, and as such will likely find a niche customer base of professionals who can use such technology and ruggedness on a regular basis in their work.

Also, it'll help raise awareness that Caterpillar is not just a manufacturer of big machines. The company has always been, and likely will forever be, identified with such heavy equipment. So it can't hurt to shine a light on some of the other segments it's active in apart from its traditional core business.

The buzz around the S60 should also help lift the profile of FLIR Systems, an under-the-radar company that's been active for decades making thermal-imaging and threat-detection products, among other goods. FLIR Systems is an intriguing niche manufacturer, and obviously knows what it's doing -- it's been well and consistently profitable for years.

Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Caterpillar Stock Quote
$232.57 (-1.51%) $-3.56
FLIR Systems Stock Quote
FLIR Systems

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