Earlier this week, while I was in Boston on business, I had the opportunity to visit iRobot
South Korea has publicly stated that its goal is to have a robot in every home by 2020, so the use of robots in that country is not surprising. But what it portends for the U.S., I believe, might also represent an opportunity for iRobot investors -- and for competitors such as Lockheed Martin
It's well-known that border security is a hot political issue right now. So hot, in fact, that politicians in Washington have agreed to build a $2.2 billion, 700-mile wall along our border with Mexico. The issue has grown so contentious that many governors -- including my own governor in Minnesota -- have committed to sending a significant number of National Guard members to help address the issue.
I agree that border security is a serious issue, and I'm all in favor of stopping illegal activity. I just don't happen to believe that building a wall is either the most appropriate or practical response. Nor do I feel that the use of the National Guard is an effective use of these soldiers' time or skill.
What, then, is the answer? Robots, if South Korea is any indication.
iRobot already has more than 500 PackBot robots serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they're primarily being used to detect and detonate roadside bombs. The utility and effectiveness of these robots in this vital role led me to believe that they could also be used to supplement and improve security along our borders.
The robots won't necessarily alleviate the need for human patrols, but they can minimize the number of troops needed. Robots don't get tired, they can see in the dark, and they will even go into places that are too dangerous to send a real person.
Moreover, hundreds, if not thousands, of robots could be deployed at a fraction of the cost of a building a $2.2 billion wall.
If the politicians in Washington come to the same conclusion, iRobot -- by helping to secure our borders -- could be very well-positioned to receive some healthy government contracts. If so, the company and its investors could be bordering on a real opportunity.
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