It's been eight years since Apple introduced the iPhone, but this one device is completely changing how we interact on a personal and business level.
Since the debut of the iPhone, advancements in technology have been coming in leaps and bounds rather than baby steps. But, in spite of this fast pace of innovation, you'll get no complaints from consumers or business owners whose lives are being made easier with each next-generation advancement or the debut of a new technology.
Arguably the most exciting "next big thing" in technology that is just starting to get its feet wet is the Internet of Things, or IoT.
The rise of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things, in simple terms, is embedded electronics within everyday items such as automobiles, refrigerators, and thermostats, which connect to a network in order to exchange information with a user or other devices so they function more efficiently.
For example, think about all of the advancements we're seeing in the auto sector these days, especially in the form of infotainment systems and safety. Users' ability to download apps to their in-car entertainment system and myriad new safety features, including blind-spot warnings and parking assistance in select models, are evidence to the growing demand and need for technology to make our lives easier and more efficient.
According to forecasts from Gartner in November 2014, the number of IoT units installed was expected to hit 4.88 billion in 2015, up from 3.75 billion in 2014 and 3.03 billion in 2013. By 2020, Gartner predicts the number of installed IoT bases will equal 25 billion, including 3.5 billion automobiles, 13.2 billion consumer products, and more than 8.3 billion business products.
A report from Raymond James Financial, issued last year, was a bit more specific about IoT's growth prospects. Per its estimates, IoT has longer-term growth potential of 15% to 30% per year.
Three stocks growing faster than the Internet of Things
While impressive in its own right -- and certainly suggestive that IoT giant NXP Semiconductors is set to succeed in a big way over the long run -- there are stocks outside the sphere of IoT that are growing even faster.
Here are three stocks whose growth rates may leave IoT growth in the dust.
1. Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA)
What can outgrow the next big thing in technology? How about the next big thing in the transportation industry: electric vehicles.
I may personally be short shares of Tesla Motors based on its valuation, but I'm not oblivious to the fact that Elon Musk successfully introduced the first new car brand in 50 years. Musk figured out how to create a stylish EV that people would actually buy that has a driving range comparable to many modern gas-powered vehicles. The result has been a revolution among automakers, with Tesla leading the field.
Tesla is rapidly turning itself into a vertically integrated EV powerhouse. It's in the process of building a Gigafactory in Nevada that'll be capable of mass-producing lithium-ion batteries, helping to eliminate one of the greatest cost concerns for EV makers: battery pricing. Additionally, Tesla is in the process of rolling out its Model X SUV and is on pace to introduce the Model 3, a considerably more affordable EV option, by 2017. As the infrastructure behind EVs is improved, it's believed their adoption will only accelerate.
Having delivered $3.2 billion in revenue in 2014, Tesla is on pace to produce $5.6 billion, $8.6 billion, $11.2 billion, and $15 billion in revenue per Wall Street's consensus between 2015 and 2018, respectively. By 2025, Musk predicts that Tesla will capable of producing "a few million" EVs per year. Assuming it can maintain its competitive edge, this lofty production goal may be possible.
2. Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX)
One sector that can deliver incredibly rapid growth if the cards fall investors' way is biotechnology. If you want to understand exactly what rapid growth can look like, look no further than Orexigen Therapeutics.
Orexigen's lead product, Contrave, was approved in September as a pill designed to help obese people lose weight. Following more than a decade without a weight-loss pill being approved, Orexigen's Contrave marked the third weight control management drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in a roughly two-year timeframe. Contrave, though, has a number of advantages that could make it the go-to weight control management option.
Working most in Orexigen's favor is the fact that it's nearly completed its Light Study, an 8,800-person cardiovascular outcomes trial that, in an interim analysis, suggested it was safe to take over the long term. In March, Orexigen got itself into hot water with the FDA when it released information from its Light Study suggesting that Contrave may actually reduce cardiovascular disease in patients taking the drug. Time will tell if these claims can be proven, but for now, it looks as if Contrave is a safe, long-term option for obese people looking to add an adjuvant therapy to their weight-loss program.
Sales estimates for Orexigen suggest it could deliver $55 million in revenue in 2015, roughly $200 million by 2017, and $337 million by 2018. Peak annual sales projections of the drug on Wall Street range anywhere from $600 million on the low end to more than $1 billion on the high end. In short, Orexigen has the potential to trounce the IoT growth rate.
3. LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD.DL)
Lastly, look no further than social business networking site LinkedIn if you're interested in another tech company with the potential to outpace IoT growth.
As my Foolish colleague Evan Niu summed up last summer, LinkedIn stock could be worth every penny because of its unique ability as a social media platform to play both sides of the field. Social media site Facebook continues to tack on users hand-over-fist, but that doesn't mean users are particularly happy when Facebook uses their browsing history and preferences to allow advertisers to better target them.
LinkedIn, which is seeing phenomenal user growth of its own, is able to take advantage of a growing ad presence, but consumers are more willing to allow LinkedIn to collect their data, as sharing that data could lead to an email or call from a recruiter offering them their dream job.
As for revenue generation, LinkedIn is seeing strength from all facets of its business. Talent solutions, marketing solutions, and premium subscriptions grew in the fourth quarter (reported in February) by 41%, 56%, and 38%, respectively. LinkedIn has also managed to push into overseas markets with ease; it derived 40% of its revenue in Q4 2014 from international markets.
Looking ahead, LinkedIn's revenue growth is expected to rise from a reported $2.2 billion in 2014 to an estimated $6.3 billion in 2018 -- good enough for a compound annual growth rate of 30%. Factor in LinkedIn's history of topping its own guidance, and I believe you have a company poised to outgrow the Internet of Things.
One thing to keep in mind
One last note, and something worth keeping in the back of your mind: While strong growth is a great attribute to game-changing companies, high growth doesn't always guarantee success. If a company can't control its expenses and is unable to turn a profit, then rapid sales growth could prove meaningless over the long run. Though these three stocks are poised to outgrow the IoT, make sure you dig deeper than just their top-line sales figures before you consider buying into these three growth stories.