Today, Motorola Solutions announced that it has invested an undisclosed sum in Recon Instruments. This follows a similar investment by Intel in late 2013 and gives the company a warchest to expand into a variety of markets, having already achieved a lot of initial success in the skiing arena, forming partnerships with eyewear market leaders such as Oakley. In fact, in last year’s report (AN-1332)ABI Research called on others in the fitness/wearables space, such as TomTom and Garmin to look at investing/acquiring companies like Recon Instruments, given what a suitable platform it can be for many applications.
For all the pros and cons, Google Glass is still a concept piece and not designed for real world day-to-day use. While Google is ironing out how best to achieve this, at a price point that will make it interesting, ABI Research believes that there are many applications that will benefit significantly from eyewear as opposed to a portable device or watch. These include both the fitness/health (running, cycling extreme sports), navigation (motorcycles is a huge segment of transport/fleet management in Asia), first responder, military, avaiation sand industrial/commercial applications. Motorola Solutions is very well placed to work in the latter space. Motorola has already launched the expensive HC1, based on Kopin technology.
This follows other similar investments by Motorola solutions where they have invested in rather than acquiring smaller companies. In the indoor location space, this includes Nearbuy and LED specialists Bytelight. It’s represents more of a hedged approach to development, which enables the start-up to succeed or fail as an entity in itself, while giving Motorola integration and exit opportunities. Nearbuy is a good example, having recently been acquired by RetailNext. Motorola struggled to find a way to integrate the technology cost-effectively. Had they acquired Nearbuy, the group could well be canned and the investment lost. Although the amount was not disclosed, Motorola has at least recouped some of its initial investment, if not making a profit on the deal.
What is really interesting is that Motorola Solutions has recently sold its enterprise division to Zebra Technologies for $3.45 Billion, which essentially was the Symbol Technologies acquisition it made for $3.9 Billion in 2007. This would have suggested that Motorola was somewhat exiting the enterprise device market. Perhaps it is changing course, deciding to look to the future, rather than attempting to compete with consumer tablets and smartphones, or maybe it is looking to more niche sectors. Motorola Solutions is the 900 pound Gorilla in the first responder technology space and there are clear applications here for eyewear replacing traditional handheld communications devices. Either way, Motorola stands to make some money from this investment.