The 4 Horsemen of the High-Tech Apocalypse

AAPL, IBM, AMZN, SI will put the robots in power

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Amazon.com — Retail

You might think Amazon.com is the best thing since sliced bread. You get goods for the cheapest price ever, you get stuff shipped directly to your door for free and you can shop without putting pants on.

Well, there is a dark side to this retail business. In April, Mother Jones published a rather stark exploration into the warehousing hell of online retailers like Amazon. Unlike a typical store that needs a cashier and a stockboy and a helpful sales associate, all Amazon needs is grunts to put packages on conveyor belts.

Oh, except it just bought robots company Kiva for $775 million. I guess Amazon plans on cutting out the human help altogether.

It’s great for consumers that they can get everything for the lowest possible price. But that low price is possible in part because there are precious few humans involved in the transaction. You enter your credit card number at Amazon’s checkout, a robot pulls stock from the shelves and the goods are loaded up for delivery.

Once delivery services are automated, then retail could theoretically be fully the territory of machines.

Siemens — Manufacturing

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the automation in manufacturing processes of all shapes and sizes. And according to automation trade publication Control Global, Siemens has been the biggest player in this space for several years running — to the tune of almost $13 billion in annual sales worldwide.

Siemens serves steelmakers, foundries, automakers and even packaged foods companies like PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP). Siemens offers software to monitor the process and automates quality assurance to ensure the finished product is up to snuff.

Just push a button and presto: Ore is turned into rolls of steel, drive shafts for sedans are assembled and thousands of soda bottles roll off the line.

Of course, I suppose it’s important to keep some humans working because Pepsi probably isn’t very appealing to robots. Once the machines start drinking pop, we’re going to be in it deep.

Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at editor@investorplace.com or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he owned a long position in AAPL for the recently minted dividends … not a looming robot apocalypse.


Article printed from InvestorPlace Media, http://investorplace.com/2012/07/the-4-horsemen-of-the-high-tech-apocalypse-aapl-amzn-ibm-si/.

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