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Summary:

Together, Zebra Technologies and Motorola unit plan to attack internet of things opportunities, where they compete with Honeywell and others.

internet-of-things

Zebra Technologies, an inventory tracking specialist that helps Amazon and other customers keep track of products, is buying Motorola Solutions enterprise business unit for a whopping $3.45 billion in cash and debt, the companies said Tuesday.

There seems to be a lot of, um, synergy here: Zebra makes bar-code and RFID printers and other gear used to track and account for inventory, while Motorola’s technology collects and aggregates that data. “This creates the industry leader in identification and tracking assets. The two companies’ solutions have led in this space for years and people have long asked us why we didn’t merge. Now we have,” said Philip Gerskovich, Zebra’s SVP of New Growth Platforms told me this morning.

Together, and before that separately, the two companies competed with Honeywell, which also makes inventory ID and tracking gear and ancillary products. Honeywell has been bulking up as well, buying Intermec last year, among other acquisitions.

All this activity shows how important the internet of things (IoT) opportunity is to tech vendors. IoT refers to an explosion of connected sensors and other non-PC devices all feeding data to each other and to centralized locations. That scenario creates new opportunities for manufacturers, retailers and application developers who will arm the home, factories, even our personal apparel, with such devices and gather the resulting data.

The combined companies would generate annual sales of close to $3.5 billion and will field more than 20,000 channel partners in more than 100 countries, and an expanded pool of intellectual property including 4,500 U.S. and international patents.

Motorola Solutions will keep making and integrating  voice and data communication solutions for government and public safety customers, the companies said.

Gartner expects some 26 billion devices to be connected by 2020, generating $300 billion in revenue.To accommodate all that action, tech will need an overhaul, not only end-point devices but in edge locations and data centers that will aggregate and process that data. That will be a big topic at the Structure show in June.

 

Note: This story was updated at 9:02 a.m. PST to better reflect what products Zebra Technologies makes.

  1. Julie Leonard Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    FYI that Zebra doesn’t make bar code readers to scan inventory; Motorola does. Zebra is a leading manufacturer of bar code, RFID and mobile printers. It’s a massive move for Zebra to take on debt virtually equal to the value of its company. Hopefully it expresses confidence in the industry and the future of IoT. As a channel partner with both, it will be interesting to see what happens.

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    1. thanks for your note. this is (obviously) a new area for me. I’ve tweaked to reflect your comments… In the field do you mostly compete w/ Honeywell and it’s partners?

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      1. Julie Leonard Tuesday, April 15, 2014

        For the most part, Honeywell (which bought LXE a few years ago and Intermec recently) is Motorola Solutions’ largest competitor on the handheld scanner/mobile computing line, with a few others in the mix as well. Intermec is/was also a mobile computer AND barcode printer manufacturer and competitor of Zebra’s, so the acquisition by Honeywell added barcode printers to its portfolio for the first time. Thus, Honeywell/Intermec and Zebra/Motorola will be the largest competitors in the industry. As a comprehensive barcode and RFID system integrator, we (BarCode ID Systems) provide the best solution(s) for our clients’ needs, which could include products from any of the above manufacturers, tied together by our software and professional services. That being said, we are and have been a dedicated Zebra and Motorola (formerly Symbol Technologies) channel partner for over two decades, and we are Honeywell/Intermec partners as well.

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  2. Zebra Technologies Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Thanks for jumping in and providing the clarification, Julie. And great story, Barb. As Julie noted, as one of many parts of our solutions offering, Zebra provides the printing solutions that create the tags (RFID, barcodes, etc.) that are then read by Motorola products. With the acquisition of Motorola’s Enterprise mobility business, Zebra will be the global leader in Enterprise Asset Intelligence, offering a full suite of end-to-end solutions for gaining real-time visibility into assets, people and transactions. You can find more details about how our businesses work here: here.

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  3. What happens to the enterprise Wi-Fi networking & long-distance radio communications business?

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