Former Android executive Andy Rubin has been working with contract manufacturer Foxconn since last year to build out Google's robotics vision, per The Wall Street Journal. The source told the WSJ that a robotics arm would support manufacturing electronics assembly. Some call it industrial automation.
While Google's entrance into robotics would compete with companies like Amazon in retail, the move would focus on helping contract manufacturers like Taiwanese-based Foxconn reduce costs and become more efficient. It could explain Google's step into a product listing ad beta site for B2B suppliers of electronic components launched last year. Overall, contract manufacturers have been struggling with rising labor costs in China. Many are looking for a way to lower costs and increase productivity.
Robotics gives Google the potential for a new revenue source by capitalizing on industrial automation -- an industry that IHS Technologies estimates will reach $182.7 billion in 2014, up from $170.2 billion in the prior year.
Foxconn also builds products for Apple -- in fact, 1 million iPhones per day, according to data from IHS Technology. Apple makes frequent changes to electronic components in the iPhone line, taxing Foxconn's capability to adjust, according to the IHS white paper released in January. It explains how the company continues to change its manufacturing lines and processes to adapt to production changes.
Google also made an investment in Taiwanese semiconductor subsidiary Himax Technologies last year, giving the company a 6.3% interest, with an option
to make an additional investment of preferred shares in the manufacturer at the same price within one year from closing.
"Robotic Arm" photo from Shutterstock.