FRANKFURT German conglomerate Robert Bosch said on Wednesday it would shift its strategic focus to developing technologies and components that talk to each other to tap a growing market for connected devices and services.
"Connectivity will open up new possibilities for all our areas of work. This goes for mobility, for industrial technology, and especially for energy and building technology - also in connection with our consumer goods," Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management said in a statement released on the day it unveiled full-year results.
"Bosch's strategic objective is to create solutions for a connected world," Denner said.
Bosch wants to push sensor technologies to help connect devices to broader Web-based systems. In energy and building technology for example, Bosch sees potential in the creation of "smart homes" where sensors activate geothermal or solar heating systems, depending on the weather conditions.
Bosch, a major automotive supplier, said it sees similar opportunities in the traffic, transportation and logistics fields.
By 2015, some 75 percent of the global population will be online with more than 6 billion devices, Bosch said. Going forward, the company will make all its electronic appliances web-enabled, a way to get components to communicate.
To tap into this trend, Bosch has created the new unit Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH to explore new business opportunities centred around intelligent and web-enabled devices and objects.
Unlisted Bosch Group said its earnings before interest and tax margin rose to 3 percent in 2013, up from roughly 2.3 percent in the year-earlier period.
Excluding an extraordinary 1.3 billion euro charge for losses on its solar business, Bosch Group's EBIT margin in 2013 would have been 6 percent, up from around 5 percent, according to preliminary figures.
Group sales rose 2.7 percent to 46.4 billion euros, thanks to 5 percent hike in sales in Asia Pacific a 3 percent rise in North America, and a sales increase of 2 percent in Europe, the company said.
Bosch is set to unveil full-year earnings on April 30.
The Stuttgart-based company said it expects sales and profits to grow in 2014.
Bosch said its automotive business continued to grow, particularly gasoline and diesel direct injection systems, as well as display instruments and infotainment systems.
In industrial technology, the packaging machinery business recorded good growth. By contrast, the global weakness of the mechanical engineering sector caused a considerable slump in the drive and control technology division.
In consumer goods, Bosch was once again successful with power tools in 2013, both for professional and DIY users. Developments in the energy and building technology business sector were overshadowed by the situation in the solar energy division, which was again difficult in 2013, Bosch said.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor)