How Flextronics is remaking itself as a leading manufacturer for the Internet of Things
Flextronics has spent 46 years as a low-margin, behind-the-scenes manufacturer of PCs, routers and other basic electronics, so the Thriller-type jacket sitting in one of the company’s research labs is a surprise.
Bright blue instead of Michael Jackson red, the leather coat is dotted with more than 60 sensors and components, including a camera, a glucose monitor and a wireless phone charger. Nearby, engineers from startups working with Flextronics tap away at similarly flashy gizmosa headband designed to track moods, a moisture sensor that warns gardeners when they’re drowning their plants.The gee-wizardry is part of Flextronics’ effort to remake itself as a leading manufacturer for the socalled Internet of Things, the growing ecosystem of devices, sensors,and industrial equipment that connect to the Web. With its PC and printer businesses maturing and customers such as BlackBerry jumping to cheaper rivals like Foxconn, the company, which recently renamed itself Flex, has seen annual revenue drop about 9% since 2011, to $26.1 billion. Its share of the $409-billion electronic manufacturing services industry has fallen from 8% to 6.6% in that time, as per IDC.