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Stealth Chinese robotics company may be setting the stage for a North American coup

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It's hard to keep secrets in the robotics industry.

The sector is expanding like crazy[1], but robotics is still a tight-knit community where neighbors keep close tabs on each others' business and gossip usually outs newcomers well before they show up to the party.

Also: Robot density: A strange metric elegantly illustrates the revolution underway[2]

So it was something of a shock when I learned that Geek+[3], a three-year-old Chinese robotics firm that makes Kiva-like warehouse robots, has leapt out of startup mode and is now China's number one native supplier of logistics automation.

China is the largest market for industrial automation in the world, so that's certainly a big deal for a young company.

From a market standpoint, however, there's reason to believe this is the inevitable shot across the bow for non-Chinese automation suppliers, which have been cashing in as China scrambles to react to rising wages with more robots.

If Geek+ is any indication, native robotics companies are ascendant, which means the Chinese gravy train could be coming to a screeching halt for outsiders.

geek.jpg

That's very much by design. Historically, China has lagged behind Asian rivals Japan[4] and South Korea in robotics development. But with Chinese firms spending huge money on automation technology, the central government has sought to spur native development and keep as much of that spending onshore as possible.

In 2015, China launched the Made in China 2025[5] plan, which provides a roadmap for Chinese dominance in several high-tech sectors, including robotics.

Bolstered by incentives and government investment, the Chinese robotics market has ballooned ever since. Founded in 2015, Geek+

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