Alright, this is a bit off-topic, but in light of all the hoopla in recent weeks about the digital living room, the networked home, the converged kitchen, etc., I thought these stats on the growth of robotics from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe were interesting (http://www.unece.org/press/pr2004/04stat_p01e.pdf). The idea of there being 610,000 domestic vacuum cleaning and lawn-mowing robots worldwide is absolutely staggering to me, as is the forecast of another 4m units in operation by 2007. (My only partially tongue-in-cheek recommendation to the investment banking world is that robots may be good candidates for writing maintenance research in future, as my conversations with investors lead me to strongly believe that no one reads it in any event. See http://eurotelcoblog.blogspot.com/2004/07/special-excerpt-from-upcoming-daiwa.html for background).
Seriously though, it's interesting to think about how companies involved in both telecoms and domestic services (like Centrica in the UK) might try to build on this phenomenon. BT Group already has a home security monitoring service in operation which involves both wireless and the internet (http://www.bt.com/homemonitoring/index.jsp) - is it so much of a stretch to believe that telcos might move to offering wirelessly-networked domestic assistants as an accessory to home networking product offers as a differentiator? A couple of years out, when residential broadband access levels start to peak, voice traffic revenue evaporates (as we know it will), and the telcos have struck all the low-margin content partnerships they can, we may see all sorts of bolt-on products/services that we never viewed as telecom before.