Vodafone has agreed to buy an Italian provider of electronics services to the car industry for €145m as part of its strategy to connect millions of devices such as cars and other machines.

The company has agreed to buy Cobra Automotive Technologies, a provider of security, telecommunications and vehicle tracking for the automotive and insurance industries. 

Vodafone, like other mobile operators, is looking to expand into the so-called machine-to-machine (M2M) industry to connect devices within sectors including healthcare, automotive, transportation and energy. 

Mobile carriers around the world reckon that M2M will be a significant source of growth.

Examples already in use include smart meters which monitor energy usage at homes, or devices in offices which tell an owner when their coffee machine needs re-stocking. 

Vodafone said it would offer €1.49 a share to buy out the shareholders in the Italian group. 

Cobra's majority shareholder Intek Group said in a statement it had agreed to tender its 51.4% stake in Cobra for €74.3m. 

"The combination of Vodafone and Cobra will create a new global provider of connected car services," Erik Brenneis, Director of M2M at Vodafone said. "We plan to invest in the business to offer our automotive and insurance customers a full range of telematics services," he added.