Dust isn’t the only thing Roomba is suck­ing up

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - HAMZA SHABAN

The com­pany be­hind the Roomba vac­uum, iRobot, has grand plans for its robot clean­ers.

While two Roomba mod­els are now map­ping the in­te­ri­ors of homes to more ef­fi­ciently suck up dust and dirt, those intimate maps, the com­pany hopes, could soon be sold as per­son­al­ized, data-rich prod­ucts to gi­ant tech com­pa­nies, seiz­ing a big­ger role in the bur­geon­ing mar­ket for “smart” de­vices in the web-con­nected house­hold.

“There’s an en­tire ecosys­tem of things and ser­vices that the smart home can de­liver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has al­lowed to be shared,” iRobot chief ex­ec­u­tive Colin An­gle said in a state­ment Tues­day.

More than just au­to­mat­i­cally, seam­lessly sweep­ing up dirt, (and in­spir­ing cat-shut­tling com­pi­la­tions on YouTube), An­gle’s vi­sion for the Roomba places the do­mes­tic bot in ser­vice of im­prov­ing the smart home.

An­gle said that the spa­tial in­for­ma­tion gen­er­ated by Room­bas would al­low con­nected de­vices to func­tion bet­ter. “For ex­am­ple, in or­der for the lights to turn on when you walk into a room, the home must know what lights are in which rooms,” he said.

In iRobot’s vi­sion, the Roomba will be­come a kind of ma­chine me­di­a­tor, im­prov­ing other key fea­tures of the fu­ture, con­nected home, in­clud­ing “mu­sic, TV, heat, blinds, stove, cof­fee ma­chine, fan, gam­ing con­sole, smart pic­ture frames, or robot pet,” An­gle said.

While An­gle said no spe­cific plan ex­ists for iRobot to sell its map­ping data, he told Reuters on Mon­day iRobot “could reach a deal to sell its maps to one or more of the Big Three (Ap­ple, Ama­zon, Al­pha­bet) in the next cou­ple of years.”

But the prospect of sell­ing in­for­ma­tion de­rived from the in­tri­ca­cies of peo­ple’s homes — and their lit­eral dirt — raises po­ten­tial pri­vacy con­cerns, which An­gle says the com­pany ac­knowl­edges.

“iRobot takes pri­vacy and se­cu­rity of its cus­tomers very se­ri­ously,” he said. “We will al­ways ask your per­mis­sion to even store map data.”


IRobot is look­ing to make more use of the home maps Room­bas build.

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