February 21, 2018

Roomba Wants to Sell a Map of Your Home

26 July 2017, 01:13 | Yvette Williams

Roomba Maker Preparing to Sell Maps of Your Home to Advertisers

Roomba 900

Roomba, made by American consumer robotics leader iRobot, has been mapping out details of the interior of homes in order to be able to do its job without bumping into furniture.

Angle told Reuters that a deal to sell its maps to "one or more of the Big Three" (i.e. Apple, Google, and Amazon) could be reached within the next two years.

Roomba vacuums have advanced markedly in recent years, adding sensors, better cameras, and software updates that allow a device to clean, return to its station to recharge, and then go back out to clean again, starting where it left off.

CEO Colin Angle told Reuters they're looking to make a deal with Amazon, Apple, or Alphabet that would put what he calls the "rich map of the home" inside the brain of Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.

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SoftBank has built a less than 5 percent stake in IRobot, below the amount that would require a regulatory disclosure in the USA, the people said, asking not to be identified because the purchase was private.

Specifically, Angle envisions a future where Roombas are used to map the layout of users' homes, with the company then providing those maps to other smart home device-makers and third parties. Now Roomba maker iRobot has passively expressed interest in offering household data to such companies for a price. Specifically, the company is "working to build an ecosystem of robots and data to enable the smart home", according to its web site.

One of the problems with covering the decline of privacy in the digital age is the very concept that people should have the right to control how their information is bought, sold, and monetized is fundamentally opposed to most digital company business models (not to mention government policy). Well, what if Amazon could call up a recently created map of your house and suggest more items for purchase? The data could help market you some. The point, however, is that companies do stand to benefit a lot from the home mapping data acquired by the cleaning robot.

The Roomba is an attractive product for the lazy at heart: collecting dust and dirt from the floor automatically, and on its own. For Roomba users who would like to enjoy their privacy, the best thing that they can do for now is hope that Angle and iRobot will keep its word.

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