Roomba maker wants to sell your home's floor plan

26 July, 2017, 01:12 | Author: Jeannette Greene
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The CEO explains how spatial awareness is one area where smart home devices need vast improvement, and he sees his company as helping in that department. With the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, along with the upcoming Apple HomePod, knowing how the homes of its users look like will allow the companies to customize the experiences offered by the devices accordingly.

iRobot, whose Roomba line of robotic vacuums are a favorite among felines, has come up with a new revenue-generating strategy that doesn't involve selling you another cleaning machine.

While two Roomba models are now mapping the interiors of homes to more efficiently hoover 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.

Managing partner of hedge fund Red Mountain Capital Willem Mesdag commented on the early advantage that iRobot has over its rivals. The point, however, is that companies do stand to benefit a lot from the home mapping data acquired by the cleaning robot.

"However, iRobot already appears to have permission to use its customers' data through its posted Privacy Policy, which clearly states that the company can share or sell a user's personal information ".in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares". All robovacs use short-range infrared or laser sensors to detect and avoid obstacles, but iRobot in 2015 added a camera, new sensors and software to its flagship 900-series Roomba that gave it the ability to build a map while keeping track of their own location within it. Bit by bit, companies nibble away at these ideas - no more anonymization here, a bit less control there - while simultaneously hinting these are things customers consciously agree to.

The company assured users the gadgets wouldn't sell house layout data without asking first. Roomba's mapping technology and the data it accrues, he argues, is the next frontier.

If you think it's creepy that Roomba's been sharing maps of your house with its maker, there's a way to cut the data sharing with iRobot, though it might disable a key feature of your robo-vac. Neither approach has won any broad interest from the tech industry, and I don't expect they ever will.


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