Roomba maker iRobot wants to sell mapped data of your home (update)

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,511   +122
Staff member

Update: iRobot provided TechSpot with the following statement on the matter.

"iRobot does not sell data customer data. Our customers always come first. We will never violate our customer’s trust by selling or misusing customer-related data, including data collected by our connected products. Right now, the data Roomba collects enables it to effectively clean the home and provides customers with information about cleaning performance. iRobot believes that in the future, this information could provide even more value for our customers by enabling the smart home and the devices within it to work better, but always with their explicit consent.”

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.

Roombas, as you likely know, don’t traverse your floors on a wing and a prayer. The company’s Roomba 980, for example, utilizes iRobot’s iAdapt 2.0 navigation system which allows the machine to map your floors while avoiding obstacles. Mapped data is then used during future runs to help the vacuum more efficiently clean your floors.

It’s this mapped data that iRobot is now looking to monetize.

In a recent interview with Reuters, iRobot CEO Colin Angle said 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.

Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, said regularly updated maps could allow air conditioners to schedule airflow by room, smart lights to adjust according to the position of windows and the time of day and sound systems to match the acoustics of a home.

Who’d buy the data, you ask? Well, the publication listed the “big three” as Amazon, Apple and Google parent company Alphabet. Angle said a deal could be reached with any of these companies within the next couple of years (or maybe, one of those companies will come knocking with a pile of cash large enough to buy the company outright).

Privacy would no doubt be a concern for some although Angle said he was confident that most users would consent in order to gain access to smart home functions.

Second image courtesy IBRoomba, Flickr

Permalink to story.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 1,944   +2,333
"In a recent interview with Reuters, iRobot CEO Colin Angle said 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.
Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, said regularly updated maps could allow air conditioners to schedule airflow by room, smart lights to adjust according to the position of windows and the time of day and sound systems to match the acoustics of a home."

Of course they can identify tons of "smart" appliances and systems that can help you save money, that they can conveniently sell you for 10x the cost of the dumb version, AND keep track of your life in the process and make money selling your private life to ad, marketing, and other companies.

What a racket.

"Privacy would no doubt be a concern for some although Angle said he was confident that most users would consent in order to gain access to smart home functions."

Sadly he is correct, most of the general public will trip over themselves to shovel all their private data to a corporation so they can buy more expensive products from said corporation.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: wiyosaya

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,379   +5,804
If they make it optional to the consumer, who can choose to withhold their data that is fine, but automatically surrendering or selling it to others with no financial remuneration to the homeowner should be considered a criminal act, no different than selling a persons SSAN or other private information. The main problem is that far too much of the American public do not understand the penalties of having their private information distributed without their knowledge or permission.
 

Skidmarksdeluxe

Posts: 8,645   +3,281
I wouldn't be at all surprised if that gimmick maker is on their knees begging someone to buy the handful of users data it has to help keep it's doors open. I mean who in their right minds buys something like a Roomba anyway? A proper vacuum cleaner is far more functional, adaptable and powerful, not to mention a helluva lot less expensive. I'm surprised that company has lasted as long as it has. That silly gadget makes as much sense as buying a Virtu phone.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,361   +3,444
What a racket.
You can say that again!

For it to be useful to a good audio system, acoustic information would require much more than just a 2-d map of your home. Minimally, it would require a 3-d map, however, things like curtains also have an effect, not to mention that many home theater receivers/processors have their own built-in correction algorithms that probably will do a much better job than some device that requires a map of your home. The map, to these algorithms, is something that is inherent in the measurements that they take during setup, and they certainly do not need you to run around the room and take measurements of its dimensions. To me, it makes no sense that they need to have a roomba generated map as an external input.

I find it particularly amazing just what companies desperate for revenue will do. I imagine that iRobot wants to get into this because they are not doing all that well.
 

kevbev89

Posts: 264   +214
I wouldn't be at all surprised if that gimmick maker is on their knees begging someone to buy the handful of users data it has to help keep it's doors open. I mean who in their right minds buys something like a Roomba anyway? A proper vacuum cleaner is far more functional, adaptable and powerful, not to mention a helluva lot less expensive. I'm surprised that company has lasted as long as it has. That silly gadget makes as much sense as buying a Virtu phone.
I'm completely against the idea of iRobot selling my floor plans. But I'd have to disagree with your statement that the Roomba is useless. You pay to save time really. While it won't clean as well as a person with a vacuum cleaner, it can definitely reduce the amount of dust and the frequency you as a person have to get down and dirty. Coupling a Roomba with a Swifter is a god-sent luxury for me. I only have so much time after work to clean the house, and given I'm a bit of a clean freak, I'd have to swift (dry + wet) daily to maintain my house to my cleanliness standard.

And as much as you don't like it, the market is obviously gobbling it up, hence why they keep making new ones and other companies are coming in to get a piece of the pie :\. The market reflects what it wants.
 

Skidmarksdeluxe

Posts: 8,645   +3,281
I'm completely against the idea of iRobot selling my floor plans. But I'd have to disagree with your statement that the Roomba is useless. You pay to save time really. While it won't clean as well as a person with a vacuum cleaner, it can definitely reduce the amount of dust and the frequency you as a person have to get down and dirty. Coupling a Roomba with a Swifter is a god-sent luxury for me. I only have so much time after work to clean the house, and given I'm a bit of a clean freak, I'd have to swift (dry + wet) daily to maintain my house to my cleanliness standard.

And as much as you don't like it, the market is obviously gobbling it up, hence why they keep making new ones and other companies are coming in to get a piece of the pie :\. The market reflects what it wants.
Some people will waste their money on them for the novelty factor alone but when that wears off...
 
  • Like
Reactions: trgz

Godel

Posts: 239   +142
The average buyer won't know that the companies are selling off all their information because consent will be buried on page 15 of the EULA in obscure legal prose and small print.
 
  • Like
Reactions: wiyosaya

kevbev89

Posts: 264   +214
Some people will waste their money on them for the novelty factor alone but when that wears off...
Each to its own. Been using mine for quite a while without any reduction in amusement and interest for it. Of course, I'm not saying your statement is wrong, it could very well be the case for some people.
 

Skidmarksdeluxe

Posts: 8,645   +3,281
Each to its own. Been using mine for quite a while without any reduction in amusement and interest for it. Of course, I'm not saying your statement is wrong, it could very well be the case for some people.
If you like it and if you're satisfied with it then I guess that's all that counts. Imagine if the entire planet's population all thought the same, there'd be no need for competition... and no wars either. ;)
 

BabyFaceLee

Posts: 133   +49
I'd probably trip over the bleepin' thing, crack my head open on the coffee table and spend my last hours on this earth being hoovered by a robot. Of course it wont be long before they will be programmed to call 999 if they detect an unexpected body shape. The number of false-positives will ultimately result in pet owners being prohibited by statute from enabling this feature but, in the meantime, it could play soothing music 'til I meet my maker.
 
  • Like
Reactions: wiyosaya

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,361   +3,444
I'd probably trip over the bleepin' thing, crack my head open on the coffee table and spend my last hours on this earth being hoovered by a robot. Of course it wont be long before they will be programmed to call 999 if they detect an unexpected body shape. The number of false-positives will ultimately result in pet owners being prohibited by statute from enabling this feature but, in the meantime, it could play soothing music 'til I meet my maker.
Look at the bright side! At least it will be able to tell everyone where your body is! :D
 
  • Like
Reactions: BabyFaceLee