Why it matters: iRobot's partnership with Google is sure to elicit talk of privacy concerns, and justifiably so. According to iRobot, however, the sharing of mapped data will be completely voluntary. Even still, I wonder how many people will be interested in participating to help Google improve its products.
iRobot on Wednesday announced a collaboration with Google to use mapped data collected by its Roomba robotic vacuums to enhance Google’s smart home experience.
iRobot’s latest vacuum, the Roomba i7+, features Imprint Smart Mapping technology that allows the bot to learn your home’s floor plan. Using voice commands through the Google Assistant, users can even have the robot clean specific rooms just by asking.
The proposed opt-in program will let Roomba users share their mapping data with Google to help explore new smart home innovations. For example, such data could make it easier to set up future smart home gadgets and enable new automations.
Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot, said working with Google will allow them to explore new ways to enable a more thoughtful home.
iRobot didn’t provide any other details about the collaboration in its press release, perhaps suggesting the partnership is still in a very early stage.
It was reported in the summer of 2017 that iRobot was looking to shop this mapped data around to potential buyers. Reuters even suggested at the time that the top three buyers could be Amazon, Apple and Google.
iRobot issued the following statement at the time in response to our story:
“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.”
Unless iRobot is just giving its mapped data to Google at no charge (which seems highly unlikely), odds are, they’ll generate some sort of income from it.