iRobot Wants to Sell Mapping Data Collected by Roomba Vacuums to a Tech Company Like Apple

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iRobot CEO Colin Angle today told Reuters that he hopes indoor mapping data collected by Roomba automatic vacuum cleaning machines can be sold to a company like Amazon, Apple, or Google in the near future.

iRobot's latest line of 900-series Roomba vacuums use simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology to map rooms while they clean, memorizing room layout and the location of furniture. Angle believes that mapping data collected by the Roomba could be used to make other in-home smart devices like lighting, thermostats, and security cameras smarter.


"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," said Angle.

Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, told Reuters that the kind of spatial mapping technology iRobot can deliver has the potential to be a "major breakthrough" for smart homes.

Right now, smart home devices operate "like a tourist in New York who never leaves the subway," said Hoffman. "There is some information about the city, but the tourist is missing a lot of context for what's happening outside of the stations."

Angle believes that iRobot could reach a deal to sell its maps data to "one or more" of the "Big Three" (Amazon, Apple, and Google) in the next couple of years, but cheaper technology from competing companies and privacy concerns could potentially halt the company's plans. Angle says iRobot will not sell room data without customer permission, but he believes most people will give consent to access smart home functions.

Indoor home mapping has the potential to be valuable to companies like Apple, especially with Apple poised to release its augmented reality platform with iOS 11, but it's unclear if Apple would be interested in or need such data. Functionality built into Apple's own upcoming devices like the iPhone 8 could potentially allow for in-home maps that could bolster smart home devices if rumors of enhanced augmented reality features are true.

Tags: Maps, Roomba

Top Rated Comments

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41 months ago
I don't have a Roomba but if I did I wouldn't be letting it share a map of my house layout to anyone. I really do like some of my technology to stay stupid.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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41 months ago
I got to be honest, I don’t think my Roomba keeps a map of my house or has mapped it very well. I once told it to dock right after it started and it took nearly 30 minutes to find the dock.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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41 months ago
One more brand I don't need in my life. Ethically I have an issue with people attempting to collect data from devices I own to resell to others when it's not for my direct benefit. I returned a smart tv once because once I got it home it said it would monitor what I watched to feed back for advertisers with no way to turn it off. There is no need to know the layout of my house, and a brand needlessly capturing data to regurgitate for profit is something that will stop me from buying the product.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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41 months ago
Jeeze Louise.... it's not like we couldn't see this coming. It's so annoying. I choose, as an act of my will not to buy iRobot products.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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41 months ago

Yes they are a little noisy, but you can program it for different times every day. I program it for the same time while I am at work everyday. Then early morning on the weekends. If you have a pet. I don’t have pets, but if you do and it leaves a surprise on the floor I bet this could make a huge mess.

Well, after reading this, I wouldn't buy one if I had a dog. But I got a good chuckle out of it.
https://thenextweb.com/shareables/2016/08/12/a-roomba-tried-to-vacuum-dog-poop-and-its-even-worse-than-you-imagine/#.tnw_a2VYnETW

Here's a link to the direct posting/review:
https://www.facebook.com/jesse.newton.37/posts/776177951574
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
41 months ago

I got to be honest, I don’t think my Roomba keeps a map of my house or has mapped it very well. I once told it to dock right after it started and it took nearly 30 minutes to find the dock.

I hated our Roomba. It was infuriating watching it randomly zig zag trying to clean a room. It would miss areas and over clean others. So glad we returned it (Costco) and got a Neato. Such a more effecient device. Would never buy a Roomba again. It wasn't even one of the cheaper models, can't remember the model name/number but for sure at a min. the middle tier.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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