From the standpoint of the smart home, it is obvious that Amazon wants iRobot for the maps that it creates to give it that in-depth knowledge of our homes. The vacuum company is quite familiar with our floor designs, especially how they alter. It is aware of the location of your kitchen, the rooms in which your children are sleeping, the sofa’s age and location, as well as whether you recently converted the guest room into a nursery.
For a business whose main goal is to sell you more products, this kind of data is digital gold. Although I’m curious to see how Amazon may use iRobot’s technology to advance its goals for the smart home, many are right to worry about the privacy ramifications. People want home automation to function more effectively, but they don’t want to trade privacy for convenience.
Although this problem exists across the digital industry, it is far more intimate in our homes. The fact that Amazon has a history of sharing information with law enforcement agencies through its subsidiary Ring, that its Echo smart speakers are “always listening (for the wake word),” and that it now has a thorough understanding of your floor plan give it a pretty complete picture of your daily life.
Each connected Roomba vacuum and mop from iRobot travels through houses several times per week, mapping and remapping the rooms. A front-facing, AI-powered camera that has reportedly recognised more than 43 million things in people’s homes has been added by iRobot to its most recent model, the j7. For navigation, other versions use a low-resolution camera that is pointed upward.
All of this suggests that the purchase is unlikely to be related to robotics; if it were, Amazon would have acquired iRobot long ago. Instead, it likely acquired the business (at a relative discount — iRobot recently announced a 30 percent revenue loss in the face of escalating competition) in order to get a close-up view inside our homes.
Astro, Amazon’s “cute” house robot, was probably an effort to obtain that information. The robot is capable of accurate mapping because to its sensors and cameras, which enable it to understand anything from where the fridge is to which room you are in right now. It’s obvious that Amazon was already able to perform the same tasks as iRobot. But Astro won’t be obtaining that information for Amazon any time soon because it costs $1,000, has few features (it couldn’t vacuum your house), and has no broad release date.
In addition to its Alexa platform, which is supported by its Echo smart speakers and smart displays, Amazon now owns four smart home brands: the home security business Ring, the low-cost camera brand Blink, and mesh Wi-Fi pioneers Eero. With the addition of iRobot, Amazon now possesses many of the components required to build an almost sentient smart home, one that can anticipate your needs and carry them out without your intervention. With its Hunches feature, Amazon has already begun to implement this.