Roomba developer iRobot looking to sell owner's room data to Apple to bolster HomeKit

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2017
Home automation company iRobot is looking at mapping user's houses with permission using newer version of the Roomba, and selling that data to Apple, Amazon, and Google.




According to a report on Monday by Reuters, the new Roomba will measure the dimensions of a room, as well as furniture orientation, size of the devices, and where they are located in the room. This will be accomplished by simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology implemented in the 2015 revision of the technology.

The 900-series Roomba added a camera, a new sensor suite, and new software to accomplish the task. This gives the vacuum cleaner the ability to stop vacuuming and recharge, then resume the job at the same spot -- but also the room mapping ability as well.

Cornell University robotics Professor Guy Hoffman told Reuters that regularly updated maps could allow hardware manufacturers to tailor acoustics in products like the HomePod, alter ventilation airflow for optimal environment on a room-to-room and hour-to-hour basis, and smart lighting could adjust according to time of day and position of fixture.

The data could be of interest to Apple, Amazon, and Google to use the data in their software and services, or to suggest a new home automation product to fill a service gap. None of the companies named commented on the report.

Any data collation and sale induces concerns about privacy issues. However, iRobot CEO Colin Angle said that the company would not sell the data without permission -- but believes that customers would give consent willingly in order to use the SLAM technology embedded in the cleaners.

"There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver," said Angle. "Once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared."

The original Roomba was introduced in September 2002. There have been seven generations of Roomba units since launch, with only the latest generation sporting the SLAM technology that can feed detailed cleaning maps through the supporting app.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    macseekermacseeker Posts: 312member
    Wonder if they will sell the data even without the owner's permission.  I have a feeling they will.

    Got a good question, why would the Roomba need access to the Internet?  It's really not needed.
    longpathanton zuykovmejsricwatto_cobrajbdragonlolliver
  • Reply 2 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 28,371member
    What could possibly go wrong?
    longpathanton zuykovtmayboboliciousbaconstangmejsricwatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 3 of 43
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,522member
    What could possibly go wrong?
    Skynet
    longpathtmayScot1watto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 4 of 43
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,522member
    macseeker said:
    Wonder if they will sell the data even without the owner's permission.  I have a feeling they will.

    Got a good question, why would the Roomba need access to the Internet?  It's really not needed.
    Remote activation through HomeKit, Alexa etc. If somebody needed that.
    longpath
  • Reply 5 of 43
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 3,954member
    I'm tentatively hesitant on stuff like this.  I trust Apple to keep my stuff private, but these 3rd-party companies will sell people's souls if given the opportunity.  I suppose they would like it so that people can monitor the status of their house cleaning.  Nonetheless, I'm wary of these internet-connected vacuum cleaners.

    anton zuykovtmaylostkiwimejsricwatto_cobrajbdragon
  • Reply 6 of 43
    zroger73zroger73 Posts: 621member
    I'd pay THEM to use the data from my 900-series Roomba if it would actually improve the operation of this dumb thing.

    I upgraded from an 800-series thinking that the camera would allow it to remember and learn over time. I was actually disappointed to learn that it "forgets" what it learned after each cycle "in the interest of privacy" so that each time it starts cleaning, it has to learn all over again.

    Each time it cleans, it does a very good job at mapping my home (as can be seen on the app), but it always gets stuck or shuts down in the same places. If it would remember map data, it would know, "I got stuck here before, so I'm going to avoid this area".

    The worst part is that I have a few rugs with black stripes in my single-story home. Every time it encounters one of those black stripes, the cliff sensors shut it down. There's no way to (reliably and without voiding the warranty) disable the cliff sensors. There should be a setting to turn these off for single-story homes - there is NOTHING in my home (and many other homes) for it to possibly fall off of!

    iRobot has no sympathy regarding the design oversight.
    repressthisbaconstangktappelolliver
  • Reply 7 of 43
    irelandireland Posts: 16,899member
    Will it blend?
    repressthisbaconstang
  • Reply 8 of 43
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,460member
    Robot with camera roving every room in your home and the maker retrieving and selling data from it. Even if the details say there is no privacy risk this scenario will undoubtably raise concerns. 
    edited July 2017 lostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 43
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,090member
    I caught Roomba watching my wife and I in bed. 
    tmayrandominternetpersonrepressthisretrogustolostkiwiScot1mejsricwatto_cobrajbdragonzroger73
  • Reply 10 of 43
    Roombye!
    SpamSandwichwatto_cobrabloggerbloglolliver
  • Reply 11 of 43
    robjnrobjn Posts: 177member
    I suppose Google are reading this and thinking why but the data? They could give everyone a vacuum cleaning robot for next to nothing and get all the data for free.

    Amazon are probably thinking they could sell you a cheap robot and not only could it gather this data but it could also buy stuff from Amazon for you.

    Apple are probably thinking 'yuck, we don't need to or want to know this stuff'.
    lostkiwiviclauyycwatto_cobraadm1lolliver
  • Reply 12 of 43
    I'll spend the 15 minutes to clean my place manually, if that means privacy. Nobody's mapping the inside of my home.
    watto_cobrawilliamlondonlolliver
  • Reply 13 of 43
    robjnrobjn Posts: 177member
    This company has their second quarter earnings call tomorrow. Coincidence?

    This kind of story could be an effort to motivate investors. Basically, the message 'we are going to make Apple, Google and Amazon our customers' is exactly what makes some investors see $$$$.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 43
    ireland said:
    Will it blend?
    No, but it can roll... if put on its side..
    edited July 2017 repressthis
  • Reply 15 of 43
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 3,915member
    macseeker said:
    Wonder if they will sell the data even without the owner's permission.  I have a feeling they will.
    From this article: 

     "Any data collation and sale induces concerns about privacy issues. However, iRobot CEO Colin Angle said that the company would not sell the data without permission"
    sphericwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 43
    Get used to it people.  Companies using your information is not anything new.  Time to move on from the pre-computer era...Keep with your old ways and watch the world zoom past you...see just missed it.
    zroger73
  • Reply 17 of 43
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 279member
    "Hacked Roomba data gives thieves detailed layouts of victims houses..."
    macseekerbaconstangjd_in_sbwatto_cobraadm1
  • Reply 18 of 43
    I have never been a bit interested in Roomba ... until this minute!  That's the lacking thing, I had no way of sharing a detailed map of my home (just the floors, of course) with giant internet companies.  

    On the other hand, they would be interested in this why?  Maybe size of house correlates with propensity to buy ... anything? 

    Looking for Apple to disavow this idea ASAP, I'm sure they annoyed by the "Roomba reveal"
    randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 43
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,447member
    This is really icky. If they want to pass my data on to Apple, do it for free as a benefit to their product. 

    Selling my data after I've bought their machine is a shitty thing. 

    Shame. I love my 800-series. But this throws a bad light on the company, even if they do ask. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 43
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 192member
    I caught Roomba watching my wife and I in bed. 
    Does it have a camera?
    watto_cobra
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