Vacuum Sensing

Roomba vacuum records users’ home layouts


Certain Roomba robotic vacuums have been picking up more than dust; they’ve also been quietly collecting location data of users’ home floor plans.

The Roomba 980 model, for instance, is equipped with cameras and optical and acoustic sensors that allow the machine to learn home layouts and avoid furniture, walls, and stairs all while cleaning.

Now, parent company iRobot is considering selling this data to tech titans Google, Apple, or Amazon. iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters the resulting data maps could play a major role in the future of smart homes, specifically helping automatic lights or thermostats properly acclimate to their environments.

Roomba was made compatible with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa voice assistant in March and, according to Angle, could sell its maps to a “Big Three” tech company by the end of 2017.

This plan has been questioned by privacy advocates uncomfortable with the sale of what many feel is private information.

Though current data protection law does not forbid the practice, iRobot has asserted that it won’t provide access to a customer’s home information without their permission. However, terms of service for iRobot’s mobile app already provide the company the right to share personal information with business partners, subsidiaries, and even the government.

Roomba is the anomaly in a market of low-priced competitors not concerned with smart mapping—the low cost and private nature of these cleaning products will prove more attractive to many freaked out customers. As big data collection continues to erupt, consumers will have to make a choice between privacy and personalized technology.

Photo Credit: iRobot

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