What if I say that your cute, smart robotic vacuum cleaner is collecting data than just dirt?

During an interview with Reuters, the CEO of iRobot, the company which manufactured Roomba device, has revealed that the robotic vacuum cleaner also builds a map of your home while cleaning — and is now planning to sell this data to third-party companies.

I know it sounds really creepy, but this is what the iRobot company has planned with the home mapping data its Roomba robots collect on its users.

What is Roomba?

Manufactured by Massachusetts-based firm iRobot, Roomba is a cute little robotic vacuum cleaner — which ranges in price from $375 to $899 — that has been vacuuming up household dirt since 2002.

Early versions of Roomba used IR or laser sensors to avoid obstacles in their way, but the company began distributing high-end Wi-Fi-connected Roomba models from 2015, such as the Roomba 980, which includes a camera and Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping (SLAM) technology that can not only avoid obstacle but also build a map of your home.

And this has opened up new possibilities for the company.

What Data Roomba Collects and Why?

Roomba robots gather all kinds of data—from room dimensions and furniture position to distances between different objects placed in your room—that could help next-generation IoT devices to build a true smart home.

Angle believes mapping data could be used by other smart home devices—such as thermostats, lighting, air conditioner, personal assistant, and security cameras—to become smarter.

According to iRobot CEO Colin Angle, "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."

Angle also told the publication that he is planning to push the company toward a broader vision of the smart home, and in the near future iRobot could sell your floor data with the business like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google—but not without its users' consent.

Until now, your home data is private and is not being shared with any third-party company.

Why Would Companies be Interested in Your Floor-Plans?

By now, you must be thinking how your floor plans would be beneficial to companies like Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft?

The move has some obvious privacy concerns, but surprisingly, this could help other smart devices at your home to work more efficiently—for example:

  • The data could help tech companies like Amazon, Apple and Google to improve their smart home speakers to control the vacuum and make use of the acoustics to improve audio performance throughout the home.
  • Dimensional knowledge of the rooms could help Smart Air-conditioners to control airflow throughout the rooms.
  • Home mapping data could also help Apple's ARKit developers to create new apps for room management and interior design.

Moreover, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google are already chasing this kind of data to lead in the smart industry.

Concerns — Privacy And Security

Since 2015 when iRobot introduced the mapping technology in Roomba, the vacuum clear has not just been picking up dirt and dust, but they have also been mapping the layout of your home, which could be privacy concerns for many of its users.

According to its terms of service, the users already give the company permission to share their data with third party vendors and subsidiaries, and on government requests.
"We may share your information...Third party vendors, affiliates, and other service providers that perform services on our behalf, solely in order to carry out their work for us, which may include identifying and serving targeted advertisements, providing e-commerce services, content or service fulfillment, billing, web site operation, payment processing and authorization, customer service, or providing analytics services," the company's privacy policy reads.
Given these terms, it is possible for the company to sell its customers information in bulk with companies without notifying its users. And it is obvious that more you want your technology to be smart, more private data you are offering to companies.

Roomba is already compatible with Amazon's Alexa and Google's Home — Apple's HomePod speaker will soon join them — therefore, its CEO is planning to sell its maps to one or more of these 'Big Three' in the next couple of years.

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