IRobot's CEO defends Roomba home mapping as privacy concerns arise

Bill Rogers
July 26, 2017

The privacy-invading plan will help other smart home devices operate more efficiently using movement data collected by the circular cleaning gadget, CEO Colin Angle told Reuters.

The popularity of smart home technology - including lamps to speakers to refrigerators - has spiked in the past few years.

Roomba autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners have been on the market since 2002, and are an undeniable and overwhelming success.

These maps have been kept on the device, but iRobot plans to upload them to its servers, and soon, sell them to online advertisers like Amazon, Apple, or Google.

Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, said regularly updated maps could allow air conditioners to schedule airflow by room, smart lights to adjust according to the position of windows and the time of day and sound systems to match the acoustics of a home.

Stille if you want to share the detailed map of your home raises some privacy concerns.

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Roomba's terms and conditions state that it collects a range of data about its customers, including when they interact with it on social media. He also stressed that, while his company would not sell data without the customers' explicit approval, many people will likely grant consent because of what opportunities it can open up.

iRobot has already introduced integration with Amazon's Alexa assistant, launching the functionality back in March this year.

If you think it's creepy that Roomba's been sharing maps of your house with its maker, there's a way to cut the data sharing with iRobot, though it might disable a key feature of your robo-vac.

iRobot customer service isn't all on the same page about this news.

SoftBank has built a less than 5 percent stake in IRobot, below the amount that would require a regulatory disclosure in the US, the people said, asking not to be identified because the purchase was private. Now Roomba maker iRobot has passively expressed interest in offering household data to such companies for a price. With the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, along with the upcoming Apple HomePod, knowing how the homes of its users look like will allow the companies to customize the experiences offered by the devices accordingly.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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