The Makers of Roomba Want to Share Maps of Users’ Homes With Smart Tech Companies

The data could power the smart home tech revolution.

8. 2. 17 by Tom Ward
Image by iRobot

Eye Robot

A few years ago, iRobot’s Roomba was billed as a revolution in home cleaning, a piece of tech that could clean your floors so you didn’t have to. However, Reuters is now reporting that the device has been doing more than just freeing up your time — it’s been mapping the layout of your home.

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The internet of things (IoT) has been growing quickly, and the next big frontier in smart tech is our homes. However, tech companies currently lack the data necessary to adequately conquer this arena.

Roomba could change that.

“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,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters.


Privacy Problems

The development with iRobot is just one of a plethora of examples of our devices collecting data on us, either to optimize their own performance or so the information can be sold to others. This trend has both positive and negative implications.

Looking at the positive end of the spectrum, the data collected by Roomba could provide the stepping stone necessary to truly bring the smart-tech universe into our homes.

Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, compares current smart home devices to New York tourists who stick to the subway: “There is some information about the city, but the tourist is missing a lot of context for what’s happening outside of the stations.”

With the maps Roomba could provide, these devices would have a much better understanding of the home. This would allow them to do things like manipulate acoustics depending on where you are in the house or change smart lighting depending on where daylight is shining in.


Then there’s the other side of the spectrum. The data being collected by Roomba is extremely sensitive, and a detailed map of your home could be used for nefarious means.

While iRobot says that “customers have control over sharing” their data, agreeing to the iRobot terms of service and privacy policy gives the company the legal right to share the information gleaned from the Roomba’s travels. After that, there are no restrictions in place concerning what the data could be used for if it is purchased by another company.

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