No, iRobot isn’t a TV show, movie, or new Apple product. iRobot is a company currently focused on vacuums & cleaning devices for the everyman home that makes maps of your abode to clean it efficiently. You’ve definitely seen a Roomba before. Either you’ve been to a friend’s apartment and were amazed by their pet-like disc robot just aimlessly cleaning the kitchen floor, or you’ve seen one of the many amazing videos of animals riding on top of it.
These products are incredibly smart and a great IoT entryway for the average consumer. The map-making feature and patented technology in a broader sense make iRobot special, and now this company is looking to expand. Last year, iRobot announced an agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS) that would allow iRobot to use AWS to tackle more than just cleaning your floor, and to bring the Internet of Things to your home.
AWS is involved with many IoT technologies and services, such as computing, mobile services, analytics, storage, databases, platform management, and networking activities. Allowing iRobot to unleash their full potential of using AWS to extend into the IoT market will make them a major player in the near-future Internet of Things for the average consumer.
Roombas aren’t the glass ceiling for iRobot. These tech geniuses have finally realized their potential, and that means expanding into an entire smart home. A quote in their 2016 annual report explains it all:
“As our customer base grows, iRobot plans to create an ecosystem of connected robots designed to integrate with other devices, create greater possibilities for new features and capacities and empower the Smart Home.”
iRobot and the Future of the Smart Home
So, we have an already established brand, blessings of Amazon Web Services, innovative mapping technology, and a clear demand for a connected home. All of this together has the makings for a dominant force in IoT, and it’s already in progress. It isn’t a saturated market yet, so there’s room for iRobot to take a huge market share.
Their strength is in their mapping technology, which allows Roombas and other robots to get the layout of your entire home to increase the efficiency of its cleaning path to look out for landmarks and roadblocks, such as lights, refrigerators, couches, walls, etc.
In this case study by Amazon, iRobot CEO & Founder Colin Angle outlines how this technology can transition into a completely connected home. By using the map generated from this tech, other devices can work together, such as lights turning on and off automatically based off of entering or leaving rooms. Below, the blue dot represents someone coming through the front door, with the yellow representing lights turning on by themselves. As you walk into the kitchen, the lights turn on, they turn off as you leave, and living room lights then turn on.
“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 told the Washington Post. A Roomba could become a “machine mediator” designed to communicate other devices, including “music, TV, heat, blinds, stove, coffee machine, fan, gaming console, smart picture frames, or robot pet.”
Maybe it’s not even the mapping technology itself or the products that make iRobot such a success, but its devotion to research that makes it attractive. Currently, it has over 1000 patents and spends $100 million annually on research and development. That’s not a drop in the bucket. iRobot is equal parts an up-and-coming tech giant as well as a research firm now, and that’s the selling point for them.
Should I be Concerned?
Nah, not yet. We aren’t to the point of a robot overthrow anytime soon (you can sleep safe knowing that Skynet isn’t real…yet). A point of concern for iRobot was that consumers thought that the spatial data/mapping of their homes was going to be sold off to a larger company like Google, Amazon, or Apple, but that’s not the case. In an effort to create better devices from third parties, iRobot will give consumers the option to share their data with others, but not without your permission, as iRobot clarified in a recent statement.
For now, just enjoy having a robot vacuum that’s incredibly meme-able, and look forward to how we can have an entire connected home.