The Reason Why Amazon Acquired iRobot Is Much More Sinister Than You Might Think

You may want to think more carefully about the vacuum cleaner you buy for your home and the personal health care providers you choose. Amazon has been making some interesting acquisitions recently. A month ago, Amazon acquired One Medical Ltd, and now Amazon has just acquired iRobot Corp, a company that builds vacuum robots that can map your entire home. What is Amazon going to do with all that user data?
amazon

Last month, Amazon announced a $3.5 billion deal to buy One Medical Ltd. This deal gives Amazon a lot of information about health care. 

One Medical is a primary care practice that works on a membership basis and has nearly 200 locations across the country. It also has virtual services. As of May, the company had about 767,000 patients who were members.

Not only does One Medical serve patients, but it also serves employers who use its software solutions to monitor their employees’ behavioral health to help employees stay mentally healthy and strong. 

Advertisements

Healthy Mind combines primary care visits with cognitive testing, wellness coaching, and, if needed, help from a therapist. 

The company brings together in-home care teams, providers in the office, and virtual team members to care for patients with complex needs through its One Medical At-Home service. 

As the owner of One Medical Ltd, Amazon now owns a company that uses analytics and machine learning models to analyze people’s health care in their homes as well as the behavior of people at work.

Advertisements

Amazon is now equipped with advanced behavioral and health analytics software capabilities. Things are getting interesting now in just how many personal insights Amazon will have about our lives.

Enter iRobot Corp, a company that has made an intelligent Robot that can map your home while it hoovers around and can help Alexa learn more about your house.

iRobot Corp, not I, Robot 

iRobot is not a fictional movie played by Will Smith, which was called I, Robot. iRobot Corp is the company that created the vacuum cleaner bot called Roomba. The robots in I, Robot and Roomba the vacuum cleaner have something in common, though Roomba collects data about you and serves you in your home. What can be done by a big corporation gathering data from millions of Roombas hoovering around the world is the stuff of science fiction. Now Amazon is going to buy iRobot Corp, the creators of Roomba.

Advertisements
Roomba time lapse
Roomba time-lapse by Chris Bartle under CC BY 2.0

Amazon said Friday that it would pay $1.7 billion for iRobot Corp., the company that makes the Roomba vacuum cleaner. 

Amazon will make money by selling Roomba, but the real value for Amazon comes from the fact that Roomba can map your house.  

Amazon has been working on a robot home assistant for a long time. Astro, Amazon’s home robot, was announced with a lot of fanfare last year, is still not for sale and is only available in small numbers. 

Advertisements

Amazon buying iRobot Corp. for $780 million last week makes the goal of putting a robot home assistant into millions of homes a reality for Amazon.

What is special about Roomba

Roomba, according to the company website, can recognize over 80 everyday objects, it is also programmed to navigate around pet poop, so it doesn’t leave a trail of poop around your house as it does its business. Human still has to pick up after their animals.

IRobot Roomba 870 15860914940
IRobot Roomba by Kārlis Dambrāns under CC BY 2.0

Roomba is also smart enough not to get tangled up in your charging leads. It’s your own fault if you trip up on your hazardous leads and fall in the poop.

Advertisements

Should Roomba accidentally drive into poop, it comes with a promise that the company will replace it. As for leads that Roomba may encounter, it will send you a photo of them for your feedback to navigate and learn from them.

Roomba vacuum cleaners from iRobot are some of the most popular consumer robots on the market, and they are a great way to find out how people’s homes are set up.

What does the acquisition of iRobot Corp mean for Amazon?

With the iRobot acquisition, Amazon can use iRobot’s sensors and lasers to make maps of homes.  

Advertisements
Irobotheadquarters 1
Irobot headquarters by Coolcaesar under CC BY-SA 3.0

Why is this important?

  • First, Roomba is equipped with a critical piece of technology that it and other autonomous robots need to move around furniture and other obstacles.
  • Second, Alex Webb writing for bloomberg.com, speculates that these maps could be used to help Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa better understand the layout of homes and respond to commands like “turn on the lights in the living room.”

Essentially, the acquisition of iRobot Corp means that Amazon.com has just acquired a mapping company that it can use to make maps of people’s homes. This will help Amazon improve its home-mapping technology, which is used in things like the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Fire TV. Amazon will learn more about how people use their homes. This information could help develop new products and market them in the future.

Amazon will use Roomba to collect data that could help the company rule the smart home market for years.

Advertisements

Robots are like vampires, you have to invite them in

If you want your home to be able to do more than turn the lights on and off, gadgets such as Roomba will be needed to map out your home, so your smart home knows more about your life.

Both Amazon and Apple are working on new ways to map our homes. Apple is doing similar using the latest iPhones’ laser scanners. With a new tool called “RoomPlan,” these companies can see a 3-D model of our homes. 

People who love technology will be excited by the potential of Amazon’s acquisition, which will help the IoT (Internet of Things) in your home find new ways to collaborate and help you with the data they collect about you.

Advertisements

However, if you are a technophobe and don’t like data collected about you by your gadgets, be careful about the devices you buy and any of the settings on them that may invade your privacy.

Amazon is putting a lot of thought into the smart home

Strategy Analytics estimates that it sold about 9.9 million Echo smart speakers in the three months leading up to March. This is more than Apple and Google’s smart speakers

Amazon added to that by buying Ring, which makes video doorbells, for $1 billion in 2018, and Eero, which makes wireless routers, a year later.

Advertisements

How marketers may learn from maps of your home

Marketers can also get a lot of helpful information from your home being mapped out in intricate detail. 

  • The size of your house and its location says a lot about how much money you may have. 
  • If the hoovering robot can pass data like the floor is full of toys, it’s likely you have children. That would affect the kind of promotions that you might begin receiving.
  • If the hoover doesn’t have to navigate around much furniture, there is potential for marketers who might want to try and sell you some more.

The recent acquisitions of One Medical Ltd and iRobot Corp are certainly interesting developments of Amazon’s capabilities to reach into our private lives and analyze them if we choose to use its smart tech. With software algorithms like WHIRL helping Robot sellers overcome Moravec’s paradox, in our future, we may find that we are being observed by much more agile bots than just vacuum hoovering bots.


Featured image credit: Amazon Hyderabad campus by faismeen under CC BY-SA 4.0

Advertisements