Why Amazon bought the Roomba vacuum: Gold information about homes


For those who haven’t seen them in action, Roomba vacuum cleaners are disc-shaped robots that pick up dirt around the house and scare away cats. It is the most successful product from iRobot, a company that was a contractor for the Pentagon thanks to its Anti-Personnel Mine Deactivation Robot, or its space exploration equipment for NASA. Amazon announced a deal last Friday under which it will buy the iRobot . is done with, in exchange for $1.7 billion from the company that makes them. What is the technology giant looking for with this acquisition?

these words of Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, EL PAÍS. in an interview with In 2018 they got the key. “When I say to Alexa, ‘Go to the kitchen and bring me a beer,’ Alexa understands, but she doesn’t know what a kitchen is. Alexa needs to know what a kitchen is, what a bedroom is. Homes This organization of spatial information to make smart is missing”.

Roomba vacuum dusts, but also data. They have optical, infrared and pressure sensors, which allow them to avoid obstacles and clean selected rooms. The latest model, the j7, has a front camera that takes pictures of what’s in its path and has already cataloged over 43 million objects with the help of artificial intelligence algorithms. They don’t just improvise their movements: they move through detailed maps they draw at home and update them with each expedition they undertake.

That information is gold. Perhaps Facebook knows what you vote for You Google knows you better than your girlfriend, but these are always estimates of digital activity. Until now, large technology companies had no access to the purely physical environment of their customers’ private lives. Mapping houses and seeing what they have opens up a whole new horizon of possibilities. This brings up the spatial context that Angle was referring to. and many more.

Roomba can estimate your level of income (that’s the size of your home and what neighborhood it’s in), how many children you have and their age (due to the constraints you face), how much time you spend at home, can guess. whether you telecommute, if you watch TV, where you have a sofa and if you recently changed it, if you love to cook, if you have pets, if you clean or No and even your sleep habits. All are based on the topography of the house and the objects it collides with, not more or less detailed assumptions based on your preferences or search history. This information is a goldmine for one company, Amazon, which among other things Dedicated to selling all kinds of products,

Promotional image of Astro, the Amazon robot that moves around the house and can see and hear you.

The Amazon acquisition makes even more sense if it overlaps with other Amazon products. Roomba provides detailed maps of the house. The Echo voice assistant, where Alexa lives, is your microphone in the house (always listening, waiting to detect wake words). Ring intercoms keep track of who comes and who leaves Of home; Blinking security cameras are your eyes on the inside. Astro Robot, a one-of-a-kind Alexa with wheels, camera and screenHaven’t managed to become an everyday product just yet, as the Roomba already is, but if they do, they’ll provide a plus of the company’s omniscience in homes.

Amazon’s holistic view of what’s happening at home is the core of intimacy in a capitalist society. Could the information that Roomba collects be passed on to what Amazon already has about our tastes? The acquisition is not complete yet and it is too early to talk about data integration. Sources at the company founded by Jeff Bezos told EL Pass, who in any case emphasize that “protecting customer data has always been a priority.” When Facebook bought WhatsApp, Mark Zuckerberg says he will never integrate social network data with messaging service, It took just two years for his promise to be broken.

Is there any reason to fear the privacy implications of entering a Roomba’s pool? In 2017, a rumor spread that iRobot was planning to sell the house plans. For companies like Amazon, Apple or Google. The company denied this. Ring Video Intercom collaborated with several police departments As proven by numerous journalistic investigations, America is already owned by Amazon, although the company’s spokesperson assures that these practices have ceased forever.

Time will tell. However the operation would still have to pass the filter of the US regulator, the FTC. The body is headed by Leena Khan, academician fighting with big technology companies, The jurist made a name for himself in academia with an article arguing how to effectively apply old antitrust laws to elusive people. big tech, His case study was exactly Amazon.

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