Popular concepts of robots range from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator to the cute, curious Wall-E stealing our hearts. Your Roomba isn’t either one. It’s just a robotic vacuum cleaner. The company that makes it, however, has been “collecting data as well as dust.” Will that pose more threat than convenience? You decide.
Roomba to Sell Detailed Maps of Customers’ Homes
Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot which makes Roomba, spoke recently about mapping customers’ homes and selling the data to Google, Amazon, or Apple. Each of these tech giants is marketing artificial intelligence voice assistants as a way to manage smart homes. Google has Google Home. Amazon has Amazon Echo, and Apple recently unveiled HomePod.
The CEO of iRobot spoke recently about mapping customers’ homes and selling the data to Google, Amazon, or Apple.
A detailed map of one’s home—including locations of lamps, tables, sofas, and windows—has great value for Internet-enabled devices. A “smart” home with a data map could automatically adjust room lighting or acoustics. It could also open up the floodgates to third-party companies who want to sell you something. Yes, just when you figured out how to put your mobile number on the do-not-call list, here comes yet another way for marketers to reach you.
The Privacy Debate
Robotic vacuum cleaners will not be the only devices collecting data from the home of the future. As the “Internet of things” becomes a reality, privacy will be an issue for some and not for others. Or it may depend on the situation. Your refrigerator will remind you to buy milk. How cool! Or it may tell you that the ice cream you just put in your cart is off your diet. Bummer!
As these articles from Forbes and Reuters explain, privacy advocates and tech companies are lining up on different sides of the issue. As a homeowner, you may love it when your automated vacuum cleaner recharges itself and then later returns to the same spot to continue cleaning. You may not appreciate it, though, when an advertiser bug you again and again to replace an old rug (that your grandmother gave you), or tries to sell you storage bins every time your kids leave their Legos scattered on the floor.
The privacy versus convenience debate is not one that’s likely to end soon. Roomba’s stock price is up. Plus, lower priced robotic vacuums from Bissell, Hoover, and others are now scooting eagerly toward the data goldmine.
Maid Services and Tech Companies
Technology companies have in recent years have pushed into the home services industry. House cleaning (maid services) are a big part of that strategy. Tech giants have millions in venture capital for marketing and web presence. Typically, though, they hire independent contractors instead of employees. The customer is not protected from worker injuries.