iRobot wants to share Roomba-generated maps of your home

These cute robo-vacs map your home as they clean it. That data could be integrated with other smart home devices.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
2 min read

iRobot CEO Colin Angle


iRobot, creator of the Roomba, wants to share the data its house-cleaning robots collect as they sweep up your house.

The data could be used by smart-home device manufacturers -- think Amazon, Apple and Google -- to make their products more useful to homeowners, iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters. iRobot would only share the data after getting the customer's consent.

With regularly updated maps of floor plans, as well as the layout of home furnishings, security cameras, smart thermostats and other connected devices would have a better sense of how to operate.

"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 Reuters. (Note: Reuters originally reported the data would be sold. It has since corrected its original July 24 story.)

Smart-home technology has surged in the last few years, with everything from lamps to speakers to refrigerators being connected to the internet. That's brought greater convenience and control -- you can check your garage door, and close it, even as you're boarding a plane -- but it's also ignited privacy and security concerns. Maybe you aren't the only one who'll be fiddling with those controls, or keeping tabs on what goes on in your house.

iRobot says it's mindful of customers' privacy and security.

"We will always ask your permission to even store map data. Right now, iRobot is building maps to enable the Roomba to efficiently and effectively clean your home," iRobot said in an emailed statement. "In the future, with your permission, this information will enable the smart home and the devices within it to work better. For example, in order for the lights to turn on when you walk into a room, the home must know what lights are in which rooms."

Roomba robo-vacs have been been on the market since 2002. And since 2015, they've been mapping homes using a camera and sensors or visual localization and cloud-connected app control. The robo-vacuums use these maps to avoid toppling over lamps and ramming into your furniture. They became compatible with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant in March.

iRobot says it could reach a deal with Amazon, Apple or Google in the next couple of years.

Amazon, Apple and Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

First published, July 25 at 4:13 a.m. PT.
Update, 6:34 am PT:  Added statement from iRobot.
Clarification, Aug. 8 at 10:13 a.m. PT: The story has been updated to reflect the corrected version of the Reuters article.

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter. Here's what they're up to.